The latest episode in the space drama has got nothing on these. Jumanji, The Greatest Showman, and Your Name are three movies better than Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
For the record, I enjoyed The Last Jedi. I saw it three times in the cinema. I wrote one of the few fan reviews in favour of the film. But I’ve gotta say, there were two movies in the same holiday window that really took me by surprise.
The first one, Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle was one the lady and I thought would be a bit of a fun night out. Little did I know it would be one of the funniest and most memorable comedies in recent years.
The other, The Greatest Showman, is gunning for awards, and could possibly be in the upper echelon of musicals put to film.
Why am I comparing these two movies to Star Wars? Simply because Star Wars, especially as a big fan, was the movie in this holiday season I was expecting to enjoy the most. Now after seeing these two other films, I have been really looking forward to writing about them, and putting in a strong recommendation for each as they aren’t getting the press they deserve.
There was a third movie that I saw over in the last few weeks that absolutely took my breath away and that I’ve really wanted to write about too, so I thought I’d add it into the list. That is the award winning anime movie, Your Name, released in 2016.
So here’s my triple review of three movies better than Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and really, just an excuse to talk about these movies that I enjoyed in the last few weeks. With all these movies, there wasn’t much I didn’t like about them, so I’m pretty much going to just list the things I really enjoyed. Hard to do a triple review without blowing out a word count that will bore you if I listed negatives, plus to be honest I really didn’t have much of a problem with anything in these movies.
Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle
Welcome To The Jungle is a sequel/reboot of the original Robin Williams classic, but with a much more lighthearted flair. Rather than watching a bunch of kids and Robin Williams try to stay alive while animals trample their house whilst playing a board game, Jumanji this time round is turned into a video game that four teenagers in detention end up playing and being sucked into.
This movie was way funnier than it deserved to be. While the following two movies put a tear into my eye for their emotional weight, Jumanji had tears in my eyes because I was laughing so hard.
A large part of the reason is one of the best comedy ensembles ever put together, in Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black and Karen Gillan, each representing the teenagers’ avatars or playable characters. Dwayne, Jack and Karen are all hilarious in playing characters who are completely different to their usual archetypes, as they have excellently and completely inherited the traits and characteristics of the teenagers who are playing as them. Dwayne is in The Rock’s body but is acting like a teenage boy, and a massive nerd at that; Karen (who I only recently got to know after finally watching more of Doctor Who last year) plays the teen girl nerd; and Jack is hilariously playing the Instagram-obsessed pretty girl of the group. Kevin Hart… is playing Kevin Hart, but he’s still hilarious.
I think this is one of the few movies where multiple actors play the same character where it actually felt like it was one character the entire time. There are enough mannerisms and history set up before the “main” actors get their turn that you actually feel like you never left Spencer, Fridge, Bethany and Martha. From their quirks to their personal backgrounds, all of it is kept in tact to give you a real tangible sense of who these people are and continue to be in their video game form.
There are some real stand out comedy bits in the movie. Some particularly memorable scenes feature Kevin Hart’s character and cake, Jack Black as pretty girl Bethany teaching nerdy Martha how to flirt with boys (and her attempt to follow the advice), a defanged viper, and one of the most hilarious first kisses I think I’ve ever seen in a movie.
There was also a surprising message in the movie about living the life you have on purpose that was conveyed through each character, and some really good character interaction moments that may cause audiences to reflect on their own prejudices towards other people and friendships.
I’m definitely buying this one.
The Greatest Showman
If you’re a fan of musicals, The Greatest Showman might be one of the best you’ll ever see. If you’re not a fan of musicals, you might not see this.
I saw The Greatest Showman recently with a group where one of the people with us had seen it 3 times already, and after the second song in the movie, I could instantly see why people are going in for multiple viewings. This film has been described by Hugh Jackman as a passion project of his that he has wanted to be a part of for many years, and it definitely shows. A few of the behind the scenes B rolls show Hugh crying after certain scenes were completed, and there was definitely a lot of heart put into the film.
I think the real obstacle this film is facing at the moment is that it is loosely based on the life of PT Barnham, a man who many people did not like at all for his treatment of people or career choices. I think if the film had simply chosen to call the characters by other names, I think most people would find a proper appreciation for the film. It was pretty clear based on the spectacle of it all that the story was very exaggerated from reality, and so for me, I simply watched it as if all the characters were fictional.
With that out of the way, let’s talk about that choreography. The dance choreography in this film is outstanding. It’s like watching a blown up version of Cirque du Soleil, mixed with the fine movement of a martial arts film. Strange combination, but that’s the closest I can think of to compare it to.
You know how with a lot of musicals, there’ll usually be one or two songs that are really “great”? Usually they’re all pretty good, but then there’s the amazing ones that stand out? The Defying Gravities and the Climb Every Mountains? This movie has several of those.
The award winning song from this movie is This Is Me, a defiant statement of celebrating who you are. However, there were many more memorable songs for me while I was watching this one. There is a fantastically executed song called The Other Side which is a business negotiation between Hugh Jackman’s and Zac Efron‘s characters, executed at bar side, with spinning bottles, barman tricks and team work, sliding glasses and tap dancing-esque moves. Clashing bravado meets excellent theatre and dance battle. An inspiring opener in A Million Dreams is a really hopeful and heart-rising number about living consumed with so many dreams, and it is honestly one of the best songs about dreams I’ve heard in a movie or many other places.
And then there’s the duet between Disney Channel exports Zac Efron and Zendaya, Rewrite the Stars. I felt like time stopped during this song. Lyrically, emotionally, vocally, and choreography wise, this song was unreal. It’s about two people who are drawn to each other and know they can and do love each other, but feel external forces and pressures getting in their way. Highly relatable and expertly executed, I was deeply moved and resonated strongly with this one and will be listening to this song for many years to come.
There was a strong message in the same vain as the words of JRR Tolkien, with this quote summing up the main story thread – “If more people valued home above gold, this world would be a merrier place”. This was a great message to see in our modern age.
All in all, if you like musicals, you’ll love it, and if you don’t, you won’t.
Your Name is a brilliantly crafted anime about two characters who fall in love with each other because they continually wake up in each other’s bodies, and end up discovering this person by living in their shoes. The soundtrack is masterful and it is a highly acclaimed movie. That was about as much as I knew about it going into it, and I don’t really want to explain any more than that so you can have the same experience I did. But wow, honestly, a beautiful film and a really wonderful story. When the credits roll, you’ll be left dumbfounded at the emotional experience you just went on.
So there you go. Three movies that are better than Star Wars: The Last Jedi. To me anyway. I’d recommend any of these and will be putting all three in my Excellent Movies section in my movie cabinets.
How about you? Have you seen any of these three movies? What were your experiences?