film, classic, Disney, must see, musical

Movie Review: Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame

This is probably the first recognizable Disney movie I have written about. Almost every Disney article, or fan I know has said this movie, loosley based on the Victor Hugo novel, is heavily underrated and I 100% agree. While it is probably not as good as more well known Disney films I think this film should get the renegotiation it deserves. Once again if you have not seen this movie spoilers ahead.

In the 15th century Paris, France a story is recapped prior to the main plot, courtesy of the gypsy Clopin (Paul Kandel). A group of gypsies were sneaking into Paris but were caught by the self-righteous Judge Claude Frollo (Tony Jay) and his soldiers. Frollo hates gypsies and takes it upon himself and his troops to end them once and for all believe it to be his mission from God. A woman escapes with her baby and when trying to seek sanctuary in Notre Dame, Frollo catches up and kills the woman. He seems the baby is deformed, calling him a monster, and is about to drop the baby down a well before the Archdeacon (David Ogden Stiers) stops him. After be told he has sinned in front of the eyes of Notre Dame and he must atone for it, Frollo reluctantly cares for the child he names Quasimodo (Tom Hulce) which means half formed and places him in the bell tower to be hidden from the world, hence the title of the movie.

20 years pass and Quasimodo has grown into a kind man, but feels isolated in the bell tower with only three living gargoyles for company: Victor (Charles Kimbrough), Hugo (Jason Alexander) and Laverne (Mary Wickes in her final role). Quasimodo longs for a life outside the tower and during his favorite time of the year, the Festival of Fools where it is okay to be different, sneaks out. He is embraced by the people, and soon becomes smitten with Esmeralda (Demi Moore) a beautiful gypsy who treats him with kindness. Unfortunately thanks to Frollo the crowd turns on Quasimodo and he hides away back in Notre Dame. Esmeralda becomes a target for Frollo, not just because of her being a gypsy but because he has developed a lust for her, and Frollo demands she be found. Captain Phoebus (Kevin Kline), Frollo’s captain of the guards who does not approve of Frollo’s methods and has fallen for Esmeralda helps her and Quasimodo in their fight against the cruel judge. I cannot go more without spoiling, I am sorry.

Now if you haven’t seen this movie I’m sure you are thinking this: “This is a kids movie!” Yes, it is. Now as a child when I watched the movie I had no idea of the aspects that makes this a dark Disney film, but that’s it. When you are a kid you do not know any better, but then you watch the films as an adult and go “how did I miss that?” In just one music number alone it shows how dark this movie is, but that is what I think makes this film stand out. It is probably not a movie I would show a child until they are a little older, my opinion go seven and up.

Moving on, I absolutely love everything about this movie. The characters are so entertaining whether they are funny, conflicted or, in Frollo’s case, evil, they make you pay attention to movie. Quasimodo is a unique character, not saying that just because of his appearance, as he doesn’t let how he looks stop him. Esmeralda is probably my favorite non princess female as she refuses to let men like Frollo get to her. Phoebus is very different in this movie than in the novel as he is kinder and truly cares for Quasimodo and Esmeralda. The gargoyles are the comic relief of the film, and believe me hen I say it is needed. Frollo is one of Disney’s most evil villains as he basically wants to kill an entire population just because, and his lust for Esmeralda just makes him even more creepy. While it doesn’t follow Victor Hugo’s novel exactly, given it is a Disney movie not surprising, it does take the story and make it different, happier if you will.

The soundtrack is in my opinion one of Disney’s best. It doesn’t have any sappy love songs, or conquering hero ballads; instead the songs are often empowering and deep there is a message behind almost all the numbers. Even if you don’t see the movie, although you should, just listen to the soundtrack it is hauntingly beautiful. If you haven’t seen the movie, whether in a long time or never, it is so good. There was a sequel released almost six years later, which I actually plan on reviewing at a later time.

classic, film, musical, must see

Movie Review: Viva Las Vegas

I know you have heard of the song by Elvis Presley, but have you seen his movie? If not it is definitely a must watch if you are an Elvis of musical fan. I am confident though you have heard the many stories about this film. Spoilers ahead.

Lucky Jackson (Elvis Presley) is a race-car driver heading to Vegas for the first Grand Prix Race; but his car, an Elva MK Vi, is in need of a new engine. He also meets Count Elmo Mancini, a fellow race-car driver with a very arrogant personality. When looking at a car both guys see Rusty Martin (Ann-Margret), the hotel swim manager and are both instantly mitten with the red haired beauty. Lucky does his best, but only gets wet (she shoves him into the pool.) Lucky looses the money he raised for the engine and is forced to work as a waiter to gain it back. Rusty and Lucky do fall in love, but Rusty tries to change Lucky into what she wants in a man. However five minutes with the Count and she soon realizes how great Lucky is as he is. Once again about as far as I can go without given away the rest of the movie.

If you are not sure what I’m talking about with the stories about this movie please allow me to elaborate. While filing the movie Elvis and Ann-Margret had an short affair and it received a lot of media attention. Elvis’s girlfriend, and future wife, Priscilla lets just say was worried. The affair did not last and reportedly Elvis and Ann-Margret remained friends ever since, Ann-Margret referring to Elvis as her soul mate, which makes sense as she is often refereed to as the female Elvis. The chemistry between Elvis and Ann-Margret’s characters are very adorable and one of my favorite parts about the film.

The soundtrack is also amazing with many songs standing out. Of course Viva Las Vegas is the title song, Elvis does as amazing as you think, and reportedly that scene with Elvis performing that only took one take. While there are other songs that are great, my favorite song though is “The Lady Loves Me” just one of the duets with Elvis and Ann-Margret as Lucky flirts with Rusty, and she is not buying it. The official soundtrack has never been released but almost all of the songs can be heard on Elvis’s album titled Viva Las Vegas, the 2010 release includes the most from the movie. The movie airs every so often on Turner Classic Movies and I can guarantee you will not be disappointed with this Elvis classic.

classic, Disney, film, must see

Movie Review: Disney’s The Black Cauldron

Haven’t heard of this movie; doesn’t surprise me. Released in 1985 and loosely based on two books in The Chronicle of Prydain series by Lloyd Alexander, “The Black Cauldron” is considered to be Disney’s black sheep. It did not do very well at the box office and well it is not something Disney is not too well known for: dark. Once again spoilers will be ahead.

The film opens with the explanation of the mythic Black Cauldron. There was a king so cruel, even Gods feared him. As no prison could hold him he was thrown alive into molten iron. This demonic spirit took form of the Black Cauldron. The legend goes on to say it waits for the most evil man to use it and raise an undead army to take over the world (yep this is a kid’s movie.)

Centuries go by and the story fades into legend, until the Horned King (John Hurt) the skeleton and cruel ruler of Prydain searches for the Cauldron. Dallben (Freddie Jones), an enchanted farmer, fears the Horned King will steal his pig Hen Wen as she has powers able to locate the cauldron. He sends his assistant Taren (Grant Bardsley), who dreams of becoming a hero, to take care of Hen Wen. However the boy daydreams too much, not to mention gets annoyed by Gurgi (John Byner) a creature living in the forest, and Hen Wen is captured. Despite breaking in and freeing Hen Wen, Taren earths the Horned King’s wrath. Along with Gurgi, the magical princess Eilonwy (Susan Sheridan), the middle age musician Fflewddur Fflam (Nigel Hawthorne) and a magical sword, Taren decides to find the Cauldron and destroy it before the Horned King can use it for his evil plan. Along the way Taren learns being a hero doesn’t mean having a sword and wearing a suit of armor.

If I were to say what was my favorite Disney movie of all time this might just be it, or top 3 easy and I’m someone who doesn’t like to get scared. I watched this for the first time when I was 4 maybe 5 and it scared the heck out of me, some of it still does! Don’t believe me, google a picture of the Horned King. The guy is a skeleton with bits of flesh on him, has horns sticking out of his head and his voice is CREEPY (bravo to John Hurt by the way.) As far as Disney villains go this guy deserves more recognition. He wants to take over the world with an undead army!

The other characters stand out just as much as the King. Taren is the boy who knows there is more outside the farm and wants it, bet he didn’t expect that adventure he got. Eilonwy is just as much a princess as the official list (because of the poor box office she is not on the list) and is most definitely not a damsel in distress. Fflewddur is the comic relief of the group, which at times is necessary. Finally Gurgi while at times a pest is shown to be the bravest of them all, can’t say why though sorry.

I understand why this film did not do too well at the box office, when you think Disney “dark” is not the first word to come to mind with their movies. The film did gain a cult following and might be the only reason why someone like me can watch the movie. However it doesn’t mean this film is not worth the watch because it truly is. I always recommend people to watch the lesser known Disney films because they are good, might not follow the success as Lion King, Beauty and the Beast and others but they are worth the watch. I will go into more of those at a later time, but for now I highly recommend watching this kinda scary Disney film.

classic, film, James Bond, must see

Movie Review: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

So sorry for the long wait, but I have finally watched “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” and once again my heart is just a little broken. Once again spoilers will be ahead as it is unavoidable.

This time portrayed by George Lazenby, Bond is on the hunt for Ernst Stavro Blofeld (portrayed by Telly Savalas) when he saves the life of Contessa Teresa di Vicenzo, aka Tracy (Diana Rigg), a women seemly committing suicide on the beach when Bond pulls up. Tracy thanks Bond at the hotel they are staying at, and Bond fights off an attacker. The next morning Bond is brought to Marc-Ange Draco (Gabriele Ferzetti), a crime-lord with legitimate ties and Tracy’s father. Telling Bond of Tracy’s past Draco offers his services and money in exchanging for continuing to see Tracy. Desperate to find Blofeld, Bond agrees. M pulls Bond off the Blofeld assignment and Bond submits his resignation, but Moneypenny writes it to give Bond two weeks instead, what would we do without her? Despite getting the information from Draco, Bond continues to see Tracy, falling in love with her. Bond discovers Blofeld is trying to gain a title as a count and poses as a genealogist Sir Hilary Bray (George Baker, who also does the voice when Bond goes undercover) to get closer to his foe. Blofeld has established an allergy research institute along with his henchwoman Irma Blunt (Ilse Steppat) on the Swiss Alps with the promise to cure allergies. Bond meets 12 women, and beds two of them, known as the Angels of Death; they believe they are being cured of their allergies but in actuality they are being brainwashed for biological warfare, destroying plants and animals in exchange for money, the title and amnesty. Bond, along with Tracy and Draco stop Blofeld with Bond forcing Blofeld into a neck brace. Bond and Tracy marry, but the film ends in tragedy; with Blofeld driving Bunt shoots at the couple killing Tracy. No Bond fan can watch that ending and not cry or have their heart broken.

I know Lazenby gets a lot of grief for his only turn as 007, don’t get me started on the clothes even if it was the style in 1969, but I did not think he was that bad. While Bond is usually seen as tough, leading with his head, and not emotional I found it refreshing seeing Bond in love and vulnerable. Seeing Bond in films later after Tracy’s death is almost sad whenever she gets brought up. My feelings for Diana Rigg as Tracy will be at a later time, and I do have a lot to say about her. Savalas’s Blofeld is very good as he actually does something other than threaten Bond and occasionally shoot. Ferzetti is great as Draco and it almost makes me wonder if Bond kept in contact with him after Tracy’s death. Steppat as Blunt is one of the best henchmen in the Bond universe and it is sad we never get to see her character again; the actress tragically died four days after the film premiere.

The action scenes are very intense in the film with the ski segment and the final battle prior to the wedding. The entire film is one of the best in the franchise, and probably the saddest. It is still a must watch if you are a Bond fan. Coming soon, “Diamonds are Forever.”

classic, film, musical

Movie Review: Carousel

One of my favorite movie or TV genres are musicals; while I do enjoy the action, drama, comedy and occasional sci-fi flick there is nothing like singing and dancing. I will go into more musicals I love over time, but today I want to do the latest movie I watched: Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel.

Based on the popular Broadway show, Carousel follows carousel barker Billy Bigelow (Gordon MacRae) and mill worker Julie Jordan (Shirley Jones) as they fall in love and loose their jobs all in one night. Short time later after they are married Billy cannot find work and in frustration strikes Julie (while not shown on film it is talked about and is shown during the Broadway productions.) Upon discovering Julie is pregnant, Billy feels forced into committing a robbery with his frequent jailbird friend. Unfortunately it ends badly for Billy. 15 years later Billy is allowed to go back to make amends with Julie and his daughter Louise after the town has turned against them.

This was the second time MacRae and Jones stared in a musical together, that one will be at a later date, and their chemistry remained intact. If I did have to make a comparison I thought their chemistry in the prior film was better. While the film does kinda gloss over the fact Billy was hitting Julie, at least once, they both admitted they loved each other (yes I know everyone says that, doesn’t mean I agree with it.) Of course their voices are magic together; MacRae has a very deep voice that causes everyone to turn their heads to the screen while Jones’s sweet and melodious singing can make anyone feel so good.

The songs in the film are terrific; some sticking out more than others. The first to really hit with the audience is the duet between Billy and Julie “If i Loved You.” While they were not saying what the were feeling it was obvious of the attraction growing. The big dance sequence was “June is Bustin Out All Over” showing how the town was celebrating the summer. Everyone’s voices was blended perfectly and the dance sequence was a joy to watch. Gordon MacRae’s soliloquy solo number showed what the character was going through after finding out about Julie’s pregnancy and coming to terms with what he has to do. A final stand out was Louise’s dance number on the beach as Billy and the audience find out just what the girl had been going through since her father’s death.

The film is on Netflix, but only until October 1. Other than that it will occasionally air on TV. It is also coming back to Broadway in the 2018 season which will star Tony nominee Joshua Henry (The Scottsboro Boys and Velvet), Tony winner Jessie Mueller (Beautiful:The Carole King Musical, and was nominated for her role in Waitress) and Grammy winner Renee Fleming. I hope you will enjoy the musical, the film or coming to New York whichever one you prefer.

classic, film, must see

Movie Review: Good Will Hunting

No I am not on a Matt Damon kick, I just happen to love this movie.

“Good Will Hunting” was a movie I had heard about for years until I had to watch it for a class in community college. It was on a very long list I made of movies and TV shows I want to watch at some point, and it came sooner than I expected. I can honestly say it was worth the wait, and if you have not it’s definitely worth however long a wait it will be. Once again spoilers may be ahead.

Released in 1997 the film follows South Boston resident Will Huntington (Matt Damon), a self taught math genius who does not use his potential; working as a janitor at MIT, getting drunk or into trouble with his buddies Chuckie (Ben Affleck) Billy (Cole Hauser) and Morgan (Casey Affleck.) A professor at MIT, Gerald Lambeau (Stellan Skarsgard) poses a difficult question for his students, but Will is the one to solve it. Realizing Will’s potential, Lambeau is able to get Will out of his latest jail stint to study mathematics under his supervision and to go to therapy. Unfortunately Will treats the sessions as a joke, until Lambeau reaches out to his former college roommate Dr. Sean Maguire (Robin Williams) Unlike the other therapists Sean challenges Will in ways unlike he has never experienced. Along the way Will falls for Skylar (Minnie Driver) a student getting ready for medical school.

Matt Damon (in my opinion his best role yet) portrays Will as a man who has been thru so much in life that any source of happiness he wants to stop before it hurts him, which admittedly makes him somewhat unlikable at times. However given everything that happened to his character many saw where he was coming from and sympathized with him. His friends know how good he is, and are frustrated he doesn’t do anything with it. One of my favorite scenes is with Chuckie knocking some sense into Will by telling him if in 20 years Chuckie was still coming over to Will’s house and working construction he would kill him (that’s the PG version I’m using.) Ben Affleck really stood out to me with that part, as does Hauser and Casey Affleck in the movie. Minnie Driver is a wonderful actress and up until her TV show Speechless I thought this was her best work. Of course I cannot forget the amazing Robin Williams. Robin will always have a special place in my heart and this is arguably his best work (which can be very easily argued.) He did not pull any punches with Will and had everybody (man or woman) laughing or crying. I have seen this movie on several countdowns; best crying scenes, best guy cry movies, best Robin Williams performances and so much more.

If I may say this movie is so spot on in every way I do not want it to be remade at all. Matt Damon and Ben Affleck wrote the Oscar winning script and Robin Williams won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. While not everyone could probably quote every single monologue in this movie, they are some of the best written or spoken. This is a movie deserving of the awards it won and I believe will stand the test of time. How do you like them apples?

classic, film, James Bond

Movie Review: Goldfinger

One could argue the most well known, well liked and best Bond film of all time. When I was starting to watch the films my mom said to watch Goldfinger as it is not only her favorite but in her opinion the best. After watching it I could definitely see why. Once again spoilers ahead if you have not seen it.

After destroying a drug lab in Latin America Bond heads to Miami to meet up with an old friend in CIA agent Felix Leiter (portrayed in this film by Cec Linder.) Under the orders of M, Bond has to keep an eye on bullion dealer Auric Goldfinger (Gert Frobe with Michael Collins providing the voice as Frobe’s accent was thick). He seems to be clean but the CIA and MI6 know better as Goldfinger is a known gold smuggler allowing himself to profit by selling bullion as well. Seeing Goldfinger cheating at a card game Bond sneaks into Goldfinger’s room and makes him loose not only the game but the girl that was helping him Jill Masterson (Shirley Eaton.) However both pay for it later in the form of arguably the most famous henchman in Bond history the mute Oddjob (Harold Sakata), knocking out Bond and killing Jill by painting her skin gold dying of skin suffocation (a common medical belief back then.)

Bond soon discovers Goldfinger is not working alone as he learns of Operation Grand Slam with a Chinese agent known as Mr. Ling. The goal: to break into Fort Knox, killing the military men with a nerotoxin and not steal the gold but to render the gold useless thus making his gold worth more (yep not the most evil plan but with Goldfinger you don’t really care.) Goldfinger soon catches Bond, but is forced to keep him alive out of fear of MI6 knowing the plan. Bond also meets Goldfinger’s pilot, and for those that haven’t seen this film I swear this is her name, Pussy Galore. After getting a message to Leiter and seducing Galore, Bond is able to foil Goldfinger’s plans.

Now you will see my views on Ms. Galore at a later date but let’s go into the other factors in why this movie soars: Goldfinger and Oddjob in my opinion one of the best villains and henchman in the entire franchise. Goldfinger is a complete selfish man killing all of his partners in order to make himself more wealthy and once he realizes the military caught on switches uniforms to kill Mr. Ling. He then sneaks onto the plane to kill Bond, but once again his arrogance gets the better of him. Oddjob meanwhile is the perfect henchman willing to do anything for his master including making sure the plan goes off at the expense of his own life.

If I had to make a tiny little complaint about the film it is that Sean Connery’s Bond is a tad more sexist in the film than in the others, look at my future views of Pussy Galore to get an understanding. Other than that the film is downright great from the story, acting, and the better villains, girls and henchman of the franchise. Coming soon one of my favorites, although I don’t see many agreeing Thunderball.