Mother's Day gift guide: Movies, television and more

Hugh Jackman as P.T. Barnum in Twentieth Century Fox's "The Greatest Showman" (Photo: Twentieth Century Fox)

(KUTV) SALT LAKE CITY - With Mother's Day quickly approaching, here a few gifting idea from the world of cinema, television and beyond.

Recently in Theaters

With only a couple of months to go before it was due in theaters, “All the Money in the World,” a film about the 1973 kidnapping of the grandson of billionaire J. Paul Getty, found itself in an awkward position as one of its stars was making headlines when he was accused of making a sexual advance toward a 14-year-old boy. Recasting and reshoots came quickly and director Ridley Scott somehow managed, with the help of newly cast Christopher Plummer, to steer the film into theaters only a couple days late. The fact that the film is also rather good and that Plummer is one of its strongest points makes the accomplishment more impressive.

"Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool" turns the traditional trope of a younger woman falling in love with an older man. Based on the true story of a young man who falls in love with an aging film star, this highly regarded film stars the luminous Annette Benning and Jamie Bell.

Forever My Girl” tells the story of a successful country musician who returns to him hometown after ten years to reconnect with his first love. The film stars Alex Roe (“The Fifth Wave”) and Jessica Rothe (“Happy Death Day”) and, much like a Nicholas Sparks film, leans heavily on the romantic drama tropes that pull hardest on your heartstrings.

If there is one thing we learned from this year’s Academy Awards broadcast, it was that “This is Me” from "The Greatest Showman" should have taken home the Oscar for Best Original Song. Unfortunately, I can’t help but believe that the film’s poor reception from critics factored into the Academy’s vote. I enjoyed the film, but there’s no question that it would have had a warmer reception if it started out on the stage, rather than the silver screen. Like many Broadway productions, the film plays quick and fast with the truth as it repaints P.T. Barnum (Hugh Jackman in his element) in such a light that the real man might blush at the inaccurate flatteries. But, the songs are fantastic and the art design is second to none, so who cares if Rebecca Ferguson is lip synching or the romance between Zac Efron and Zendaya's characters didn't exist? Michelle William’s character, Barnum’s wife, needs a song in the final act to make Barnum’s redemption work, but since most audiences just want to sing with the cast there’s no real point in dissecting the film’s weaknesses. At this point, you’re either in or you’re out. I’m mostly in.

We also have “Phantom Thread,” the newest film from acclaimed director Paul Thomas Anderson starring Daniel Day-Lewis as a London based fashion designer who falls for a younger, unmalleable woman (Vicky Krieps). It’s beautifully made, even if it feels a bit cold. This is the fashion industry, cool on the outside, complicated beneath the surface. The Blu-ray release has been available for weeks, the 4K UHD version, however, was just released.

The Post” offers a view behind the scenes as Katharine Graham, the first female publisher of a prominent American newspaper, and her staff at “The Washington Post” must decide to publish damaging information regarding the U.S. government’s involvement in Vietnam. Directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks, “The Post” is an important film that explore the importance of the media. It is also an example of the dilemmas that a publisher is forced to face when handling sensitive material. The truth isn’t always what we’d like it to.

For the Whole Family

Based on "The Little Broomstick" by Mary Stewart, "Mary and the Witch's Flower" tells the story of a young girl who discovers a broomstick in the woods and thanks to the magic of a few flowers finds herself at a magical college where she is mistaken for a new student. It's a fantastic, beautiful and imaginative film that recalls recent releases from the legendary Japanese animators, Studio Ghibli.

Paddington 2” finds our favorite bear adjusting to life in London. Well aware of the many sacrifices that Aunt Lucy, his adoptive mother, has made for him, Paddington looks for the perfect gift for her upcoming birthday and finds a bit of trouble instead. “Paddington 2” is one of the best family films to be released in the past decade. It is smart, funny and doesn’t pander to its audience. If you’re looking for something to cheer up your life, this will absolutely do.

Peter Rabbit,” a family film based on Beatrix Potter’s stories about a mischievous rabbit, proved to be a surprise hit at the box office where the film has earned $320 million worldwide. The film stars Rose Byrne and James Corden and features the voice talents of James Corden, Margot Robbie and Daisy Ridley. "Peter Rabbit" falls short of the Babe films, but certainly will entertain families with younger children.

Television Series

Beloved performers Phyllis Logan, Miranda Richardson and Zoe Wanamaker star in "Girlfriends," a series that explores the lives of three friends as they find themselves growing older and a tragedy that reveals a truth that tests the strength of their relationship.

"Love, Lies & Records" stars Ashley Jensen ("Agatha Raisin") as an employee at the Register Office in Leeds. Her home life is something of a mess and professional life is filled with all sorts of new challenges as the births, deaths and marriages of her community impact her and her staff's lives.

The third season of “Outlander,” a historical time travel series based on Diana Gabaldon’s writings, covers material found in the “Voyager” and “Drums of Autumn” novels. For those unfamiliar with the series, “Outlander” is essentially a love story spread out over the ages as a nurse from the 1940s finds herself transported to Scotland in the 1740s. There are times when it feels like paperback fiction, rather than high art, but it manages to balance its soap opera elements with a bit of class. It doesn’t hurt that the stars, Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan, have amazing chemistry.

"A Place to Call Home" is an Australian melodrama that finds a woman (Marta Dusseldorp) returning home after spending 20 years in Europe. The year is 1953 and the post-WWII social environment is full of change. Some adapt, embrace or otherwise deal with these changes better than some others do. The fifth season was just released on DVD. The sixth and final season of the program is scheduled to air in the fall.

Classics from Yesteryear

The Awful Truth,” a romantic comedy from 1937 featuring a career-defining performance from Cary Grant. Co-starring Irene Dunne, who also starred opposite Grant in “My Favorite Wife” and “Penny Serenade.” The film is considered a classic of the screwball comedy subgenre. Leo McCarey won the Oscar for Best Director for his efforts. The story follows a feuding couple intent on divorce, but maybe there's hope for last-minute recapitulation?

2018 marks the 40th anniversary of the popular film adaptation of “Grease,” the popular high school musical starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John. I've owned "Grease" on VHS, DVD and a previously released Blu-ray, but none of those versions look or sound as good as this new release. If you have a 4K television you're particularly in luck because the 4K presentation shows off the film's colors and adds a noticeable amount of detail to the proceedings.

I must confess, I have never watched"Mamma Mia!," which I realize is something of a shock for some of you. I am, of course, familiar with the ABBA songs contained within the film. With a sequel/prequel making its way to theaters this summer, Universal has released a 10th Anniversary edition of the film as well as a 4K UHD version. I hear that singling along is a requirement.

When I was fortunate enough to interview Kirsten Dunst for “The Beguiled” she revealed that Sofia Coppola’s “The Virgin Suicides” would soon be coming to the Criterion Collection. A year later we’re finally seeing that release. The story, based on Jeffrey Eugenides' novel, explores the mystery that surrounds a family of girls who have been confined to their home after one of them attempts suicide. It's a unique and surprisingly magical film with a fantastic soundtrack with a particularly powerful ending. While it wasn’t particularly successful in theaters, it has become a something of a cult classic and was a powerful debut from Coppola, who proved that she had enough talent to spare and wasn’t riding anyone’s coattails.

Vincent Van Gogh

When putting these guides together I look for a handful of items that pair well together. The Folio Society's beautiful edition of "Letters of Vincent Van Gogh," selected and edited by Mark Roskill, is a perfect match with the home video release of "Loving Vincent," a film that was hand painted in a style that recalls the greatest works of Van Gogh himself. The movie tells the story of a postman's son who attempts to deliver Van Gogh's last letter to his brother, Theo, one year after the artist's death.

Reader's Accessories

The people of Out of Print Clothing are, to put it bluntly, mad about books. The majority of their clothing and accessories designs are based on the classic cover images of some of the world's most renown novels. They're on the cusp of announcing a line based on the Harry Potter novels. Rather than focusing on the clothing, which I've featured in the past, here's a selection of library card branded items including a mug (various colors available), pouch, enamel pin set and tote bag.

(Photos: L-R Twentieth Century Fox, Universal, Twentieth Century Fox; Universal, Warner Bros, Song; Acorn TV, Acorn TV, Sony, Acorn TV; Criterion Collection, Paramount, Universal, Criterion Collection; The First Folio, Cinedigm; Out of Print Clothing)

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