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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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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Bookish and the Beast Book Review

When it comes to romance, the partner whom we end up with may be the person we least expect.

Bookish and the Beast, by Ashley Poston is the 3rd book in the Once Upon a Con trilogy. It was published in 2020.

Rosie Thorne is stuck in her small town and hates it with a passion. With her mother recently deceased, she and her now-widowed father are drowning in medical bills. The only way to reduce the debt was to sell her mother’s beloved collection of rare Starfield books. In addition to dealing with the stress that applying for college, Rosie cannot get the mysterious Starfield cosplayer that she met at the previous Excelsicon out of her head.

Vance Reigns is your classic Hollywood bad boy and nepo baby. Though fame and money have provided avenues that are not open to other young men, there is a downside to this lifestyle. After one too many run-ins with the paparazzi, he is shipped off to a small town to let the fervor cool down. The only upshot is that the house he is staying in has a library. But just because it’s there does not mean he will use it.

In their first meeting, Rosie and Vance get along like oil and water. But as they are forced into each other’s company, they begin to see that there is more beneath the surface.

I loved this book. Out of all the books in this series, this is my favorite. I loved the cultural references that Poston sprinkles throughout the stories and the easter eggs related to the Disney adaptation.

Rosie and Vance’s relationship has a nice pace to it. Both are initially so caught up in their own worlds and drama that they are unable to see the value in the other. By the time they get together, it feels right.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Bookish and the Beast is available wherever books are sold.

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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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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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Throwback Thursday: Coco (2017)

Art and music have a way of enriching our lives and bringing people together. It can also bring up painful memories that would rather be forgotten.

In the 2017 Disney/Pixar film, Coco, Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez) is a young boy with the gift of song. He would like nothing more than to follow in the footsteps of his hero, the legendary performer Ernesto De La Cruz (Benjamin Bratt). But music is verboten in his family.

After entering the Land of the Dead via magic, Miguel starts on the path to meet his idol. Along the way, he is joined by Hector (Gael Garcia Bernal). Though he is initially annoyed by the unwanted company, Miguel will soon learn that Hector is more than he appears to be.

I loved this movie. It has so much heart that I was completely swept away by the tale. Miguel is so compelling as the lead character that I understood who he was almost immediately. I also shed a few tears along the way. I rarely cry during movies, but this one made me cry (in a good way).

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

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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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