Throwback Thursday: Legends of the Fall (1994)

There is a unique and complicated relationship between siblings. You may love one another, but that does not mean that you always get along or agree.

The 1994 movie, Legends of the Fall is the story of the three Ludlow brothers: Tristan (Brad Pitt), Alfred (Aidan Quinn), and Samuel (Henry Thomas). Led by their father, Colonel William Ludlow (Anthony Hopkins), they live in the wilds of Montana in the early 20th century.

After Samuel is killed in World War I, the dynamic between Tristan and Alfred changes. They both fall in love with Susannah (Julia Ormond), Henry’s fiance. As they compete for her heart and their future, their formerly tight bond starts to fray.

Nearly 30 years on, it has become a modern classic. It is beautifully shot and tells the story of an ordinary family living through extraordinary times. While I appreciate the humanity of the Native American characters (who in the past have only been shown as 2D stereotypes), I dislike the portrayal of Susannah.

As usual, her sole role is that of the love interest and the reason for the division of the male characters. She does not have any agency or any other reason for existing within this narrative. Which is a shame, because Ormond has proven herself as a capable actress.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

Flashback Friday: Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde (2003)

The natural evolution of a narrative may seem simple to write. But the truth is that it is not. The next step in the story has to hold onto the characters and narrative while ensuring that it is not forced or outlandish. It becomes more complicated when the original work is respected and appreciated by both fans and critics.

Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde (2003) is the sequel to Legally Blonde (2001). Elle Woods (Reese Witherspoon) has a new passion: animal rights. It is so important to her, that she prioritizes the issue over her wedding to Emmett Richmond (Luke Wilson). Arriving in Washington D.C., she turns to Congresswoman Rudd (Sally Field) to help her bring attention to the issue. She also gets help from Sid Post (Bob Newhart), her building’s doorman who provides guidance in how to navigate the figurative power corridors of the city. As in the previous film, Elle is an outsider who is initially judged a pretty blonde with nothing between the ears.

As sequels go, it’s pretty good. The screenplay does not feel like it was being stretched to fit within the world that was created in its predecessor. The film is funny, charming, and Witherspoon again makes us root for an unlikely heroine. The message of not judging a book by its cover is potent, but does not hit the audience over the head. It is a lesson that is forever universal and important.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Reese Witherspoon What Like Its Hard GIF by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment - Find & Share on GIPHY

Throwback Thursday: Ricky Nelson: Original Teen Idol (1999)

Though it may seem that the concept of the teen idol is an old one, it is actually rather new in terms of cultural history.

The 1999 TV movie, Ricky Nelson: Original Teen Idol, tells the story of the late actor/singer Ricky Nelson (Gregory Calpakis). The younger son of Ozzie and Harriet Nelson (Jamey Sheridan and Sara Botsford), Ricky was a performer from a young age. Starring with his family first on radio and then on television on The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, he was sold to the then young audience as a heartthrob. Then as he aged (as many young performers experience), his name fades from the headlines and he has to deal with no longer being in the spotlight.

Though the narrative is by the book, the story is familiar to anyone who has seen the trajectory of many young actors and singers. After being in the limelight and dealing with everything that comes with that while growing up, they become an afterthought or a piece of nostalgia when the newer model comes along.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

Pinocchio Movie Review

Within every fairy tale is a morality tale. The purpose is to teach our children (and our adults) how to behave.

The new film, Pinocchio is a live-action reboot of the 1940 film of the same name. Based on the story by Carlo Collodi, Geppetto (Tom Hanks) has one wish: for a child of his own. He gets his wish when the Blue Fairy (Cynthia Erivo) brings Geppetto’s newest creation, a puppet to life. Named Pinocchio (voiced by Benjamin Evan Ainsworth), he wants nothing more than to be a real boy and make his father proud.

But like any child, temptation pulls him in other directions. Jiminy Cricket (voiced by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) tries to guide his charge to do the right thing, but he can only do so much. Will this puppet become a real child or is his fate to be just pieces of wood that only slightly resembles a human?

There is a nice balance of updating the narrative for our time while remaining true to the original cartoon. As usual, Hanks is the MVP, playing a complete 180 from his last film.

I noticed a couple of things that I obviously would not have seen as a child. The first is praying to a higher power or the universe (whichever one believes in), may actually bring in the desired results. The second is that you have to work for what you want. Pinocchio was not automatically turned into a human being, he had to earn it.

I haven’t seen the 1940 film in decades, but the message came through loud and clear. Though the story could be seen as slightly moralistic, the idea of listening to your gut applies to anyone of any age.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Disney Classic GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Pinocchio is available for streaming on DisneyPlus.

P.S.: Keep an eye out for easter eggs.

Throwback Thursday: La La Land (2016)

Movie musicals appear, from afar, to be a thing of the past. While they were popular during the younger years of the baby boom era, audiences seem to have other tastes these days.

The 2016 movie, La La Land, is a modern movie musical set in Los Angeles. Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) and Mia (Emma Stone) both have dreams that are not set in their reality. He is a pianist and she is an actress. As they have their meet cute, fall in love, and try to stay together, their careers start to come to fruition. At a certain point, they have to make a decision about their future and whether it is worth fighting for.

I’m not a huge fan of the genre. But I appreciate this film because the filmmakers did a good job of remaining in the present while honoring the classics. This is the third film that these two actors have made together (the other two are Crazy, Stupid, Love (2011) and Gangster Squad (2013).

I thoroughly enjoyed it. Gosling and Stone have become one of those iconic movie couples whose on-screen chemistry works, regardless of genre or narratve. It is a sweet, romantic story that hits all of the right notes and has an ending that feels just right.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Love in the Villa Movie Review

Romeo and Juliet is one of the most famous love stories in human history. William Shakespeare‘s tale of forbidden love set against a background of two warring families has touched generations of readers and romantics.

In the new Netflix romantic comedy, Love in the Villa, Julie Hutton (Kat Graham) is ready for the week-long vacation with her boyfriend to Verona, Italy. Instead, he decides that it is time for them to go their separate ways.

When Julie arrives in Italy, she discovers that the property she rented has been double booked. Charlie Fletcher (Tom Hopper) arrived at the home first and is refusing to find another place to stay. After they play a game of “top that” to force the other one out, they discover that they have a few things in common. Which of course, grows into a mutual attraction. But of course, there are barriers standing in their way.

Is it cute and charming? Yes. But it is also a little too predictable. That predictability comes from Julie’s GBF (gay best friend) and the return of both of their exes. I wish that the screenwriters would have transformed the narrative from hate to love a little sooner. It was also a bit too long. The last scene could have been cut down by a few minutes. I was almost wanting them to get together just so the movie would end.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

Love in the Villa is available for streaming on Netflix.

Light & Magic Documentary Review

When we think of films or TV shows, we often think of the boldface names at the top of the credits: the director, the actors, the producers, the screenwriter(s), etc. For every name that is in large letters, there are many others whose work is important, but unknown by the audience.

Light & Magic is a new six-part documentary about the creation of Industrial Light & Magic, otherwise known as ILM. Started by George Lucas, the company started out as a way to create special effects for Star Wars Episode 4: A New Hope. In the beginning, they were a bunch of young rebels living off of dreams, hard work, and a limited budget.

Over the decades, ILM would not just become the pioneer for special effects. The company would also be behind the success of some of the biggest movies of our era, creating visual imagery that has caused multiple generations of fans to ask “how did they do that?”.

I enjoyed this documentary. It proves that determination, creativity, diligence, and coloring outside the box can change the world.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Light & Magic is available for streaming on Disneyplus.

Flashback Friday: Toy Story 3 (2010)

When we are very young, we play with a certain group of toys. When we grow up, our toys change dramatically.

Toy Story 3 is the third film within the Toy Story franchise. Andy (voiced by John Norris) is just about to leave for college. The toys he once considered to be beloved friends are supposed to be taken to the attic. But instead, they are donated to a daycare center.

The treatment they receive from the children at the daycare is a complete 180 from how Andy loved and treasured them. Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks), Buzz Lightyear (voiced by Tim Allen), and co are now being handled by sticky-fingered toddlers who lack the respect of Woody and Buzz’s former owner.

If they are to get home, they must convince the disillusioned Lotso (voiced by Ned Beatty) that they were all once loved. Helping the boys in their quest is Barbie (Jodie Benson), who is working with her counterpart Ken (Michael Keaton) to free them all.

This movie is adorable, funny, and fits well into the overall story within the franchise. It also speaks of the fact that we all grow up eventually. What we once loved will eventually be consigned to the past and will be replaced by something entirely different.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Sad Toy Story GIF by Disney Pixar - Find & Share on GIPHY

Throwback Thursday: Van Helsing (2004)

In our fiction-crazy world, there are narratives that may seem like they are miles apart. The truth is that with a little tweaking, they can coexist beautifully together.

The 2004 horror/action-adventure film, Van Helsing, uses Dracula and Frankenstein as a narrative base while adding new flavors and colors that do not exist in the original texts. The title character, Van Helsing (Hugh Jackman) is not the old man who some of us may remember from Dracula.

He is a monster hunter whose newest job is to stop Count Dracula (Richard Roxburgh) from using Dr. Frankenstein‘s (Samuel West) research and a werewolf for dangerous purposes. Joining him is Anna Valerious (Kate Beckinsale), who has her own reasons to prevent the Count from seeing his plan to completion.

This is one of those summer popcorn movies that does not require a lot of brain cells. But that’s ok. It is fun, entertaining, and takes characters that we think we know in new directions.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Untold: The Girlfriend Who Didn’t Exist Review

One of the beauties of the internet is that it opens the door to opportunities that do not exist in our immediate communities. This includes the possibility of new romantic partners that we would have otherwise not met. The problem is that is impossible to sometimes tell what is fact and what is fiction.

Untold: The Girlfriend Who Didn’t Exist is the first season of a new Netflix series of sports documentaries that delve into high-profile scandals. This two-part documentary is the story of Manti Te’o and the girl he thought he was dating. About ten years ago, Te’o was a star player at Notre Dame and thought he had it all.

He almost had it all. The piece that was missing was the lie about his girlfriend. He didn’t know it at the time, but Te’o was being catfished. When the news hit the press, it nearly broke him emotionally and threatened his career with the NFL.

Wow. I was blown away. I felt so bad for Te’o. He is clearly a good guy who wanted to be loved and deserves love. I also felt bad for the person on the other end of the profile. They were lonely and needed someone to talk to. Unfortunately, that need morphed into Frankenstein’s monster and created a much larger problem.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Untold: The Girlfriend Who Didn’t Exist is available for streaming on Netflix.

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