Family Fridays: Strange Magic

I saw Strange Magic for the first time in theaters, along with my then 15, 9, and 7 year old siblings, and our mother. They had come to visit me at college and we all decided to go see a movie. We originally weren’t even going to see Strange Magic – but my youngest sister and I had already seen Annie, Night at the Museum had sold out, and I refused to pay the full price ticket to see Paddington. So we all collectively sighed and went in to see the only other kids movie showing that none of us knew anything about.

And man, was it worth it.

Now in general, I’m a sucker for musicals. I’ve seen both professional and amateur productions of all sorts of musicals and I’m usually first in line to see them when they turn into movies. The beautiful singing – with a leading lady voiced by the criminally underrated Evan Rachel Wood – combined with colorful, beautiful, and unique animating style meant that right off the bat, Strange Magic had my attention. It also immediately snared the attention of my mother because it is a jukebox musical, meaning it uses songs that have already been released. The musical includes music from Dionne Warwick, Mickey and Silvia, Whitney Houston, and a lot more.

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The two main characters of the story: sisters Dawn and Marianne, voiced by Meredith Anne Bull and Evan Rachel Wood, respectively.

What finally turned it from good to great was the plot itself. The story centers around two fairy princesses. The oldest, Marianne, turns bitter and hardened after her fiance cheats on her, while her younger sister Dawn remains convinced that true love is out there. Dawn’s best friend, an elf named Sunny, gets talked into making a love potion for Marianne’s ex – but of course, the potion goes wrong, and Dawn gets hit and falls in love with the king of the evil fairies, Bog.

It’s silly and ridiculous but hear me out – there is absolutely nothing funnier than a creepy fairy king named Bog who crashes a party, yells at everyone there about how love doesn’t exist, continues yelling about how ridiculous it is that everyone keeps bursting into song for no good reason, but then steals everyone’s instruments and starts singing an Elvis Presley song anyways.

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The Bog King, voiced by Alan Cummings, and the Sugar Plum Fairy, voiced by Kristen Chenoweth.

And honestly that’s only the beginning of how absolutely ridiculous this movie can get. I’m fairy certain I enjoyed it more than my two younger sisters did; which isn’t to say that they didn’t enjoy it, because once it came on DVD they begged my mom to buy it and then watched nothing but Strange Magic for almost a week straight.

It’s true, it got pretty bad reviews by just about every critic out there but interestingly enough, a lot of moviegoers found it fun. Because, honestly, that’s what it is – fun. Not every movie is going to be a master piece like Moana – although for the record, the animation in Strange Magic was cutting edge for that year. Sometimes you just want to have some fun for an hour or two, and Strange Magic is a good way to do that.

-Kassie Marie

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International Day of People with Disabilities

The International Day of People With Disabilities, or Disability Day, has been celebrated every year since 1992. Each year a theme is announced for that year. Each theme touches on ways the international community can continue to push for accessibility for disabled people. The theme for this year is, “transformation towards sustainable and resilient society for all.” To put it simply, the theme means that no one should be left behind when it comes to the betterment of society. This includes helping to pull down barriers that exclude disabled people while also encouraging disabled people to be active contributors of society.

To honor that theme, the included items on this list are movies that center not just on a disabled character but on those characters rising to the occasion and on the people around them helping to pull down the barriers that exist in society against disabled people. There is also a focus on actors and musicians who work to be active in the community as well.

Children of a Lesser God

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Marlee Matin (right), playing Sarah Norman, signing something to her on screen love interest James, played by Wililam Hurt.

Children of a Lesser God is a special case for many reasons. Much of the criticism when it comes to the way disability is portrayed in the media is two-fold: that the portrayal is incorrect and that disabled characters are being played by able bodied (or non-disabled) people. In this Oscar-winning movie based on a play of the same name, main character Sarah Norman is deaf and is in fact played by a deaf woman, Marlee Matin. It gives the film a bit more realism and ensured that the portrayal was true to the life of an actual deaf person as well. The story, based around new teacher James Leeds attempting to get school janitor Sarah Norman out of her comfort zone, is a touching romance that deals a lot with how isolating it can be to be disabled. Matin, for her part, not only won the Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role, she is also the only deaf woman to ever win that award. She continues to speak for deaf people in the country, using her fame to contribute to the betterment of deaf people in the country.

The Station Agent

True fame didn’t come to actor Peter Dinklage until several years after this movie, when he was cast as the cunning Tyrion Lannister in Game of Thrones.  Yet despite that his role in this small-budget film is one of his most lauded roles. A bit of an ensemble film, the Station Agent focuses on pulling Dinklage’s character, Fin, out of his isolation and into the lives of his neighbors and friends. Also included in the movie is a woman named Olivia, played by Patricia Clarkson, who deals with severe depression after the loss of her young son. The two characters, along with a peppy neighbor played by Bobby Cannavale, form a close bond that makes them realize they cannot continue to isolate themselves from each other and from the world anymore. In his personal time, Dinklage campaigns in a more quiet way that most for those with dwarfism. While he doesn’t necessarily give long interviews, he has in the past used his fame to bring attention to issues – most notably during his speech for his 2012 Golden Glob win, where he casually brought the issue of “dwarf-tossing” into the public eye.

Little Miss Sunshine

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Though the focus of this comedy is more on the entire family’s dysfunction than one person, part of that dysfunction involves the disability of Steve Carrel’s character, Frank. Frank has depression and attempts suicide before the events of the movie take place. His sister, Olive, feels unsafe leaving him home alone and so Frank is roped into a road trip for his niece’s beauty pageant. Much of Frank’s story centers around him attempting to deal with his own feelings. His ending is more realistic than happy; by the ending he has built a strong support system with his family. The importance of having a support system and how oftentimes, those without support systems can falter, is emphasized with Frank. He finds himself, if still depressed, then at least looking forward to the rest of his life more than he was before.

Tell Me You Love Me – Demi Lovato

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Demi Lovato’s new album cover for Tell Me You Love Me

Demi Lovato, former Disney idol and current pop star, has had a difficult journey to get to where she is. Since her big break in the Disney Channel’s Camp Rock, the star has dealt with eating disorders and severe mood swings. After an infamous confrontation in 2010 that ended in Lovato punching one of her back up dancers, Lovato revealed she had bipolar disorder. She started in therapy and on medication and since then has found herself living a much more stable life. Her new album Tell Me You Love Me, available on hoopla, dropped in late September to positive reviews. In addition to her music career, Lovato has helped with many charities and programs for mental illness. She even started her own, the Lovato Treatment Scholarship Program, to help pay costs for mentally-ill patients.

Pacific Rim

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Rinko Kikuchu as Mako Mori and Idris Elba as Stacker Pentecost.

A science fiction film is not the first place to look for disability representation, and yet Pacific Rim offers a unique look at disability. Most of the named characters suffer from PTSD, and all attempt to move about their lives despite their illness. Also included in the main cast is a physically disabled character and a cancer patient, both of whom play important parts in the movie. Between epic fight scenes the characters build each other up and create important emotional bonds. Sure, the movie isn’t a dramatic look at disability, but it incorporates disabled people into its story seamlessly. Above that, it shows that disabled people can rise to any occasion – even one that involves fighting sea creatures from the deep from the inside of a giant robot.

Fall Season Break Schlump

As winter finally settles in, many TV shows decide to go on break. Usually their slot in programming is taken up by reruns or reality TV shows, and while those can be a good way to pass the time, sometimes you want a show similar to what you used to watch. If what you want is some unwinding time after a day at work, it can be difficult to get into something so different as a reality TV show, if what you’re used to watching is scripted.

Thankfully, unlike when I was a kid and you just re-watched your VHS copy of Kindergarten Cop until it broke, we have DVDs and On Demand and Netflix and hey, you even have your library and all the digital services we offer to pass the time on those cold snow days.

But….what do you watch? Something new definitely, but not something super different either. Well, in my expert opinion as a binge-watcher, here are some suggestions for your Fall Break Schlump.

If you like Outlander, you’ll probably like…. Spartacus

The Starz dramas seem to be very different at first glance, considering they take place in vastly different time periods. Regardless of any cosmetic differences however, the two shows are in fact very similar. Both shows deal with historical rebellions and introduce many historical figures into the cast. Surprisingly, both shows also center around love stories. Many fans of Outlander fell in love with the sweeping romance between Claire and Jamie, but Spartacus has sweeping romances of its own. The story starts with the separation of Spartacus and his wife, and follows his desperate attempts to get back to her. The story introduces two more main love stories between Crixus and Naevia, and Agron and Nasir. If the reason you like Outlander is just because you think Sam Hueghan and Catriona Balfe are nice to look at well, Spartacus has Lucy Lawless and Manu Bennett so you’re set in the eye candy department as well.

If you like Once Upon a Time, you’ll probably like…Pushing Daisies

While ABC’s re-imagining of classic Disney stories had some minor trouble with numbers when it started airing, the series is still going strong seven years later. This, despite losing it’s protagonist, shows it is a truly popular show. Much of the appeal comes from it’s unique blend of a complex story, lovable cast of characters, and extravagant costume designs. Because of it’s uniqueness, it can be a difficult show to replace during the winter schlump. So, instead of finding one exactly the same, try something that is just as unique – Pushing Daisies. Pushing Daisies, which is also a fantasy show that aired on ABC, stars Lee Pace of The Hobbit fame as The Piemaker, an odd man who can bring people back to life with a single touch. Known for it’s colorful palette, odd set design, and quirky characters, Pushing Daisies is the perfect placeholder until Once Upon a Time comes back.

If you like Riverdale, you’ll probably like… The O. C.

Ah Riverdale. So completely different than the Archie comics many know and love and yet still so addicting. It could the actors, the writing, or even that people love melodrama no matter what form it comes in that pulls in such a crowd every Monday night. But of course, like most shows, it goes on hiatus and people are left wondering what to do with their time. The answer is, of course, to fill it with more ridiculous melodrama. Since the Riverdale crowd is on the younger side, they likely won’t remember one of the original teen dramas, The O. C. Dealing with the struggles of four teens in California’s Orange County, it has much of a similar pull as Riverdale does. It has beautiful people doing ridiculous things and romance drama every other episode. They even follow a similar theme; while Riverdale tends to focus on the decaying morality in suburbia, the O. C. likes to focus on the hypocrisy of the upper class. So no matter why you got into Riverdale, you can find just that reason in The O. C., except with some slightly outdated references.

If you like Grey’s Anatomy, you’ll probably like… The Good Wife

Shondaland shows are famous for their snappy writing, heartbreaking plot twists, and steamy relationships. Critically acclaimed and going strong in season 14, Grey’s Anatomy is no exception. So if high stakes drama and heartbreak paired with smart writing is what you’re looking for, The Good Wife has this in spades. Also Emmy award winning, The God Wife is based around the struggles of Alicia Florrick, a politician’s wife who re-enters the work force after her husband’s political scandal. Along the way she finds herself embroiled in the political, personal, and social scandals of her friends and colleagues. The show has a sense of gray morality that often leaves the viewer guessing, much the same as another Shonda show, How to Get Away With Murder.

If you like The Walking Dead, you’ll probably like… Battlestar Galactica

Drawing a comparison between a sci-fi cult classic and apocalyptic zombie show may not be the obvious choice, but in the case, it’s true. It’s not just the bare bones of the shows that are similar – with both centering around a group of ragtag survivors stuck together at the end of the world – but Battlestar Galactica shares similar themes that makes The Walking Dead so addicting. The Walking Dead focuses often on the cost of survival – a common theme in the stories of Rick, Carol, and Michonne. In a similar fashion, Battlestar Galactica delves into the morality of what it means to rebuild after devastating loss. And hey, if you only liked The Walking Dead because of the cool fight scenes, Battlestar Galactica also has those, except in space.

written by: kassie