Throwback Thursday: Up (2009)

Childhood dreams have a way of staying with us long after our youth has disappeared into the rearview mirror.

In the 2009 Disney/Pixar film Up, Carl Fredricksen (the late Ed Asner) is 87 years old and mourning his late wife. He is also still enamored with his childhood idol, Charles Muntz (the late Christopher Plummer).

When a young scout, Russell (Jordan Nagai) enters his life, they go on an unexpected journey to South America and the fictional Paradise Falls, a location that Carl dreamed of as a young boy.

If I were to create a list of Pixar films, Up would be close to the top. It’s a story of change and realizing that the ideas that populated our youth may be more fantasy than reality.

My only gripe (which is very common) is that the only female with any decent amount of screen time is Ellie, Carl’s wife. It is the one black mark on an otherwise brilliant cinematic creation.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

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Flashback Friday: Footloose (2011)

There are some IPs that are begging to be rebooted. There is something about this particular narrative that still appeals to a modern audience, even after a few decades.

In 2011, a remake of Footloose hit theaters. Replacing Kevin Bacon, Lori Singer, and John Lithgow are Kenny Wormald, Julianne Hough, and Dennis Quaid.

As in the original Ren MacCormack (Wormald) is a big-city kid who is forced to move to a small town where dancing and rock and roll are outlawed. He loves nothing more than cranking up the tunes and losing himself in the moment. After falling for Ariel (Hough), whose Reverend father (Quaid), has made it his business to keep Ren’s first love illegal for the under-18 set, Ren goes on a crusade to overturn the legislation.

Unlike other sequels/remakes that are based on nostalgia, this film works. It has the narrative bones of its predecessor. But it is deeper, more diverse, and a reminder of why the original is still beloved.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

P.S. The music is still awesome.

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Throwback Thursday: Monsters University (2013)

Our university years are formative in multiple ways. Outside of the academics and the eventual degree, the friends and the relationships we make can change the course of our lives.

Monsters University (2013) is the sequel to the Disney/Pixar movie Monsters, Inc. (2001). When Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal) met James P. “Sully” Sullivan (John Goodman) met in college, they don’t exactly get along. Mike is your typical overachiever. Sully is coasting on his family legacy. Despite their differences, they must find a way to get along.

I loved this movie. Crystal and Goodman have amazing chemistry. As I watched the film, I was reminded of my time in college and got a few chuckles along the way.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

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Flashback Friday: Monsters, Inc. (2001)

One of the classic stories of childhood is thinking that there is a monster under our bed or in our closet.

The 2001 Disney/Pixar film Monsters, Inc, follows the lives of two titular monsters, Mike (Billy Crystal) and Sullivan (John Goodman). Their job is to scare children and get them to scream. Those collective screams power their city.

The one hitch, however, is that the young ones are toxic. When a toddler nicknamed Boo (Mary Gibbs) somehow escapes into their world, Mike and Sully have to keep her safe and get her back to bed. While doing so, they discover a secret plan that could destroy everything that they hold dear.

This movie is really cute. It is funny, charming, and speaks to the former child in all of us. I very much appreciated the adult humor that younger audiences may not have understood.

My only problem (which is standard) is the lack of female representation. Other than Boo, the only characters with the proverbial womb and a decent amount of screen time are Celia (Jennifer Tilly) and Flint (Bonnie Hunt).

Other than that, do I recommend it? I am leaning toward yes.

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Throwback Thursday: Monster-in-Law (2005)

I would love to say that those who have coupled up get along with their spouse/significant other’s family. But that is not always the case.

In the 2005 romantic comedy, Monster-in-Law, Charlotte (Jennifer Lopez) has finally found the one. Kevin (Michael Vartan) is everything she has wanted in a man. Charlotte meets her future mother-in-law Viola (Jane Fonda) just before Kevin proposes. Instead of accepting her son’s future spouse, Viola will do everything to tear them apart.

What makes this film interesting is the unique love triangle. Neither Charlotte nor Viola are shrinking violets. They know what they want and are willing to fight for what they want.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. Movie Review

Puberty is one of the many aspects of the natural life cycle of a human being. Without it, we cannot grow from child to young adult and then to full adult. That does not mean, however, that the process is not challenging.

The new movie, Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret. is based on the classic and forever universal book of the same name by Judy Blume. In the early 1970’s Margaret Simon (a fantastic Abby Ryder Fortson) has just ended another season of summer camp. When she gets home, she gets news that no kid wants to hear: her family is moving from New York City to suburban New Jersey.

Though she makes friends easily, Margaret misses her grandmother Sylvia (Kathy Bates). As the school year progresses, puberty sets in, creating a set of questions that do not have black-and-white answers. What Margaret wants most of all is to start menstruating. Raised without religion by her Jewish father Herb (Benny Safdie) and Christian mother Barbara (Rachel McAdams), she starts talking to the almighty and exploring faith in its various incarnations.

Her mother is also going through a learning phase of her own. After giving up her job, Barbara fills her days with trying to put their new house together and joining the local PTA. But the artist in her is not content to put aside her painting for good.

This film is amazing. It was the perfect reminder of that time in life. The narrative is gentle, organic, and respectful of Margaret’s journey. Instead of being pigeonholed into a certain type of character, our protagonist is human and full of the contradictions that come with the pre-teen years.

I can’t end this review without remarking on the fact that this novel has been a target of the book-banning crowd for decades. What makes this book “ban-worthy” is that its lead character is given room to grow beyond what is still sadly expected for girls. It’s not just about boys and future romantic relationships. It’s about figuring out who you are as a person.

What I think also riles them up is that Margaret is not just the child of an interreligious marriage. It’s that religious faith of any kind is not part of how she is being raised. While praying to a specific creator for many is important, this decision by Blume is a reminder that not everyone believes the same way.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. is currently in theaters. In fact, I would not be surprised if it is included in any top ten lists at the end of the year.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3 Movie Review

The final act of a multi-film series is an end of an era for both the fans and the creators.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3 hit theaters this weekend. This final chapter of the Guardians of the Galaxy trilogy follows our heroes as they try to save the life of Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper). The only way to bring Rocket back to life is to travel to the realm that is led by the High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji). The problem is that in doing so, they are leading their foe straight to their injured friend.

While this is happening. Star-Lord/Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) is trying to convince Gamora (Zoe Saldana) to give him another chance. The problem is that this Gamora has no memory of their relationship and has no interest in reviving the romance.

Clocking in at 2 hours and 30 minutes, this film has to be one of the longer ones in recent memory. While some of the scenes could have been left to the extras reel, it is still a very good movie. It is just as funny as its predecessors, the music is amazing and the action is pitch-perfect.

And as usual, wait for the mid-credit and post-credit scenes. They are worth sitting for a few more minutes.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3 is presently in theaters.

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Peter Pan & Wendy Review

Peter Pan is one of those stories that are forever part of our collective childhoods. The story of the boy who never grew up forever lives in our hearts as a fantasy and perhaps for some, wishful thinking.

The newest adaptation of J.M. Barrie‘s classic tale was released on April 28th on DisneyPlus. Entitled Peter Pan & Wendy, the narrative is much more inclusive than previous adaptations.

Wendy Darling (Ever Anderson) is growing up. Come tomorrow morning, she will be leaving for boarding school. Wendy would prefer to stay at home. That all changes when Peter Pan and Tinkerbell (Alexander Molony and Yara Shahidi) fly through the bedroom window. Following their new friends to Neverland, Wendy and her brothers experience what was only available via bedtime stories.

Along the way, they meet Tiger Lily (Alyssa Wapanatâhk), the Lost Boys (who are not all boys), and of Captain Hook (Jude Law). Hook will do anything to kill Peter once and for all.

There are both good and bad in this film. I appreciated and enjoyed the effort that the creative team made to move to expand this world and its characters. I liked that there was a backstory between Peter and Hook that explained their long-standing rivalry. I also liked that Wendy and Tinkerbell did not fight over Peter (as they had in previous iterations) and the gender and color expansion of the Lost Boys.

What fell short was the explanation as to why Peter and Hook were constantly fighting with one another. It could have been a bit deeper and came off as a little too shallow for me.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Peter Pan & Wendy is available for streaming on DisneyPlus.

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Throwback Thursday: The Dark Knight (2008)

Batman is one of the most iconic figures in American cultural history. On both the small and big screens, he has kept generations of fans entertained.

The 2008 film, The Dark Knight, is the sequel to Batman Begins (2005). Bruce Wayne/Batman (Christian Bale) has a new foe that puts him to the test: the Joker (the late and very missed Heath Ledger). When he is not in the bat suit, Bruce is dealing with the new District Attorney Harvey Dent/Two-Face (Aaron Eckhart).

If this was not enough, his personal life is in pieces. His ex, lawyer, and assistant District Attorney Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal, taking over from Katie Holmes) has moved on. Her new love is Harvey Dent. Though it appears that their past relationship is in the rearview mirror, Bruce has not quite gotten over Rachel and she is not completely settled on Harvey.

If you remember this movie for one thing and one thing only, it is Ledger’s performance. Even to this day, his approach to the character sends shivers down my spine. The only other actor who gave me the same feeling with the same role was Joaquin Phoenix in Joker (2019).

My only problem with the story is one that is all too common. Gyllenhaal’s Rachel is one of two female characters who play a role in the narrative. Like Holmes before her, Rachel was primarily known as the love interest/damsel in distress. The fact that she is an accomplished and respected lawyer is secondary.

Do I recommend it? For the most part, yes.

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Flashback Friday: Inside Out: (2015)

One of the most validating experiences a child can have is when adults recognize and validate their emotions. It has the power to affect the rest of their lives and hopefully prevent future mental illness.

The 2015 Disney/Pixar animated film Inside Out follows a young girl named Riley (Kaitlyn Dias). Her life is turned upside down when her parents move the family from the Midwest to San Franciso. Her emotions are guided by Joy (Amy Poehler), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black), Phyllis Smith (Sadness), and Disgust (Mindy Kaling).

I was blown away by the film. I recognized myself in Riley, having also moved as a young woman, and understanding what it means to start over in a new school and a new community. I have vivid memories of feeling very awkward, unsure, and a little scared.

Instead of getting on the proverbial soapbox on the importance of mental health, the narrative guides viewers of all ages into the conversation of emotions and how important it is to talk about how we are feeling.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

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