based on a book, Disney, Fairy Tale, film, musical

Movie Review: Disney’s The Princess and The Frog

Disney knows how to take classic fairy tales and turn it into major motion pictures; yes I am aware that it is probably the understatement of the century. However they also know how to make their movies relevant to audiences, regardless of when the film takes place. In 2009 Disney took the beloved childhood story of The Princess and the Frog, but found a way to modernized it. Having re-watched the film recently I decided to give my thoughts on one of Disney’s more relevant to today animated movies. Spoilers will be ahead. I DO NOT OWN THE PICTURE.

The film takes place beginning in 1912 but quickly transitions to 1926 in the beautiful city of New Orleans. Tiana (Anika Noni Rose) works as a waitress at two diners, and has a natural talent for cooking. She wants to own her own restaurant and work as a chef, having been inspired by her late father James (Terrance Howard); owning a restaurant was always a dream he wanted to share with Tiana and his wife Eudora (Oprah Winfrey), but he passed away before it became a reality. Not wanting to let her father’s dream die, Tiana spends all her time working and earning money towards a restaurant, even picking out an old sugar mill as the location. However her ambition leaves very little to no time for a social life.

New Orleans soon welcomes the arrival of Prince Naveen of Maldonia (Bruno Campos), a handsome and seemingly wealthy young man; although it is revealed his parents have cut him off because of his irresponsible behavior. Tiana’s best friend from childhood, Charlotte La Bouff (Jennifer Cody), decides to take advantage of the prince’s arrival (having wanted to marry a prince since she was a child.) Along with her rich daddy Eli “Big Daddy” La Bouff (John Goodman) Charlotte throws a big costume party at their mansion, hoping to impress the prince; hiring Tiana to work as a chef and giving her enough money to buy the mill. Meanwhile Naveen, along with his over-worked man-servant Lawrence (Peter Bartlett), run into Dr. Facilier (Keith David), an evil voodoo witch doctor also going by the nickname The Shadowman. Dr. Facilier takes advantage of both Naveen’s stupidity and Lawrence’s greed, making their dreams come true; but not in the way they expected or probably wanted. At the party while Charlotte is dancing with “Naveen” Tiana is depressed; she may lose the sugar mill due to a higher bidder and has a limited amount of time to raise enough money to continue her dream. Desperate Tiana turns to the Evening Star, a star that allegedly can make wishes come true. Tiana sees a frog next to her and freaks out when it starts talking; the talking frog is of course the real Naveen.

Believing Tiana is a princess, based on her outfit and not realizing it is a costume party, Naveen asks Tiana to kiss him to break the spell like in the original fairy tale. Tiana reluctantly agrees after Naveen promises to provide money for her restaurant. However after Tiana kisses him, she is turned into a frog! The two manage to escape the party, but leave an impression on the fake Naveen, whom is actually Lawrence. He is wearing a talisman provided by Facilier. Facilier’s plan is for Lawrence to marry Charlotte and split her money once Big Daddy dies; which Facilier plans to make happen the moment they say “I do.” Tiana and Naveen make it to bayou where they meet a colorful cast of characters: Louis (Michael-Leon Wooley) a trumpet playing alligator who desires to be human just to play the with the big boys (and not worry about guns), Ray (Jim Cummings) a Cajun firefly who is in love with the Evening Star he calls Evangeline and finally Mama Odie (Jennifer Lewis), a nearly 200 blind voodoo priestess with plenty of sass to spare. Together they have to find a way to turn Tiana and Naveen back to human and stop Dr. Facilier, along with his shadow friends from the other side. During their adventure Tiana and Naveen grow as characters and discover what they want might not be what they need; Naveen realizing there is more to life than money while Tiana figures out she can have more than one goal in life. The two also fall very deeply in love with each other as time begins to run out. This is probably about as far as I should go without giving away the rest of the film; although I admit it is not hard to figure out.

While The Princess and the Frog did not do as well at the box office as Disney would have thought, I still think the movie was fantastic when I watched it in theaters, and I still think that today. I have been a fan of Anika Noni Rose since her role in Dreamgirls and I knew she would be great as Tiana. I believe Tiana is one of the more modern Disney princesses having been the only one so far to hold a job and a goal; I think many young children can look up to her along with the other princesses. Bruno Campos is fabulous as Naveen as his character develops from a self-absorbed playboy to a caring individual. Keith David is absolutely perfect as Dr. Facilier. Facilier has often been described as the love child of two of Disney’s classic villains, Jafar and Cruella DeVil; while I see elements of them Facilier still stands out among the Disney villains with his unique form of voodoo and charismatic personality. Jennifer Cody is hilarious as Charlotte; at first it was almost easy to write the character off as a spoiled rich daddy’s girl at first, but she proved to have a kind heart as big as her ambition. Louis, Ray and Mama Odie steal the show whenever they come on-screen; I have big props to Wooley, Cummings and Lewis on their performances. Terrance Howard and Oprah Winfrey brief appearances as James and Eudora helped show just how Tiana got to where she was in the beginning of the film, and also how they in a way helped Tiana at the end during her face-off with Facilier. The rest of the cast, as well as the writing and hand-drawn animation, is wonderful as well; the film was nominated for two Oscars in 2010 for Best Animated Feature and Best Original Song.

Of course a great Disney movie comes with an equally great soundtrack; most of the songs were written by the incomparable Randy Newman. The song nominated for the Oscar is Tiana’s anthem (because every Disney princess has one) “Almost There” The song not only reflects Tiana’s ambition, but the animated sequence which has Tiana imagining her restaurant as she sings is beautifully hand-drawn. Multiple versions of “Down in New Orleans” are performed in the movie, two times by Rose in the beginning and end of the film while the main version is performed as we are introduced to the adult version of the characters by Dr. John. Facilier has a song (because every cool Disney villain needs one) called “Friends on the Other Side” where he manipulates Naveen and Lawrence and shows off his powers. Louis sings with Tina and Naveen as they say what they would do “When We’re Human” an upbeat song needed after a few close calls by Tiana and Naveen in the swamp. Ray has two numbers in the film: “Gonna Take You There” as he guides Tiana, Naveen and Louis to Mama Odie and “Ma Belle Evangeline” as he sings about his love for Evangeline; I know it sounds weird but it is a very romantic song. Mama Odie has a show-stopping number called “Dig a Little Deeper” where she says Tiana and Naveen may know what they want, but if they dig deeper they’ll find what they need; this makes Naveen realize just how deep his feelings are for Tiana. The final number, and the only song not written by Randy Newman, is during the credits of the film which sums up Tiana and Naveen’s relationship perfectly. It is called “Never Knew I Needed” performed by the multi-time Grammy winning artist Ne-Yo. Ne-Yo’s voice is wonderful to listen to as he sings about the woman who appeared in his life when he needed her; it is probably my favorite song on the soundtrack.

If you have not watched The Princess and the Frog I would highly recommend watching it; might not be a need to watch immediately but is still a great film. I may even call this an underrated Disney film, having been overshadowed in 2009 by another great Disney/Pixar film out earlier that year. The Princess and the Frog is, in my opinion, one of Disney’s more modern movies and I promise when you watch it you will not be disappointed.

film, must see

Why I Love Harry Potter Plus Quick Reviews of the Films

Isn’t it amazing as growing older how much stays with you; like trading in that favorite toy from your childhood for a cell phone or tablet. However in my case one thing from my childhood has been a part of me for a very long time: Harry Potter. In honor of the eight movies making their debut on the USA and SyFy network I will be explaining my love for the magical franchise, give a quick recap of the films plot and finally what I thought about the film itself; I will give more details in full reviews of the films at a later time, but I wanted to do a little bit of an appetizer in honor of the premieres tonight. If you have not read any of the books or seen the films, here is a massive spoiler alert. I DO NOT OWN THE PICTURE.

Let me start off by saying I actually did not get into Harry Potter for the longest time. My mom had read the first I believe four books and for years kept pushing for me to read them; like many young kids I thought “If my mom likes this how cool can it be?” However in 2001 the trailer for the first film, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s/Philosopher’s Stone dropped. The very second I expressed an interest in the film my mother shoved into my hands. Giving in I sat down and read; it took me a couple of years before I finished the first four books by the inspiring and amazing J.K Rowling. From then on I was completely into Harry Potter. My parents would get the latest book and I would watch the films as soon as we possibly could if not immediately. My friends still loved the books and films even as new franchises began to become obsessions in high school. As I got older my love for the franchise never died, and it still has not. I have met people who have never even read the books and I often encourage them to give it a shot before watching the films. I’ll elaborate on that a little later. In the meantime let’s go over the eight films based on the seven Harry Potter books.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s/Philosopher’s Stone. The very first one to start off an incredible adventure. Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) has lived with his verbally abusive guardians, the Dursleys: Uncle Vernon (Richard Griffiths), Aunt Petunia (Fiona Shaw) and cousin Dudley (Harry Melling), for as long as he can remember, that was until owl keep dropping off letters to his home addressed to him. Despite the best efforts from his guardians, Harry discovers the truth; he is a wizard like his dead parents (James and Lily) and is famous for somehow surviving as an infant against the darkest wizard of all time: Lord Voldemort (otherwise addressed as You Know Who or He who Must Not Be Named) who seems to have died after trying to kill Harry; leaving the boy with a lightning shaped scar on his forehead. Harry is accepted and attends Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry (a gorgeous castle) where, after convincing the responsible party, is sorted into the Gryffindor house instead of Slytherin. Harry soon makes true friends in Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint), a red head multi generation wizard, and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) a brilliant witch with non-magic (otherwise called Muggles) parents among a few others including Neville Longbottom (Matthew Lewis) a clumsy and forgetful student; he also discovers a natural talent for the wizarding game Quidditch and earns the position as Seeker. Harry as well begins bonds with some of the teachers and staff at the school, including Rubeus Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane) the groundskeeper, Professor Minerva McGonagall (Maggie Smith) the head of his house and one of the teachers and Professor Albus Dumbledore (Richard Harris) the headmaster of the school. Harry also makes enemies in fellow student Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton), a very spoiled and jealous child, and one of his professors Severus Snape (Alan Rickman) who seems to have a grudge against Harry. Harry, along with Ron and Hermione soon discover a secret hidden in the school, an object known as the Philosopher’s, or Sorcerer’s, stone which has the ability to grant the user immortality. Harry believes Snape wants to use the stone to bring Voldemort back to life and he, along with Ron and Hermione, decide to stop him. Other characters introduced are members of Ron’s family: doting yet strict mother Molly (Julia Waters) and three of his elder brothers Percy (Chris Rankin) and twins Fred and George (James and Oliver Phelps). The film was very exciting to watch, bringing the characters I had come to love to life. While I knew everything wasn’t going to be exactly like the book the changes did not bother me as much as I thought it was going to do. I enjoyed the performances of the cast, especially Daniel’s, Rupert’s and Emma’s despite it being their first films.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Harry and his friends return to Hogwarts and discover their school is in danger. Students are being petrified (literally) by an unknown creature and the only clue is the bloody message “The Chamber of Secrets is Open, Enemies of the Heir Beware.” Believing it to mean the heir of the house of Slytherin and Hogwarts may shut down Harry Ron and Hermione set out to find the responsible party before it is too late. Harry soon discovers he has the ability to talk to snakes, which has (almost) everyone believing he is the heir, until someone close to him gets attacked. Harry also finds an enchanted diary belonging to a student named Tom Riddle over 50 years ago when the Chamber was first opened and a student was killed. The audience is also properly introduced to important characters: Ginny Weasley (Bonnie Wright), Ron’s young sister who has a crush on Harry, Arthur Weasley (Mark Williams) Ron’s father who loves learning about Muggles, Dobby (Toby Jones) a house elf determined to protect Harry and Lucius Malfoy (Jason Isaacs) Draco’s father who was once a follower of Voldemort. I really enjoyed figuring out the mystery in the book and seeing it on-screen was nothing less than great.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Harry, Ron and Hermione return for their third year, but this time have to be cautious. Sirius Black (Gary Oldman), an alleged follower of Voldemort, has escaped the inescapable prison Azkaban and seems to be going after Harry. The castle is being guarded by creatures known as Dementors searching for Black against Dumbledore’s (now portrayed by Michael Gambon after Harris’s death) wishes. The trio’s friendship (specifically Ron and Hermione’s) is tested multiple times, but soon make-up after Hagrid, now the Care of Magical Creatures teacher, is nearly sacked after one of his creatures, a Hippogrif called Buckbeak, attacks Malfoy (he provoked it). Instead Buckbeak is sentenced to death. Harry soon learns the truth about Sirius thanks in part to one of his teachers, Remus Lupin (David Thewlis). Other characters introduced are Sybill Trelawney (Emma Thompson) an eccentric teacher and Peter Pettigrew (Timothy Spall) someone with a connection to Harry’s parents. For the longest time this seemed to be everyone’s favorite Potter book, but I thought the film adaption was a little odd. New parts of the castle changed and more casual clothing was worn by the students when not in class, which I had not really pictured when reading. Nonetheless I thought everyone did a fabulous job.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. After attending the Quidditch World Cup our trio returns with exciting news at Hogwarts. The Triwizard Tournament featuring the wizarding schools Hogwarts, Durmstrang and Beauxbatons has returned. Three students, over the age of 17, from each school will be picked by the Goblet of Fire and participate in three deadly tasks. From Durmstrang is Viktor Krum (Stanislav Ianvski) a famous Quidditch player who also develops a crush on Hermione (much to Ron’s displeasure). From Beauxbatons is Fleur Delacour (Clémence Poésy) a beautiful girl Ron has a crush on (much to Hermione’s displeasure). From Hogwarts it is Hufflepuff seventh year student Cedric Diggory (Robert Pattinson) a handsome young man whose girlfriend, Ravenclaw student Cho Chang (Katie Leung), Harry has a crush on. However the Goblet pulls out another name: Harry Potter. Despite being underage Harry has no choice but to participate; it also temporarily damages his friendship with Ron. During the final task Harry is forced to witness to the return of his greatest enemy: Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes). The film also introduces Alastor “Mad-Eyed” Moody (Brendan Gleeson) a wizard with a big reputation and Rita Skeeter (Miranda Richardson) a nosy reporter for the wizarding paper, The Daily Prophet, who exploits “secrets” even if they are not true. It also introduces a magical item known as the Pensive which has the ability to go into a person’s memories. This was the most exciting Harry Potter film I had seen until the final one as the Triwizard tournament was portrayed as exciting as it appeared in the book, not to mention the first battle between Harry and Voldemort. Ralph Fiennes was perfect as the Dark Lord; an excellent start to an iconic villain.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Harry is treated as an outcast by many at Hogwarts; the Ministry of Magic has convinced the entire wizarding world that Voldemort is not back and Harry is mad. Very few people actually believe Harry; Dumbledore, Ron, Hermione, Neville, Ginny, Cho (who now has feelings for Harry), Ravenclaw oddball student Luna Lovegood (Evanna Lynch) and members of the group known as the Order of the Phoenix; a group which has reformed due to Voldemort’s return. New Defense against the Dark Arts teacher Dolores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton) is placed at Hogwarts by the Minister of Magic Cornelius Fudge (Robert Hardy) to see if Dumbledore is planning anything against the Ministry and uses her power to basically take over the school. Harry and his friends form a secret group to help those who actually believe in him, called Dumbledore’s Army, teaching them defensive spells to prepare for battle. When someone close to Harry is threatened by Voldemort he, Ron, Hermione, Neville, Ginny and Luna travel to Ministry to stop Voldemort. Other characters introduced are Nymphadora Tonks (Natalia Tena) the colorful member of the Order of the Phoenix, Kingsley Shackleboat (George Harris) another member of the Order and Bellatrix Lestrange (Helena Bottom Carter), one of Voldemort’s most loyal (and insane) followers (they are called Deatheaters) whom Harry and Neville hold a deep hatred to. The book as well as the film changed the game for Harry and his friends as they realize they are at war with not just Voldemort but the government. I thought for the longest time it was Daniel Radcliffe’s best performance as Harry, until the last film.

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. Now that the world knows Voldemort is back his grip on the wizarding and Muggle world gets tighter every passing day. Harry begins to suspect Voldemort has recruited Draco into the Deatheaters and has a mission for him at Hogwarts. Harry gets a new potions book which includes hints to help him do much better; the author is called the Half Blood Prince. Harry goes with Dumbledore as they explore Voldemort’s past to find a way to destroy him; which is in the form of Horcruxes: magical items Voldemort has placed pieces of his soul in so he can never die. Meanwhile Ron (despite being clearly in love with Hermione) begins to date fellow student Lavender Brown (Jessie Cave) much to the anger and sadness of Hermione (who is in love with him) while Harry realizes he is in love with Ginny. It ends with someone close to Harry making a big sacrifice and a possible traitor exposed. If I’m being honest this is the weakest of the Potter books and films, but it was nonetheless enjoyable.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 and 2. The last book was split into two films as it would have been impossible to cover all the material in one film. Harry, Ron and Hermione set out to find the remaining Horcruxes and destroy them; in turn destroying Voldemort. The trio nearly has a major rift in the first part before coming to terms with the greater good. Harry also discovers the secrets Dumbledore kept from him and just how deep the connection between himself and Voldemort is. We also get the most epic battle at Hogwarts between the students and staff against the Deatheaters. An epic conclusion to an epic franchise.

I will go into more details of each film at a later date, but I wanted to give just a taste of my thoughts on the most successful franchises in book and film history. Of course there has been a spin-off film Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them as well as the play on Broadway Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, but those are for another day. Before I conclude there is one thing I must say: before you watch the film READ THE BOOKS; I cannot stress that enough! The books go into details that are barely covered in film; for those who do not read it might be confusing how the gang goes from point a to point b quickly. Do not forget all eight films will premiere tonight and into the weekend on the USA and SyFy networks. These are some of my favorite books and films and I hope they will be yours as well.

based on a book, classic, film, must see

Movie Review: To Kill A Mockingbird

On this day 58 years ago a novel came out that changed American literature forever; even winning a Pulitzer Prize for the author Harper Lee. Two years later the film adaption of To Kill a Mockingbird came out on Christmas Day, and much like the novel was a huge success. This is actually my mother’s favorite book and for a very long time did her best to convince me to watch the film. I eventually did, and I absolutely loved it. If you haven’t read the book or seen the film here is the spoiler alert. I DO NOT OWN THE PICTURE.

Over the course of three years during the 1930’s Jean Louise Finch, better known as Scout (Mary Badham, nominated for an Oscar for her part) and her brother Jeremy Atticus Finch aka “Jem” (Phillip Alford) discover their (fictional) town of Maycomb, AL is not as good as it appears to be. They spend their days playing outside with their friend Dill (John Megna) and spying on their neighbor Arthur Radley aka “Boo” (Robert Duvall) who has not stepped out of his house in years; the town has multiple horrible stories on why that is. Scout and Jem live with their widowed father (whom they call by his first name by his request) Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck who won an Oscar for his part), the town lawyer who believes people should be treated fairly regardless of their background. Atticus defends many people in town and if they have little money takes in produce instead. Atticus is assigned a case where he defends Tom Robinson (Brock Peters) a black man accused of raping and beating Mayella Ewell (Collin Wilcox) a white woman. Atticus does what he can to protect Tom; including sleeping outside his cell to stop a mob from lynching him which Scout inadvertently stops when she recognizes one of the men Atticus takes produce from. However Scout and Jem face problems in school because of their father’s actions. When the trial (which Scout and Jem watch from the rafters) begins Atticus sets out to prove Tom couldn’t have committed the rape; among the evidence is Tom’s left arm is crippled, but Mayella claimed he used his left hand to chock her out. Atticus points out that Mayella’s father Bob (James Anderson) is left handed and she never went to a doctor to confirm her story of rape. Unfortunately, despite Atticus’s best efforts (including an incredible closing argument Peck shot in one take) the verdict seemed to be in before the trail began. This is about as far as I should go without spoiling the rest of the movie.

To call this an absolute classic would be an understatement. Everything from the acting, writing (which the movie follows close if not exactly like the book), cinematography and even shooting the film in black and white was nothing less than phenomenal. Peck was, and is still considered to be, one of the finest actors to ever grace the big screen and this is arguably his best known role. Atticus is often listed as one of the best fictional characters ever created, and it would be very hard to argue otherwise. Mary Badham’s performance as Scout is remarkable as she grows up; at first not understanding what is happening (often escalating to fighting or talking to Atticus), but eventually comes to terms with it. Phillip Alford is fantastic as big brother Jem as he explains what is happening to Scout as well as protecting her. Brock Peters is great as Tom Robinson and the rest of the cast is wonderful; interesting fact this was Robert Duvall’s first credited film role. The film won three Oscars: Best Actor for Gregory Peck, Best Art Direction and Best Adapted Screenplay, while it was nominated for Best Director, Cinematography, Actress in a Supporting Role, Score and Picture. It has also been on multiple American Film Institute 100 lists: Atticus Finch as the #1 hero, #17 of film scores, #2 on 100 Cheers, top 10 Courtroom Drama films at #1 #34 on the 100 movies list and finally moving up to #25 on the 10th Anniversary 100 Movies list.

I would call To Kill a Mockingbird a must watch especially if you are reading the book for school; although do not use it for a book report your teacher will know. Even if you are not, or have not, read the book the film is still an amazing work and a big recommendation from me.

based on a book, based on true story, film

Movie Review: Hidden Figures

If you read my post about the best films to watch on the Fourth of July you would have seen this 2016 film among the list. I don’t want to call this film a surprise hit because it was very good, but I admit I did not expect the film to succeed as much as it did. Nonetheless Hidden Figures, based on the non-fiction book by Margot Lee Shetterly, tells the remarkable true stories about three brilliant women and their contributions during the Space Race. As always spoilers will be ahead. I DO NOT OWN THE PICTURE.

Beginning in 1961 Katherine Globe (Taraji P. Henson), a brilliant mathematician (and single mom of three girls) works at Langley Research Center as a human computer along with her friends Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe), who wants to be an engineer, and Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer nominated for Best Supporting Actor for this part) a supervisor albeit unofficial. Despite all three women being incredibly smart and gifted, they are segregated because of their skin color and gender.

At this time pressures to send Americans into space continues to grow. Supervisor Vivian Mitchell (Kirsten Dunst) assigns Katherine to a space task group headed by Al Harrison (Kevin Costner) to make it possible. Katherine faces a lot of discrimination from her teammates, particularly Paul Stafford (Jim Parsons), but when she solves a seemingly impossible problem Harrison includes her in on meetings and even removes the bathroom sign saying whites only after discovering she has to walk to another building to use the bathroom; also at this time Katherine falls in love and marries Lt. Col Jim Johnson (Mahershala Ali). Dorothy is denied the position of supervisor, despite basically holding the job without the pay. She soon discovers IBM electronic computers are being installed and may soon replace human computers (putting many out of work). Not going to let that stand Dorothy teaches herself, and her co-workers, how the computers work and earns her place as a supervisor. Mary begins working on the space capsule heat shield and notices an immediate flaw. With the encouragement of her supervisor and her husband Levi (Aldis Hodge) she submits a request for an official engineering position and begins to work on getting her engineering degree; however the only school to make that possible is an all-white school which she must go to court for. The women also meet the astronaut that will go up into space John Glenn (Glen Powell). About as far I should go without giving away the rest of the movie.

When I first saw the trailers for Hidden figures I thought “this looks good, I hope this does well.” Boy did it exceed my expectations. Henson, Spencer and Monáe are absolutely fabulous as the trio of women who are not going to anything or anyone get in their way; not gonna lie and say I wasn’t cheering for them when I was watching the movie in theaters by silently clapping and whispering “you go girl” a lot. I was also very impressed with Costner and Ali’s performances in this film. Dunst and Parsons were as well great as they eventually released how ignorant they were being towards the woman; which probably wasn’t easy for them to admit. The writing and cinematography was excellent, but my favorite part was at the end when it is revealed just what an impact Katherine Johnson had on NASA for years after the first mission. Now the film, like others based on true stories, is not 100 percent accurate; which is why I recommend reading the book before watching the film. Hidden Figures was nominated for three Oscars: Best Supporting Actress for Spencer, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Picture, nominated for two Golden Globes (Supporting Actress for Spencer and Best Score and winning the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) for its outstanding cast (Spencer was also nominated for her role.) While I might not call this a must see right this minute, Hidden Figures is a fantastic historical drama movie and I would highly recommend watching it whenever you can.

based on a book, classic, film, musical, must see

Classic Movie Review: The Wizard of Oz

Today I am writing my 200th blog. For those that have been around since the beginning I thank you. For those who are just starting, I thank you as well.

For my 200th blog I wanted to make it special; a movie or show I believe everyone has or should see (if you have not, it must be put on the top spot on the must watch list immediately.) While glossing over the list of movies I’ve watch one stuck out and I knew I struck gold. It was one of the first non-animated movies I remember watching as a kid, the movie that made me fall in love with musicals and arguably the most watched movie of all time (not just in my house): The Wizard of Oz. Based on the beloved 1900 children’s book by L. Frank Baum, this 1939 classic musical is considered to be one of the greatest musicals and films of all time; and I’d love to find someone who would say otherwise. If for some reason you have not seen The Wizard of Oz here is the biggest spoiler alert I could possible give. I DO NOT OWN THE PICTURE.

Beginning in sepia tone Dorothy Gale (Jud Garland) and her dog Toto (Terry) lives with her Aunt Em (Clara Blandick) and Uncle Henry (Charley Grapewin) on their farm in Kansas. Toto gets in trouble when he bites the mean neighbor Miss Almira Gultch (Margaret Hamilton). Dorothy tries to explain what happened to her aunt and uncle, but they and the farm hands Huck (Ray Bolger), Hickory (Jack Haley) and Zeke (Bert Lahr) are too busy working to listen to her. Gultch arrives with the sheriff’s permission to take Toto away and put him down, much to Dorothy’s sadness, but the dog escapes. Dorothy and Toto run away, but after meeting and sort of tricked by the strange but kind hearted Professor Marvel (Frank Morgan who pulls off five roles in the movie) into turning around. A tornado has formed as Dorothy races home, but is too late to get in the storm cellar. She tries to seek shelter in her room, but gets knocked out.

Waking up she sees very odd things outside her window (her home was picked up by the tornado) before landing in the colorful Land of Oz; Dorothy famously saying “Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.” Dorothy meets the beautiful Glinda the Good Witch (Billie Burke) and the munchkins of Munckinland in the Land of Oz. They thank her for killing the Wicked Witch of the East; much to Dorothy’s horror her home crushed the witch to death leaving only her feet visible. However trouble soon arrives when the Wicked Witch of the West (Hamilton) arrives; Glinda says she’s worse than her sister. The Wicked Witch wants her sister’s magic ruby slippers, but Glinda has already given them to Dorothy; the witch promising “I’ll get you my pretty and your little dog too.” Dorothy wants to go home, but Glinda’s magic is not powerful enough to make it possible. Glinda says to Dorothy only The Wizard of Oz (Morgan) can help her; she must take the Yellow Brick Road to the Emerald City to meet the Wizard. Dorothy takes the path and soon meets three others who need help. The Scarecrow (Bolger) who desires a brain, the Tin Woodsman (Haley) who wants a heart and the Cowardly Lion (Lahr) who needs courage; Dorothy invites them all to accompany her to Oz. The four get stopped multiple times by the Wicked Witch, including a poppy field to make them sleep, but they make it to the Emerald City and eventually see the Wizard. He will only grant their requests if they bring him the Wicked Witch’s broomstick, but they will have to kill her to make that possible. About as far as I should go without spoiling the rest of the movie for those that haven’t read the book or watched it.

The Wizard of Oz is constantly listed as a movie many should watch before the age of 14, and if you have not that is absolutely fine. I remember watching the movie when I was a kid and just being completely enamored with it. The music, the characters, the story; even how it started off tan before going color. I still watch the movie today, maybe not with as much enthusiasm as when I was five but I still enjoy it.

The characters are just incredible to watch. Judy Garland shines as Dorothy Gale, considered to be the most iconic role in her career; she even won an honorary juvenile Oscar for this role along with her role in Babes in America. Bolger is so fun to watch as Scarecrow (try and find his deleted dance sequence for the “If I Only Had a Brain” number; it is great to watch.) Haley, while amazing as the Tin-man, was not the first actor cast for the part; actor Buddy Ebsen was supposed to be the Tin-man but fell ill after putting on the make-up (it was coated in aluminum powder and it got into his lungs, but thankfully lived.) Lahr is hilarious as the Lion; he might be my favorite of the Oz trio. Morgan is absolutely amazing in his five roles in the movie (Marvel, the doorman, the cabbie, the guard and the Wizard) a feet not often used in films back then or even now. Burke is lovely as Glinda. Of course I cannot forget the performance of Margaret Hamilton as the Wicked Witch; one of the most iconic villains on-screen. I know she struggled after the film with children being frightened of her well after the movie; there is a very famous episode of Mister Roger’s Neighborhood where he showed that she was a person underneath the robe and green make-up. The writing, cinematography and background music are some of the best I’ve seen in film, I would appreciate this more as I got into movies.

I cannot forget the wonderful soundtrack that goes along with the movie. Scarecrow, Tin-man and the Lion each have their own songs explaining what they would do if they had their respective gifts; the Lion has an additional number saying what he’d do “If I Were the King of the Forrest”. The munchkins have a number of songs, the two most famous being “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead” and “Follow The Yellow Brick Road/You’re Off to See the Wizard”; Dorothy and her friends reprise the latter half song three more times with “We’re” instead of “You’re” The residents of Emerald City welcome Dorothy and her friend with a number called “The Merry Old Land of Oz” However the most famous song of all is “Over the Rainbow”. Dorothy sings this while in Kansas saying how she wished there was a place where she couldn’t get into trouble; honestly I still get goosebumps when I listen to it.

The Wizard of Oz would win two Oscars, including Best Original Song for “Over the Rainbow” as well as Best Score; the film was also nominated for Best Special Effects, art direction, cinematography in color and Best Picture. It has also been listed on multiple American Film Institute 100 best lists. Three quotes on 100 Quotes: # 4 “Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore”, #99 “I’ll get you my pretty and your little dog too” and # 23 “There’s no place like home” Two songs on the 100 songs: # 1″Over the Rainbow” and #82 “Ding Dong The Witch is Dead”, #43 on 100 Thrills, #4 villain on 100 Heroes and Villains, top 10 Fantasy film at #1, #26 on 100 Cheers, #3 on Movie Musicals, and #6 on the 100 Movie, it would slip to #10 on the 10th Anniversary list. The film inspired multiple adaptions of the book, including the Broadway production, film and TV special “The Wiz.” Allegedly five pairs of Dorothy’s ruby slippers were made; one can be seen at the Smithsonian in Washington D.C while another pair was stolen years ago and has not been seen since.

If you have not experience The Wizard of Oz, what are you waiting for? Grab your ruby slippers and get ready to travel from Kansas (or wherever you live) to the Land of Oz, but always remember “There’s no place like home.”

based on a book, classic, film, must see

Movie Review: Forrest Gump

On this day in 1994 the world was introduced to one of the most beloved characters in film. Based on the 1986 novel by Winston Groom, Forrest Gump has become an absolute phenomenon; no matter how young or old you are this will always be a favorite of any generation. If for some reason you haven’t watched Forrest Gump, here is the spoiler alert. I DO NOT OWN THE PICTURE.

Forrest Gump (Tom Hanks who won an Oscar for the part with Michael Connor Humphreys as the younger version) is waiting for a bus in 1981 and tells sttangers how he got to this point. He talks about his first day of school in 1951, his mother (Sally Field) was very adamant about his education despite others pointing out his leg braces and very low intelligence; Mrs. Gump tells Forrest that he is the same as everybody else and to not let anyone say otherwise. The other students make fun of Forrest, except for one; Jenny Curran (Robin Wright and Hanna R. Hall as a child). Forrest immediately loves Jenny and throughout hid life never stops. His mother opens their home as a boarding house and Forrest inadvertently inspires a truck driver with his hip thrusting attempts at dancing (yep, Elvis Presley). Forrest eventually breaks his leg brace and becomes very fast, which helps when he outruns bullies; with Jenny telling him “Run Forrest, run.” He becomes a big football star at the University of Alabama because of his running; even meeting President John F. Kennedy. Forrest would then enlist in the army and befriends a man named Bubba (Mykelti Williamson). They plan to open up a shrimping company when they get discharged. Forrest and Bubba get shipped off to Vietnam where they meet Lieutenant Dan Taylor (Gary Sinise nominated for an Oscar for this part). During an ambush Forrest gets shot in the butt but saves the members of his platoon; Dan loses his legs and is depressed for a majority of the film (Forrest does later pull him out of his funk) while Bubba is killed. Forrest kerps his promise to Bubba; he opens a shrimping company along with Dan. Forrest reunites with Jenny many times in the movie, but because of her issues has trouble committing to Forrest despite loving him as much as he loves her. Probably as far as I should go without spoiling the rest of the film.

What can I say about this movie that hasn’t already been said? It is a true cinematic masterpiece. Tom Hanks is one of the best actors to ever grace a camera and, this probably goes without saying, Forrest Gump is one of his most iconic roles. Forrest is not the sharpest tool in the shed, but his heart more than makes up for it. Robin Wright shines as Jenny, the woman with a bad past but always had Forrest’s heart. Admittedly Forrest and Jenny’s love story feels a little one-sided, but it’s still lovely to watch. Sally Field is fabulous as Mrs. Gump; she’s caring, tough and, if I may be so bold, probably one of the best mothers on film or television. Gary Sinise is so good as Lt. Dan (he was nominated for an Oscar for the part). Iloved Williamson as Bubba; I can listen to him talk about shrimp all day.

The casting isn’t the only part I loved about Forrest Gump. I’m absolutely positive everyone enjoyed the pop culture references throughout the movie (John Lennon, Watergate, Apple and so much more.) The writing, cinematography and even the visual effects placing Forrest with the famous people is great. Forrest Gump won six Oscars including Best Actor for Hanks, Director, Film Editing, Visual Effects, Writing for an Adapted Screenplay and the biggest of them all Best Picture; it was also nominated for Best Supporting Actor for Sinise, art direction, cinematography, make-up and hair, score, sound and sound editing. The movie was also included on multiple American Film Institute top lists: Top 100 Quotes at #40 “Mama always said ‘Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.'”, 100 Cheers at #37, Top 100 movies at #71 and finally the 10th Anniversary edition at #76. To call this a must watch would be a big understatement. Grab your own box of chocolates, sit down and watch this classic Tom Hanks film.

film, Marvel Films

Movie Review: Ant-Man

Sometimes the superhero we need isn’t a big powerful person, but rather a teeny tiny man with an army of ants. Ant-Man was a Marvel hero I had heard about prior to his big screen debut in 2015, but at the same time I did not know too much about as the moniker has been held by three different men. When the trailer first came out my first thoughts were “this looks decent, maybe.” However when I finally watched the film, it exceeded my expectations. If you haven’t seen Ant-Man here is your spoiler alert. I DO NOT OWN THE PICTURE.

Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) has been recently released from prison and struggles with finding a job. Needing the money to pay child support to his ex-wife Maggie (Judy Greer) to take care of their daughter Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson), and to be seen as a father by Cassie instead of Maggie’s police officer fiancé Paxton (Bobby Cannavale), Scott reluctantly joins his old cellmate, the talkative Luis (Michael Peña), in a heist. Scott cracks the safe but only finds what he thinks is a motorcycle suit. Disappointed he still takes it, but gets more than he bargained for. After putting on the suit Scott discovers, much to his shock and horror, the suit has the ability to shrink himself down to the size of an ant. The owner of the suit, former S.H.I.E.L.D. scientist Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) sees something is Scott and wants him to become the new Ant-Man; Scott at first wants nothing to do with the suit, but does agree. Hank, along with his estranged daughter Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly), train Scott to control the suit, but not to push the power; Hank’s wife and Hope’s mother Janet wore a similar suit under the guise of the Wasp and disappeared (presumed dead) when she went into a subatomic quantum realm disabling a nuclear missile. Scott soon learns why he was picked to be the Ant-Man. Hank and Hope believe that Hank’s former protégé Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) is making his own shrinking suit, called the Yellow Jacket, but wants to sell it to Hydra. Scott, along with Hope, Hank and Luis have to stop Cross before it is too late. I probably shouldn’t say any more, but we do get an appearance from Sam Wilson aka Falcon (Anthony Mackie) when he and Ant-Man clash at Avengers HQ.

Ant-Man was much better than I thought it was going to be. I did not really picture Paul Rudd as an action/superhero star, but now I cannot imagine anyone else playing Ant-Man other than him. Evangeline Lilly is fantastic as Hope; she is tough with her father and Scott, while at the same time someone that can protect herself against the bad guys. Michael Douglas is great as Hank; tough yet funny at the same time if that was possible. Michael Peña is hilarious as Luis; the guy talks way to fast I actually had to put on the closed caption in order to read what he was saying. Stoll is good as Cross, but there have been better villains in the Marvel universe so he isn’t exactly memorable. Greer, Fortson and Cannavale are good additions to the movie and finally it was great to see Anthony Mackie as Falcon; he’s one of my favorite supporting superheroes.

The film itself is not the best, but not the worst of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The story was compelling and the special effects were top notch. Let me put it this way the final battle between Scott and Cross takes place on a Thomas the Tank engine train set; it was both intense and hilarious. The sequel will be coming out this Friday, Ant-Man and the Wasp, and I cannot wait to see Lilly in the flying Wasp suit. Before you go see that movie, I would recommend watching the first one just to get an idea of what to expect; unless superhero movies are not your go-to films.