based on a book, classic, film

Movie Review: The Graduate

I have often told you guys, and I’m sure other people in your life have said “Oh you have got to watch this movie asap”, or “You haven’t seen this movie, why not it’s great?” No movie have I heard this more than this 1967 classic, based on the 1963 book by Charles Webb. Now don’t get me wrong I get why people like or even love The Graduate, but for me I did not like it as much as I thought I was going to. Spoilers ahead as usual. I DO NOT OWN THE PICTURE.

Recent college graduate Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman) has no idea what he is going to do in life. His parents share his accolades and at his graduation party many try to offer him advice, although it is obvious he is uncomfortable. Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft) insist Benjamin drive her home after the party as her husband, Benjamin’s dad’s partner at his law firm, neglects her again. She invites Benjamin in for a drink and he soon realizes she is trying to seduce him. He tries to calmly reject her, but after his parents continue to pressure him he gives in to Mrs. Robinson’s advances. Benjamin’s parents and Mr. Robinson encourage him to spend time with Elaine (Katharine Ross), Mr. and Mrs. Robinson’s daughter, but Mrs. Robinson tells Benjamin not too. However after discovering he has more in common with Elaine rather than Mrs. Robinson, Benjamin becomes conflicted between the woman he loves and the woman he is sleeping with. About as far as I should go, but the ending is kinda famous.

I finally DVR’d this movie about a year or two ago because many adults I know were pestering me to watch the movie. As I stated before I get why people like the movie. The writing, acting, directing (as it won the Oscar) and cinematography are fantastic and I do not deny that for a second, but maybe it is because I already knew what was gonna happen or the story bothered me when I first heard about it; either way I did not like this movie as much as thought (or others thought) I would. Without a doubt this might be the best roles or at least the roles most identified with the careers of Dustin Hoffman and Anne Bancroft as well as the start of a set of films where not a lot was left to the imagination. Many people who have watched the movie told me this was the start of more “sexy” movies. While I am positive there were real life stories not in the public eye, this might have been the star of the older women with younger men becoming more obvious, but don’t take my word for that. The Graduate has become an iconic film, it has been placed on the American Film Institution’s lists multiple times as best films, love stories, songs and at least two quotes on the best quotes of all time: “Mrs. Robinson you’re trying to seduce me” and “Plastics”. While I did not like the film too much if you were to ask me would I recommend The Graduate; while not must see without question yes.

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classic, film, must see

Movie Review: Sunset Boulevard

While not quite a horror movie it is pretty scary and has gone down as a classic. Released in 1950 Sunset Boulevard is regarded as one of the best films of all time, as well as a very successful Broadway musical (well at least successful after Andrew Lloyd Webber got his hands on it). Spoilers ahead as always. I DO NOT OWN THE PICTURE.

Joe Gillis (William Holden, nominated for an Oscar) is a screenwriter that is having strings of bad lucks after trying to sell his script to Paramount producer Sheldrake (Fred Clark) only to get rejected and criticized by script reader Betty Schaefer (Nancy Olson, nominated for an Oscar). While avoiding guys trying to reposes his car Joe drives into what he thinks is an abandoned mansion. Joe hears a woman calling for him to come in to the house, mistaking him for someone else. He meets the woman and recognizes her: Nora Desmond (Gloria Swanson, nominated for an Oscar) a silent movie star who is basically forgotten about, although she doesn’t know it. Learning Joe is a writer Nora asks him to look at a script she has written for her return to film about Salome. Joe finds it horrible, but seeing an opportunity convinces Nora to hire him as a script doctor. Nora has Joe move in so she can keep an eye on him while her butler Max (Erich von Stroheim nominated for an Oscar) explains to Joe that Nora has basically refused the fact that her spotlight has faded, and any attempts to tell her has forced her to attempt suicide. Joe works with Norma on her script, but soon becomes uncomfortable with her constant need for attention; however any attempts he makes to get away she pulls him back in. About as far as I can go without spoiling the rest of the movie, but I will say this ends about as well as you think it is going to.

This was a movie I had heard about for many years prior to watching it, mostly the two famous lines by Nora Desmond. If you know movie quotes these two lines may seem familiar: “I am big, it’s the pictures that got small” when Joe tells Nora she used to be a big star (and to be fair a clue of how nuts this woman is) and finally the last scene and final line by Nora “All right Mr. DeMille I’m ready for my close-up” when Nora’s sense of reality is gone. The writing and acting are some of the best I have seen in any movie, hence why it has so many accolades. Sunset Boulevard was nominated for 11 Oscars, winning three for its writing, art/set direction and music. It is also one of very few films to have nominations for all four acting categories but not to win (and I would say it is a shame but I can’t argue with who won that year). If you have not watched Sunset Boulevard I would highly recommend it, but be prepared for crazy.

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based on a book, classic, film, must see

Movie Review: Breakfast at Tiffany’s

One of the most classic films of the 1960’s, and still stands the test of time today. Released in 1961 and based on Truman Capote’s novel, while the film is not perfect, and does have some controversy to it, Breakfast at Tiffany’s will probably go down as the most iconic role for Audrey Hepburn. Spoilers ahead as always. I DO NOT OWN THE PICTURE.

Holly Golightly (Audrey Hepburn nominated for an Oscar for this part) is a bit of a socialite in New York; going on dates, having parties and wearing the most elegant clothes including a little black dress in the opening shot where the audience sees her eating a bun and drinking coffee looking into the windows at Tiffany’s. She tries to make a habit of not letting anyone get close to her, not even her cat whom she just calls cat. One day after evading a man she met on a bad date she meets her neighbor Paul Varjak (George Peppard) a writer. The two develop a bond over time (Holly even calls him Fred due the resemblance of her brother in the army) as Holly observes his relationship with one of their neighbors he calls 2E, Mrs. Emily Eustace Failenson (Patricia Neal) and Paul sees Holly’s relationship with men over money, as well as her agent O.J. Berman (Martin Balsam). However it is obvious Holly and Paul’s bond has become more than friendship. About as far as I can go without giving away the rest of the movie.

As I said before the film is not without controversy. Holly and Paul’s landlord is Mr. Yunioshi, who is supposed to be Japanese, but was played by Mickey Rooney with a prosthetic mouth piece and make-up. Back then and now this was a bad move and Rooney as well as producer Richard Shepherd have apologized repeatedly for it saying if they could have changed it they would, but director Blake Edward wanted to keep Rooney. Still a very bad decision.

Other that that I still enjoyed the movie. Hepburn was already a huge star prior to this film but I think Breakfast at Tiffany’s will forever go down as her best and most iconic role, I know Capote wanted Marilyn Monroe for the part based on how Holly was described in the book and felt double crossed when Monroe turned the part down and Hepburn was cast, but I wonder what he thought of the results later. Hepburn and Peppard have great chemistry together and seeing them fall in love is very adorable. There are two things from the movie about Hepburn that stand out besides her performance; of course I am talking about her style and her song. The costumes in this movie are some of the finest I’ve seen, nearly every woman I know has that little black dress in their closet inspired in a way by Hepburn’s dress in the beginning. My final point is Hepburn’s song, and the song that won the Oscar for Best Original Song as well as the Grammy, “Moon River”. Hepburn performs the singing herself and when an executive wanted the song cut from the film she said, among other words “Over my dead body!” Thankfully the song was kept in and it became a humongous hit. There have been many covers of the song including Barbara Streisand, Aretha Franklin and Melissa Benoist on the Flash/Supergirl cross-over among many other great covers. I know there was a short lived Broadway musical as well as play, but neither lasted very long or were critically successful. If you have not watched Breakfast at Tiffany’s I would highly recommend watching this movie as soon as humanly possible.

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classic, film, high school films, musical, must see

Movie Review: Grease

To call this one of the most successful musicals of all time would be a HUGE understatement. Released in 1978, Grease was a big Broadway musical for many years before it hit the big screen. After countless revivals, high school productions, a live TV special and so much more Grease proves after 40 years it is still the word. Spoilers ahead as usual. I DO NOT OWN THE PICTURE.

In 1958 Danny Zuko (John Travolta) and Sandy Olson (Olivia Newton-John) have had the ultimate sweet summer romance and both are sad when it ends, believing Sandy is going back to Australia. Fast forward to the first day of school at Rydell High Danny reunites with his friends, a greaser group called the T-Birds: Doody (Barry Pearl) the eccentric one, Sonny (Michael Tucci) the trouble maker and wannabe womanizer, “Putzie” (Kelly Ward) the one who doesn’t really know about girls and Kenickie (Jeff Conway) Danny’s best friend. Danny, after they persist him about it, tells them about the girl he “hooked up” with in the summer with some very juicy details. Meanwhile Sandy, whose parents decided to stay, transfers to Rydell and soon becomes friends with the girl group at the school, The Pink Ladies. The group consists of “Frenchy” (Didi Cohen) an aspiring beautician and the first one to be nice to Sandy, Marty (Dinah Manoff) who has many “boyfriends” and constantly draws attention, Jan (Jamie Donnelly) the very quirky member and finally Rizzo (Stockard Channing) who doesn’t like Sandy’s good girl persona. Sandy’s story about her summer romance is full of pureness and love. When Rizzo finds out it was Danny (who she has a history with) Sandy fell in love with, she makes sure they meet as soon as possible, and Danny is forced to act like a jerk to Sandy in front of his friends. Danny and Sandy must decide whether they are meant to be with Danny’s bad boy attitude and Sandy’s good girl ideals. Meanwhile other romances begin within the group: Rizzo and Kenickie have a very rocky relationship (both not willing to admit their relationship is more than just physical), Sonny tries to woo Marty, who is most definitely not interested, Putzie and Jan begin to bond as do Sonny and Frenchy. Outside of the love stories the T-Birds have to suit up Kenickie’s car “Greased Lightning” for a big race at Thunder road against their rivals the Scorpions.

If you have yet to experience Grease then you do not know what you are missing. Sandy and Danny’s love story is one of the most romantic brought on screen as well as stage. Both are willing to change who they are to be with the other, while not completely giving in to the society around them. They know who they are and even if they change a little along the way it is their choice. I know many say Sandy completely changed who she was at the end, but if you listen to the lyrics in the song she also demands Danny change as well. The other love stories are also cute to watch, it almost makes me wonder if these relationship did work out in the end (the nostalgia part of me hopes so but the realistic part of me says probably not). The story, characters and writing are some of the finest on screen, although you can clearly tell these actors are nowhere close to being in or fresh out of high school. John Travolta is amazing as Danny, his singing is way better than I give him credit for. Olivia Newton-John is so perfect as Sandy and her voice is angelic. While Stockard Channing was most definitely not close enough to be a high school student, her performance as Rizzo is solid, as is her singing. Jeff Conway is incredible as Kenickie, and is a very fine dancer. The rest of the T-Birds and Pink Ladies are amazing as well, not to mention the teachers and fellow students at Rydell. Of course I can’t forget about Frankie Avalon as the Teen Angel Frenchy needed.

The soundtrack of Grease is among the best not just on screen but on stage. Several songs from the musical made its way to the movie, but there were some written just for the movie; regardless most of the songs have gone down as some fantastic and fabulous numbers. The opening number “Grease” is the animated opening sequence introducing many of the characters and the crew. “Summer Nights” is sung by Danny and Sandy about their summer love, but both are telling completely different stories. “Look at Me, I’m Sandra Dee” is Rizzo’s song making fun of Sandy’s good girl attitude which makes Rizzo annoyed at her. “Hopelessly Devoted To You” is Sandy’s song as she laments over finding out who Danny is among his friends and if she should still care (this song was nominated for an Oscar). “Greased Lightning” is the big dance number with the T-Birds (can we get a round of applause for the choreography in this number?) “Sandy” is Danny lamenting about how miserable he is without Sandy. “There Are Worse Things I Could Do” is Rizzo’s song about how what she does could be worse, while also lamenting on what she feels for Kenickie. “You’re The One That I Want” is sung by Danny and Sandy as both declare their love for each other and how they have made each other for the better. The final number “We Go Together” is the T-Birds and Pink Ladies vowing to remain friends or more once they graduate high school.

This is one amazing musical that I strongly believe will last for very long time; it is one of my personal favorite films of all time. There was a sequel for Grease, but it doesn’t star most of the original cast and from what I’ve heard it is a do not watch. A LIVE TV special was aired a few years ago, but that might be a story for another day. As stated previously if you have not seen Grease mark it down as a must watch immediately.

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classic, film, high school films, must see

Movie Review: 10 Things I Hate About You

If there was one movie I wished I watched when I was actually in high school it is this one. Released in 1999, this movie is actually based on the Shakespeare play The Taming of the Shrew, only set in modern high school times. Even if you are not in high school this movie is still pretty awesome to watch. Spoiler alert as always. I DO NOT OWN THE PICTURE.

The Stratford sisters could not be any more different. Bianca (Larisa Oleynik) is popular, self absorbed and ready to date, while her older sister Kat (Julia Stiles) is anti-social, shrewish and doesn’t really care what people think of her. Their overprotective obstetrician father Walter (Larry Miller) only has one rule: Bianca may date only if Kat is. This infuriates Bianca who has her eyes set on popular student and senior Joey Donner (Andrew Keegan) a model, very self absorbed and only wants to sleep with Bianca. Cameron James (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) a new student at Pauda High School falls for Bianca as soon as he sees her, much to the objections of his new friend Michael Eckman (David Krumholtz) and after Bianca tells him of her fathers rule asks him to find someone for Kat to date (he doesn’t know Bianca has sights on Joey). Cameron and Michael find the perfect person: bad boy Patrick Verona (Heath Ledger) a guy who has many stories about him (whether or not they are true irrelevant). Unable to approach Patrick immediately, Cameron and Michael reluctantly approach Joey asking him to pay Patrick to go out with Kat under the pretense of getting Bianca. Patrick does agree, but Kat rebuffs him at first. When Cameron and Michael give him some information Kat’s shield slowly start to go down. Along the way Patrick starts to fall for Kat as well, Bianca must decide whether Cameron or Joey is right for her and Michael tries to woo Kat’s friend and Shakespeare lover Mandella (Susan May Pratt). Also featured in this film is Bianca’s selfish friend Chasity (Gabrielle Union), Mr. Morgan (Daryl “Chill” Mitchell before his motorcycle accident) an English teacher who does not put up with a lot from his students, and Ms. Perky (Allison Janney) a guidance counselor who enjoys writing let’s call it very adult novels in her spare time.

I love this movie so much, and thankfully when it came out I was not the only one. This proved to be break-out roles for many of its stars, including Ledger, Stiles and Gordon-Levitt. Julia Stiles has become an actress I admired for a long time and this for me is one of her best roles, there are times in this move when I really identify with Kat. Larisa Oleynik is pretty good as Bianca as she slowly grows out of become a selfish person and realizes who actually cares for her. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is an incredible actor and his role as Cameron is perfect. Larry Miller is hilarious as the over-protective dad, David Krumholtz is very funny as Michael, Andrew Keegan is such a horrible person as Joey (which is a good thing), Janney and Mitchell are fantastic as the teachers; however the break-out star for me is Heath Ledger as Patrick Verona, the bad boy all the good girls want to tame (let’s not forget his performance of Frankie Valli’s “Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You, one of the most talked about moments in the movie even if you haven’t watched it). Everyone is amazing in this movie, the writing is incredible and has some pretty memorable scenes. A television series was released in 2009 but did not last too long (almost a shame). I would highly recommend 10 Things I Hate About You as a must watch as soon as possible. I hope you guys enjoy it if you have yet to watch it.

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classic, film, high school films, must see

Movie Review: Mean Girls

One of the first PG-13 movies I watched in theaters, I went with some of my girlfriends and my dad (who was sacrificially thrilled to take us). However i do not think anyone was prepared for just how big this 2004 movie was going to become, something tells me this will be just as big when I am very old. In case you haven’t seen it, spoiler alert. I DO NOT OWN THE PICTURE.

Cady Heron (Lindsay Lohan) moves from Africa to the United States, specifically Evanston, Illinois. Cady attends high school for the first time and soon learns about cliques from two outcasts, Janis Ian (Lizzy Caplan) who is goth and Damian Leigh (Daniel Franzese) who is gay. They tell Cady about to avoid the most popular group at school” The Plastics, a trio of girls who are as popular as they are mean. Karen Smith (Amanda Seyfried) the sweet but stupid member, Gretchen Wieners (Lacey Chabert) the spoiled member who just wants acceptance, and finally the leader and what Janis calls evil human form, Regina George (Rachel McAdams). The Plastics invite Cady into their clique which makes Cady popular, although they discourage her from joining the math team despite her exceptional skills according to her teacher Ms. Norby (Tina Fey who also wrote the screenplay). Janis wants to use Cady to gain revenge on Regina for their horrible past, but Cady refuses to go along with the plan at first. Cady falls madly in love with fellow classmate Aaron Samuels (Jonathan Bennett) who happens to be Regina’s ex boyfriend. When Regina, knowing that Cady is interested, steals Aaron back Cady goes all in on Janis’s plan to destroy Regina by having Cady take over The Plastics, but inadvertently along the way Cady turns out to be much worse than Regina. About as far as I can go without giving away the rest of the movie.

To say that this movie has become a pop culture phenomenon would be an understatement. Everything from the writing to the acting could not have been done better. While Lindsay Lohan was already well known before this movie Mean Girls helped break her out of the Disney mold. McAdams and Seyfried’s careers as well have gone sky high because of this movie. Tina Fey has had success before and after this movie, but this for me is her best film work, not just as an actress but as a writer (notice the key word being film she is still fantastic in television) Other actors such as Bennett, Franzese, Chabert and Caplan haven’t as as much success after Mean Girls, but they have said they are thankful for the movie. The film had a spin off called Mean Girls 2, but it is not really worth watching having only one member from the original film and basically is a poor copy. There is a stage musical coming soon to Broadway with Tina Fey doing the script, so you know it is gonna be good. There have been talks about the official sequel, but until I see an actual trailer I do not believe it. Mean Girls continues to have a huge impact in film and I do not see it going away anytime soon.

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classic, Disney, film, musical, must see

Movie Review: Disney’s The Lion King

If you have not seen this Disney movie and absolutely love it then we’ve got a problem. Released in 1994 The Lion King is without question one of, if not the, best Disney movies of all time (and I’d love for anyone to argue otherwise). I have seen this movie consistently listed as people’s top 10 Disney movies of all time; most of the time in the top 5 at least. This was one of the first Disney movies I watched as a kid, and much to my parent’s annoyance one of the ones I watched frequently. If for some reason you have not watched the movie, SPOILER alert because it is impossible to avoid. I DO NOT OWN THE PICTURE.

King Mufasa (James Earl Jones), a lion, rules over the Pride Lands of Africa, living on Pride Rock with his Queen Sarabi (Madge Sinclair) and the other lionesses. His son Simba (Matthew Broderick as an adult with Jonathon Taylor Thomas as a child, Joseph Williams and Jason Weaver provide the singing voices) is presented to the animal kingdom as their future king by Rafiki (Robert Guillaume) a mandrill who is somewhat of an adviser and shaman. Mufasa tries to teach Simba how the animal kingdom is connected in the circle of life and how he will always be there for him, but Simba, along with his best friend Nala (Moira Kelly as an adult with Niketa Calame as a child and Sally Dworsky and Laura Williams provide the singing voices) constantly get in trouble and by extension Zazu (Rowan Atkinson) a hornbill who is the majordomo to the king. Unbeknownst to all Mufasa’s brother Scar (Jeremy Irons) plots to take over the throne by killing off Mufasa and Simba, along with the help of three hyenas Shenzi, Banzi and Ed (Whoopi Goldberg, Cheech Marin and Jim Cummings). The four of them start a wildebeest stampede with Simba in a gorge. Mufasa rescues Simba, but when trying to get out Scar lets him go and Mufasa is killed. Scar convinces Simba that it was his fault and tells him to run away. The hyenas go after Simba, but he outruns them; the hyenas do not tell Scar Simba is alive as he takes over the Pride Lands much to the horror of the lionesses. Meanwhile Simba is found by a meerkat and warthog named Timon (Nathan Lane) and Pumba (Ernie Sabella) who take him into their carefree life of “Hakuna Matata” (Swahili for no worries). Simba grows up into an adult, but when Nala comes back into his life (and falls in love with her) Simba must remember who he was and confront his past, including his uncle who has drained the Pride Lands of everything. After discovering the truth a huge fight breaks out between Simba, Scar and the other characters with Scar receiving one of the most gruesome death scenes in animated movies. Simba takes his rightful place and the pride lands are restore to its natural balance.

To call this one of the best not just Disney but animated movies of all time would be a gross understatement. The opening scene alone with the animals coming together and the song “Circle Of Life” is one of the greatest opening scenes of all time. The wildebeest scene, while it is very sad later on, is one of the most beautifully animated scenes I’ve ever seen as is at the end when Simba accepts his place as king. The story, characters and writing are so well done; I cannot stress that enough. I have also seen many videos online of kids watching this movie for the first time and how enthralled they are (don’t even get me started on their reactions to Mufasa dying). Every character is so perfect in one way or another; Scar as the villain, Timon and Pumba as comic relief, Rafiki as the weird guy who is funny (I crack up every time he gets in the fight scene) you get the point.

Of course I cannot forget the absolutely amazing soundtrack written by the incredible team of Tim Rice (one half of the team who wrote so many incredible Disney songs) and the legendary Elton John (so even if for some reason you haven’t heard of the songs you have to know how incredible they are with this team). There are five songs they wrote that I know every single Disney fan considers to be five of the best songs to ever come out of Disney. “Circle of Life” is the first song heard in the opening scene and sets a high standard. “I Just Can’t Wait To Be King” is a fun number with Simba, Nala and Zazu as Simba expresses his desire to do what he wants as a king (as a kid he doesn’t know any better). “Be Prepared” is Scar’s song as he tells his evil plan, on a side note it is one of the best villain songs ever. “Hakuna Matata” brings the mood back up after the sad scenes. Last but not least “Can You Feel The Love Tonight?” is not only an award winning song (out of all the songs this one has the Oscar and Grammy) and one of the most romantic numbers in all of love songs, not just in movies.

If you think The Lion King stops here, oh boy are you wrong. There is a Broadway musical (one of the longest reigning shows on Broadway) a spin off TV series staring Timon & Pumba, a sequel and prequel direct to DVD films (both I plan to review later) and most recently a show on Disney Junior staring Simba and Nala’s son (which if you have younger kids I’ve heard is good). In 2019 a CGI adaption of The Lion King will be released in theaters. Not gonna lie and say I was a little concerned about how Disney was gonna do it, but after seeing the cast I am hopeful, the other live action adaptions have been great but those are for another day. I encourage you, no I IMPLORE you, to watch this movie if for whatever reason you have not. The Lion King is one of the best animated movies ever done and should be watched over and over again.

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