Best Movies of 2022

  1. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever: After the death of Chadwick Boseman (T’Challa/Black Panther), the questions on how the IP would continue without its leading man seemed endless. Black Panther‘s sequel is both the perfect memorial to Boseman and a continuation of the narrative.
  2. Avatar: The Way of Water: The 13-year wait for the follow-up to Avatar was worth it. The themes of climate change are just as relevant now as they were in 2009.
  3. She Said: Based on the book of the same name, it tells the heart-pounding story to uncover the sexual assault allegations against Harvey Weinstein. NY Times reporters Megan Twohey (Carey Mulligan) and Jodi Kantor (Zoe Kazan) take on Weinstein and the Hollywood machine in a way that is jaw-dropping.
  4. Elvis: Austin Butler transforms himself into Elvis Presley, adding new layers to the music icon.
  5. Call Jane: Elizabeth Banks plays a housewife whose pregnancy is not going well in the days before Roe v. Wade. Denied an abortion by the local hospital, she finds an underground group and soon joins them in their mission to help women.
  6. Hocus Pocus 2: After 29 years, the Sanderson sisters are back. It has enough of its predecessor while holding its own in the best way possible.
  7. Mr. Malcolm’s List: Based on the book of the same name by Suzanne Allain, Mr. Malcolm is the most coveted bachelor in this Jane Austen-inspired narrative. In order to fend off marriageable young ladies and their match-making mamas, he creates a list of qualities that his wife should have. Little does he know that it will soon be moot.
  8. Downton Abbey: A New Era: This second film in the franchise opens the door to new stories while closing old ones in perfect fashion.
  9. Cyrano: This musical adaptation of Cyrano de Bergerac starring Peter Dinklage adds new flavors to the well-known tale.
  10. The Tragedy of Macbeth: Shot in stark black and white, Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand star as the power-hungry and bloodthirsty Macbeth and Lady Macbeth.
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Disenchanted Movie Review

Most fairy tales end with the words “happily ever after”. While this is certainly a satisfying conclusion, there is always room for more.

The new DisneyPlus movie, Disenchanted, was released last weekend. The sequel to Enchanted, it has been fifteen years since the first film ended. Robert (Patrick Dempsey) and Giselle (Amy Adams) are happily married and have a baby girl of their own. Robert’s daughter Morgan (played by Gabriella Baldacchino) from his previous marriage is now a teenager and dealing with what we all went through at that age.

The story starts when the family leaves New York City for the suburbs of upstate NY. The nice way of describing their new home is that it is a fixer-upper. While Giselle tries to make friends with Malvina (Maya Rudolph), the town’s unofficial social queen, they are visited by Edward (Jason Marsden) and Nancy (Idina Menzel).

The gift they bestow leads Giselle to make a wish for her previous fairy tale life. As usually happens when this kind of yearning, it all goes to h*ll in a handbasket. It is up to Giselle and Morgan to save the day and return their world to what it was before.

I loved the movie. It was entertaining, funny, and the perfect follow-up to its predecessor. The easter eggs are fast and furious in the best way possible. As with Enchanted, Disney is lovingly mocking itself while recreating a narrative that fans know and love. My favorite character is Malvina. Rudolph is clearly having fun with the role, hamming it up to the nth degree.

All in all, it was a blast to watch and well worth the fifteen-year wait.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely. I would also not be surprised if it was on any top ten lists at the end of next month.

Disenchanted is available for streaming on DisneyPlus.

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Throwback Thursday: Pinocchio (1940)

Disney has been part of our collective culture for almost a century. The characters and narratives have become part of who we are as individuals and as a society.

The original animated film Pinocchio (1940) is one of the company’s earliest classics. Based on the fairy tale of the same name by Carlo Collodi, it is the story of a man who wants to be a father and a puppet named Pinocchio who wants to be a real boy. Guided by a Jiminy Cricket, Pinocchio must learn right from wrong and how to trust his instincts.

Though the message is a bit simplistic, it certainly sticks. What makes the movie for me is the story of family and growing up, two subjects that we can all relate to. Do I recommend it? Yes.

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RIP Angela Lansbury

There are some performers whose career is so indelible that we believe that they are immortal. The truth is that no one lives forever and we all go at some point.

The legendary actress Angela Lansbury passed away on Tuesday. This star of stage and screen (big and small) has been in our collective cultural lives for as long as many of us can remember.

Most notably, she played Jessica Fletcher in the iconic 1980s television show Murder, She Wrote and was the voice of Mrs. Potts in the 1991 animated film, Beauty and the Beast. I remember watching both as a child and feeling as if she was just a natural who spoke to the audience, regardless of the role she played.

She was 96. May her memory be a blessing. Z”L

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Throwback Thursday: Toy Story 2 (1999)

In a film series, the second is the most important. It is a litmus test of two important questions: 1. Is there an audience appetite for the sequel? and 2. Is there enough of a narrative to warrant a second movie?

Toy Story 2 (1999) is the second tale within the Toy Story franchise. After Woody (Tom Hanks) is stolen by a toy collector, it is up to his friends to save him. While Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) works on the outside to free Woody, Woody makes friends on the inside. Jessie (Joan Cusack) is a cowgirl and a part of the wild west line of playthings.

I enjoyed Toy Story 2. It has everything that made its predecessor great and then some. It is funny, entertaining, and suspenseful, and the addition of the new characters provides enough stretch to make the story plausible.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Hocus Pocus 2 Movie Review

Movie sequels have a tenuous reputation. They can either further a beloved narrative (i.e. The Empire Strikes Back), or they can be a supposedly easy cash grab that nearly destroys the reputation of its predecessor (i.e. Independence Day: Resurgence).

Last weekend, fans of Hocus Pocus were finally rewarded for our patience. The long-awaited sequel, Hocus Pocus 2, was released on DisneyPlus. Nearly thirty years after the Sanderson sisters, Winifred (Bette Midler), Mary (Kathy Najimy), and Sarah (Sarah Jessica Parker) were vanquished, they are brought back again by a couple of teenagers.

This time it is Becca (Whitney Peak) and Izzy (Belissa Escobedo) who light the black flame candle. The only way to stop the witches is with the help of their friend, Cassie (Lilia Buckingham), who has been spending all of her free time with her boyfriend. Working with the sister’s fanboy Gilbert (Sam Richardson), they know that Winifred, Mary, and Sarah must be stopped for good this time.

I could not help but smile during the film. The wait was worth it. It is as if the last 29 years have not existed. Midler, Najimy, and Parker slipped back into their roles as one would put on a beloved piece of clothing. The narrative is an organic continuation of the 1993 movie, taking the story in new directions in regard to the main characters.

The new characters also work well and are a nice extension of the original teenage protagonists. Becca, Izzy, and Cassie are an interesting mirror image of Winifred, Mary, and Sarah. For his part, Gilbert represents the myth of the witches that have grown within this world and within the fanbase.

It is a fun, exciting ride that takes the audience on a ride and ends in a manner that is lovely and unexpected.

The only thing that would have made it better would have been cameos from the original kid actors.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Hocus Pocus 2 is available for streaming on DisneyPlus.

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Thoughts On the Disenchanted and The Little Mermaid Trailers

It’s easy to be cynical in an adult and complicated world. Then you put on a Disney movie and you become the child believing that anything is possible.

Last week, the trailers for Disenchanted (the sequel to Enchanted) and the live-action reboot of The Little Mermaid were released.

The premise of Disenchanted is as follows: It’s been ten years since Giselle (Amy Adams) and Robert (Patrick Dempsey) had their happily ever after. But when Giselle starts to question that happiness, things go horribly wrong.

When it was announced some time ago that Halle Bailey was taking over the role of Ariel, I was not sure about that casting. To be perfectly honest, it was simply about the hair color, nothing more. If it came off as racist, I apologize. That was not my intention. Ariel is such an integral part of my childhood that she is a part of my essence. I just feel very protective of her.

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Though it is only a teaser trailer, I have seen enough to be excited. Bailey has a beautiful voice and I look forward to seeing the film when it comes out next year.

Disenchanted will be released on DisneyPlus on November 24th. The Little Mermaid will be in theaters next May.

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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.

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Throwback Thursday: Wreck-It Ralph (2012)

Perception is not always everything. How we see ourselves is not how others see us. This can apply, in writing terms, to how we see antagonists. We, as the audience, know that they are up to no good. But this character believes that they are doing the right thing.

The 2012 Disney movie, Wreck-It Ralph, is the story of an old-school video game villain who wants to be seen as a hero. Wreck-It Ralph (John C. Reilly) wishes that he was seen in a good light by the residents of the game he inhabits. The problem is there can only be one protagonist, Felix (Jack McBrayer).

He sees his opportunity to change his reputation via Seargent Calhoun (Jane Lynch) in a first-person shooter game. In doing so, he lets loose a virus that may shut down the entire arcade. The only way he can save himself and his world is through an unexpected ally: Vanellope von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman).

Can Ralph change his self-image and his entire world before it is too late?

I love this movie. It is funny, it is supremely entertaining, and it has heart. It also has a message about self-esteem and trying to prove that you are more than what others think you are.

I also love that the female characters are equal in terms of narrative and image to the male characters. They are not confined to “traditional” female roles.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

By the Book (Meant to Be Series) Book Review

The haters to lovers trope is one that had been used many times, by many authors, in many different ways. The figurative beauty of this well-known narrative arc is its ability to be dynamic and uniquely moldable to a new perspective.

By the Book is the second book in the Meant to Be Series. Written by Jasmine Guillory and published in May, it is essentially a modern-day rom-com version of Beauty and The Beast. For the last three years, Isabelle has been working at her NYC-based publishing company, hoping to be noticed by her manager. In her mid-twenties, she is one of the few African American employees and starting to become disillusioned.

While on a work trip to California, she finally seizes upon an opportunity to get the appreciation she deserves. Beau is a well-known author who has been radio silent on the status of his manuscript. She decides to try to talk to him in person. When Isabelle finally meets Beau, she discovers that his reputation of being impersonal and hard-headed is not too far off from reality.

Getting Beau to open up is a bigger task than Isabelle initially expected it to be. But as they spend time together, both Beau and Isabelle learn that each of them is lost in their own way and may find what they are looking for in one another.

This book had me at hello. It was delicious, romantic, funny, and held me by the lapels from beginning to end. Guillory holds tight to the Disney narrative while remaking it in her own image. I loved Isabelle’s spunkiness, Intelligence, and drive. Beau, as the leading man, has his own troubles, making him relatable and enough of an asshole to challenge both the reader and his future other half.

Do I recommend it? Of course.

By the Book (Meant to Be Series) is available wherever books are sold.

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