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.

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classic, film, must see

Movie Review: Ever After

There have been many stories, movies, TV shows and episodes that involve Cinderella. One could argue what is the best version of the classic fairy tale, but it would be hard not to include this version, maybe not at the very top but pretty high up there. Spoilers ahead.

This film is actually a story within a story as the Brothers Grimm were invited to meet with a Grande Dame in the 19th century. She has read their stories and had a problem with the story of Cinderella, telling them the story of Danielle de Barbarac (Drew Barrymore).

Stop me if this sounds familiar: Danielle was a young girl when she lost her father suddenly, forced to become a servant in her home because of her stepmother Rodmilla (Anjelica Huston) and her stepsister Marguerite (Megan Dodds.) Her other stepsister Jacqueline (Melanie Lynskey) is kind to her, but is picked on by her family who, thanks to Rodmilla, is heavy in debt. One day when picking apples Danielle sees someone stealing her father’s horse and throws at him, only to realize he is Prince Henry (Dougray Scott) a man trying to avoid the responsibility of marrying a woman he does not care for. He buys Danielle’s silence, but is soon caught after stopping gypsies from robbing (yes you are reading that name correctly) Leonardo da Vinci (Patrick Godfrey). Henry is able to convince his father to hold off on the engagement until he finds a bride at the night of a ball honoring da Vinci. Meanwhile Danielle dresses as a noblewoman to save a fellow servant form being sold off using Henry’s money. Henry is able to help out, but does not recognize her. Danielle and Henry spend time together and it is not long before they fall in love. Once discovered, thanks to her stepmother lies, Henry rejects Danielle. Danielle is then sold off to another man Pierre le Pieu (Richard O’Brien) by Rodmilla to get out of debt and free of Danielle, but she rescues herself from the creep. Henry realizes his huge mistake and goes to Danielle. Rodmilla and Marguerite pay for their cruelty while happily ever afters happen for Danielle and Henry.

If you haven’t seen this movie this is probably what you are thinking: “Sounds almost like every version of Cinderella right, well what makes this different?” For starters it was not love at first sight with Danielle and Henry, but when Danielle dresses up and tries to save her friend, that is when Henry notices her. He does fall for Danielle for who she is, but after discovering her somewhat deceit it takes a while for his to get past his bruised ego. Danielle also has another unwanted suitor in Le Pieu, but unlike other versions of the story, Danielle rescues herself. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with classic versions of Cinderella of her waiting for the prince. I loved how Danielle did not need the prince to save her.I also lve when Cinderella and the Prince actually have a relationship prior to the ball. Another stand-out, and this is more frequent now, is one of the step sisters is actually nice to Danielle. Jacqueline gets her just due in the end.

This is one of my favorite fairy-tale movies of all time, yes that includes Disney, and the cast is perfect. My grandfather said I looked like Drew Barrymore in ET when I was a kid, so she has always been someone I look for in films. Would I say this is her best work? Up for heavy debate but it has to be high up there. Dougray Scott is somewhat charming in this movie, would have been fully if not for the ball, as Henry. The stepsisters are great but of course a big standout is Anjelica Huston as the evil stepmother. A fine actress is there ever was one, Huston is an absolute joy to watch.

If you like fairy-tale movies or somewhat modern romances than this is perfect for you. Another highly recommend movie from me.

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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.

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Disney, film, must see

Movie Review: Disney’s Atlantis: The Lost Empire

Now this may be a Disney film you’ve heard of but may have not watched. To say that Atlantis is not a typical Disney film would be a small understatement. It doesn’t have musical numbers, the characters are not the usual heroes and princesses, the villain is well hidden and the body count is high. That being said, this is one of my favorite Disney movies. Once again spoilers ahead.

In 1914 Milo Thatch (Michael J. Fox) a cartographer, linguist and like his grandfather lover of the Atlantis legend, is denied the chance by the Smithsonian to look for the Sheppard’s Journal, long believed to be the map to the lost city. However fate seems to have a plan for Milo. A mysterious woman named Helga (Claudia Christian) shows up at his apartment on behalf of her employer Preston B. Whitmore (John Mahoney), an eccentric millionaire and an old friend of Milo’s grandfather. Paying back the debt he owed Milo’s grandfather after finding the journal, Whitmore wants Milo to find Atlantis with the same team that found the journal: Commander Rourke (James Garner), Helga as his second in command, “Mole” (Corey Burton) a genealogist with a slight obsession with digging and dirt, Vinny (Don Novello) explosion expert, Dr. Joshua Sweet (Phil Moris) medic, Audrey (Jacqueline Obradors) teen mechanic, Wilhelmina Packard (Florence Stanley) radio operator and one of the last Disney characters to smoke on screen and Cookie (Jim Varney in his final role) the chef. After a long and tragic journey, the team does find Atlantis and the still alive citizens including King Kashekim (Leonard Nimoy) and his daughter, Princess Kida (Cree Summer) who forms a connection with Milo. Kida reveals the city is dying and doesn’t know why, asking for help from Milo. However while Milo is willing to help, something wicked may be underway preventing the city from becoming what it once was.

As I’ve said before this is not a typical Disney picture. In fact the staff on the movie had T-shirts made that said “Fewer songs, more explosions.” And boy were there explosions. I have never seen a Disney movie with that much fire power and sadly bodies dropping. In fact this movie has the highest body count of a Disney movie. The characters are also not typical heroes and princesses. Milo is a total geek and takes a while before he goes into hero mode. Kida was unlike many princesses at the time as she was more than willing to go into battle and do whatever it took to save her people. The team does take some getting used to with their different personalities, but they are awesome in one way or another. I won’t go into the villain of the story because it is a massive spoiler, but it probably is who you think it is.

Now I’m sure I know what you are thinking: “if this movie is so good why haven’t I heard of it or seen it?” Well the film, which premiered in 2001, did not do very well at the box office and was sub-par with the critics. Again though it wasn’t what people had expected from Disney so maybe that was a factor. It is also the reason why Kida is not on the official Disney princess list, though she completely deserves it. There was a sequel, Atlantis: Milo’s Return, released a few years later, but all I’m going to say is unless you absolutely loved the movie do not watch it. Short explanation because of the poor box office the planned TV series was scrapped and the episodes planned were made into a movie. Any movie made up of TV episodes that have nothing to do with each other is not great. However the original is still worth watching.

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classic, film, musical, must see

Movie Review: Quest for Camelot

I bet I know what you are thinking: “What is this Disney Movie and why haven’t I heard of it?” Hate to burst your bubble, but this is not a Disney movie it’s Warner Bros. (though given it was 1998 during Disney renaissance I can understand the confusion.) Unfortunately the film did not do as well as Warner Bros. would have liked, both box office and critically, and the studio ended up loosing $40 million. However the film did develop a bit of a following after the success of the soundtrack and while probably not a must watch for a kid it is still enjoyable. Spoilers ahead.

Kayley (Jessalyn Gilsig as an adult, Sarah Rayne as a child and Andrea Corr singing) wants to be a knight like her father Sir Lionel (Gabriel Byrne), a knight for the Round Table, yes King Arthur’s round table. During a meeting Ruber (Gary Oldman), a knight desiring to be king, tries to kill Arthur (Pierce Brosnan and Steve Perry singing) but Sir Lionel saves Arthur at the cost of his life. Years later Ruber returns to take over by stealing Arthur’s sword Excalibur. Ruber’s griffin (Bronson Pinchot) does steal the sword, but thanks to Merlin (John Gielgud)’s falcon Ayden (Frank Welker) the sword falls into the forbidden forest. Ruber seizes his army, including the comical rooster Bladebeak (Jaleel White) and Kayley’s mother Juliana (Jane Seymour with Celine Dion (yes that Celine Dion) singing) to gain entry into Camelot. Kayley escapes and decides to go after the sword, gaining allies in Garrett (Carey Elwes with Bryan White singing) a blind hermit and a two headed dragon Devon and Cornwall (Eric Idle and Don Rickles) in her quest.

This was one of my favorite movies when I was a kid and I still watch it every now and then. I am a huge fan of the Arthur myth and while I haven’t seen every version this is probably my favorite of the ones I’ve watched; which includes The Sword in the Stone. I get why the story itself gets a lot of grief, but as a kid I didn’t mind.

However the most successful part of the movie is the soundtrack, with spectacular songs. Here are some of my favorites: “On my Father’s Wings” by Kayley as she grieves for her father and how much she wants to keep him alive through her, “I Stand Alone” is Garret’s song about how he doesn’t play well with others, there is a reprise when he doesn’t feel good enough for Kayley and “Looking through Your Eyes” a romantic duet between Kayley and Garret as they fall in love. The most famous song from the soundtrack is Julianna’s number, you may have heard of it, “The Prayer.” That’s right people, the song famously covered by Celine Dion, Andrea Bochelli, Josh Groban and just about everyone doing an opera number on the talent shows came from this little known movie. First time I heard this song outside the movie I thought, “this cannot be the same song I heard” but no it was and I could not have been more gleeful. Whenever someone tells me they haven’t heard of the movie but the song I always say check it out, and I’m telling you the same thing. Regardless if you are a kid or an adult this movie is great and I highly recommend it.

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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.

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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.”

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