The History of the Concept Album

Concept albums are an interesting phenomenon. While most songs tell some sort of story, concept albums are based around the idea that each song is a small part of a larger story. Some people take these to an extreme, with stories about dystopian futures or evil sorcerers and perform in full costume. They essentially use the medium of a concept album as a way of putting on a production. Other people take a much simpler road and base their album around the same general concept.

The concept album hit its popularity height in the 80s, but as music videos become increasingly popular and artists continue to innovate, it seems concept albums are making a small comeback.  And while the concept album is still most popular with rock artists, many of the more famous concept albums of the past decade have been in other genres such as rap, R&B, and folk music. Examples include Kendrick Lamar’s good kid, M.A.A.D. city, which earned five Grammy nominations in 2012, My Chemical Romance’s The Black Parade, which earned itself a reissue for its 10th anniversary in 2016, and Anais Mitchell’s Hadestown, which recently made the jump to Broadway as a musical.

Interestingly enough, when you chronicle the history of the concept album, its roots date back not to the glam rock or rock opera scene as you would suspect, but to folk music.

Woody Guthrie – Dust Bowl Ballads

Woody Guthrie’s most well-known album was also the very first concept album which was released in July of 1940. Guthrie was at the time referred to as an “Okie” – a poor migrant farmer from Oklahoma or the surrounding area that fled to California during the dust bowl. The semi-autobiographical album, and Guthrie’s first recorded album, chronicled his experiences during the 1930s dust bowl. Though he later found national fame with the song This Land Is Your Land, his first album helped launch him onto the folk scene.

Frank Sinatra – In the Wee Small Hours

Frank Sinatra is often mistakenly credited as the inventor of concept albums. This is due to his popularity and to the sheer number of albums he made that were concept albums. He made a slew of them in the 40’s, starting with In the Wee Small Hours. Up until this point, most albums were just a collection of singles. Sinatra started to change this up by releasing a concept album with serious songs that all followed the same similar themes of loss and love gone wrong. He was inspired to do a serious album in part because of the failure of his first two marriages. The album was a hit, and he went on to do four more concept albums, all of which followed a general theme or story.

The Wall – Pink Floyd

The Wall, generally considered the gold standard for concept albums, is the 11th studio album from rock band Pink Floyd. The Wall was released in 1979 in response to the band’s disenchantment with their celebrity profile, particularly during their previous tour. The story follows a depressed rocker who constructs a metaphorical and physical wall around himself to protect himself from his surroundings. Despite receiving mixed reviews from critics, the album was a commercial success. It went on to inspire songs in later Pink Floyd albums, became one of the top-selling albums of all time, and was eventually adapted into a movie by Alan Parker in 1982.

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Green Day – American Idiot

Considered the most notable concept album made since their decline in the 80s, American Idiot is the 7th studio album from punk band Green Day. The album was a departure from the band’s previous music and a direct response to the underwhelming performance of their 6th album. The plot follows Jesus of Suburbia, a lower-middle-class young man, and deals with themes of disillusionment and anarchy during the tumultuous early 2000s and the Iraq War. The album was wildly successful, garnering five popular singles, a hit Broadway musical (where Green Day lead vocalist Billie Joe Armstrong did several runs as the character St. Jimmy), and even a planned film adaption.

Dirty Computer – Janelle Monae

One of the more recent concept albums to come out, Janelle Monae’s Dirty Computer garnered high praise from critics and listeners alike. The story centers around Monae’s character, Jane 57821, as she attempts to break free from a dystopian society. In addition to the album, Monae also released a 46-minute movie which she has referred to as an “emotion  picture.” The album garnered a Grammy nomination in 2018.

 

This is of course not an exhaustive list. There are many other concept albums that have been recorded, whether it be during the height of their fame, like Iron Maiden’s Second Son of the Second Son, or within the last few years, like The Mountain Goats’ Tallahassee. All of these albums and more can be found in our music section on the first floor of the library.

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The Holidays in Film: National Sibling Day

Like Mother and Father’s Day, the not as well known Sibling Day looks to unite and celebrate siblings and the familial bonds that shape our lives. Unlike Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, National Sibling Day is not yet recognized as a federal holiday. The day was founded by Claudia Evart in honor of her younger siblings who had passed away.

In honor of the holiday, pop in a movie about these siblings real and fictional and spend some quality time with your own sibling!

I Love You Both

A quirky comedy about codependency and what it means to start growing up, I Love You Both is a look into a dysfunctional sibling relationship. The movie is directed, written, and starred in by two real-life siblings, the movie delves into how quickly their cozy codependency turns to unhappiness as they both fall for the same easy-going guy. It’s a short but funny movie, with distinctly millennial-type humor that focuses on the way the two siblings feel stuck in their lives. While the movie doesn’t exactly have a happy ending, it is an enjoyable film.

Lilo and Stitch

If what you want is a bit more kid-friendly, this Disney movie is the perfect way to go. The beautifully done cartoon focuses on the lives of two orphaned sisters, Lilo and Nani, as they cope with sudden changes to their lives in the arrival of the alien experiment Stitch. In typical Disney fashion, the movie is equal parts sweet and heartbreaking with a touching happy ending for the sisters and their family.

This is Where I Leave You

A hilarious and ridiculous comedy, This Is Where I Leave You centers around the Altmans, an estranged family brought together by the passing of their beloved father, Mort. In his will, Mort states that he wants the family to sit Shiva, a Jewish practice of mourning for seven days. For an entire week, the family is forced to tolerate each other, and what ensues is a relatable and hilarious story about a group of people that love each other but don’t particularly like each other.

Rachel Getting Married

This award-winning movie focuses on two sisters when the younger is getting married. Starring Anne Hathaway and Rosemarie DeWitt, the movie goes into how addiction affects not just a single person’s life, but also their relationship with those that love them. The two sisters, Kym and Rachel, drifted apart due to Kym’s drug usage. Kym has been in rehab for a while and is allowed to leave for a few days for her sister’s wedding. The movie is fraught with a tension-filled love that frequently exists between siblings, and though the story makes it clear that their journey isn’t over by movie’s end, Kym and Rachel part on happy terms brought together by their love for each other.

Shameless

If you’ve got a lot of time on your hands, Shameless is the perfect fit. Taking place in Canaryville neighborhood in the South Side of Chicago, this Showtime show centers around six dysfunctional siblings and their egomaniac father, trying to make ends meet. This black comedy deals frequently with poverty and class struggle, dealing with the outlandish situations the Gallaghers get themselves into with a lot of humor, resentment, and love. The first seven seasons can be found at the Berwyn Public Library, with season eight on order.

 

To see all of these great stories and more, come check out our display for National Sibling Day right next to the Audio Visual Desk!

New-To-You Audio Books

Here at the Berwyn Public Library, we have a great collection of audiobooks. On the first floor there are audiobooks for fiction, non-fiction, and biographies. Every month we add new audiobooks to our collection. From new and popular novels like The Outsider by Stephen King to debut novels like White Chrysantemum by Mary Lynn Bracht, we are always expanding our collection.

Audiobooks are perfect if you live a more fast-paced lifestyle. Putting in a CD or downloading the audio onto your iPod or Android is a great way to get some “reading” in without having to put your day on hold. You can listen in the car, while exercising, or while walking. It’s also good to remember that audiobooks can be found at the Berwyn Library and on Hoopla!

In addition to new audiobooks, we also sometimes get audiobooks that are new to our library, though they’ve been out for a few years. These audiobooks don’t get put in the new section, but instead, go straight to the stacks. So if you want to try out a “new to you” audiobook but didn’t find anything in our new section, here are some “new to us” audiobooks for you to enjoy!

Earthly Joys by Phillipa Gregory

Earthly Joys, the first book in the Tradescant series, follows the life of historical figure John Tradescant. Tradescant was a famous gardener and unofficial adviser to British royalty in the 17th century. Phillipa Gregory, the author of the book and regarded by many as the master of historical royalty novels, released the book originally in 2005. It was not until August of this year that the book was released on audio CD. Read by seasoned actor David Rintoul, Earthly Joys finally comes to life in the heard word.

 

Him Her Him Again the End of Him by Patricia Marx

This humorous novel is the first solo work of Harvard Lampoon and SNL writer Patricia Marx, and is read in audiobook form by Hillary Huber. The story follows a neurotic young woman who becomes obsessed with her narcissistic first love. Despite their breakup, she stays obsessed with him, even as he pays her little mind and moves on with his life.  The novel and audiobook came out in 2006 and 2007 and was recently purchased by our library.

Henry the Gaoler by A. W. Exley

The prequel to A. W. Exley’s Ella, The Slayer, this historical romance is a spin on the story of Rapunzel. The story starts with the return of a young WWI soldier, Henry, coming home at the end of WWI. Hoping to make up for abandoning the girl he loves, Hazel, he finds her paranoid parents have taken severe precautions in locking up their daughter as the Spanish Influenza sweeps through the country. Narrated by Stefan Rudnicki, Henry the Gaoler was released in print in 2016, and the audiobook came out approximately a year and a half later.

The Essential Rumi by Rumi

The Essential Rumi is a revised and remastered release of the first edition of poems by renown Sufi poet Rumi. Translated and read by Coleman Barks, this audiobook features dozens of newly translated poems by Rumi as well as his other well-known poems. If you’ve ever been interested in diving into his poetry, this audiobook is the perfect opportunity.

Musashi by  Yoshikawa Eiji

Originally published as a serial in a Japanese newspaper in 1935, Musashi is a fictionalized account of the life of one of the most renown Japanese swordsman to ever live. The story was written by Eiji Yoshikawa and cemented his fame as a historical fiction writer. Of his many books, four of them have been translated into English. The release of the audiobook Musashi, read by Brian Nishii, marks the first of his books to be released on audio format.

The Incredibles 2

If your movie theater looked anything like mine than it was split down the middle: half was parents with their kids, and half was 20 something-year-olds. It was difficult to tell if the 6-year-olds or the 26-year-olds were more excited about the movie, or who applauded louder when it ended.

Of course, many of those 26-year-olds were children when the first Incredibles movie came out. I’m sure everyone is wondering whether the wait was worth it. In my opinion, it definitely was.

The animation is very impressive. The amount of detail put into each frame is amazing, and the characters are beautiful and expressive. The story-line is also interesting – it takes up exactly where it left off, with the arrival of the Mole Man. The family spends the movie attempting to figure out how to settle into the new family dynamic now that everyone wants to be a superhero, and the fact that their cover has all but been blown.

Much of the movie deals with politics, without getting too confusing. Because the story attempts to follow exactly how this would play out in a realistic way – with Helen attempting to push superheroes back into the public eye in a more positive way – much of the plot follows the political landscape of the Incredibles world. It’s a plot that should get confusing but it’s explained in a way that is simple for a child to understand, and accompanied by a number of brightly lit and wonderfully animated fight scenes as Helen fights bad guys.

Meanwhile, Bob’s story deals with the kids. With an ever-changing family dynamic and a world struggling to keep up with public opinion and changing technology, Bob struggles a lot with keeping on top of his kids – especially the shape-shifting Jack-Jack who’s powers are amazing but incredibly inconvenient for a hapless father.

It’s a wonderful movie with an emphasis on family learning to work together and celebrate each other’s differences.

The movie was worth the wait – though be warned that there are a number of sequences that involve brightly flashing lights that might be a problem for light sensitive viewers or people with epilepsy!

New Streaming Service: Kanopy

The Berwyn Public Library is adding a new streaming service to our list!

Starting today, Berwyn residents will have access to the film streaming service Kanopy.

Kanopy has a diverse collection of movies and documentaries, all categorized in easy to find ways. Many of the movies they have are difficult to find on any other streaming site. Kanopy aims to keep this up, collecting all sorts of movies because they believe film can bridge cultural gaps and bring people together.

 

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Some of the many movies new to Kanopy this month including: The Young Karl Marx, Polytechnique, Standing Tall, Cloro, Spun, and Six LA Love Stories. Also included are some of the new documentaries including Hitchock Truffaut, Dina, Mademoiselle C., InnSael, Brasilia, and The Cost of cotton.

Once an account is set up, movies can be watched on any device including desktops, phones, Roku, or tablets. They can be watched through the website itself, through iTunes, or even through their app. Once the movies are “checked out” the patron gets three days to watch the film. Each patron gets a total of ten movies to stream per month and the count resets on the first of every month.

The website is pretty easy to navigate. At the top of the page is a browsing section and clicking a genre will take you to that genre’s page. Each of the movie genres has a minimum of four categories: classic, contemporary, world, and award-winning. Most genres also get specific subcategories as well. These are all followed by a list of all the movies in that genre. For example: clicking on comedy movies will bring you to their page. On that page, there are Classic, Contemporary, World, and Award-Winning Comedies. There’s also many subgenres listed such as Horror Comedy, Romantic Comedy, and LGBT Comedy. After the subgenres, the list of comedy movies starts.

But Kanopy doesn’t stop at movies. The streaming service also offers a wide variety of documentaries and non-fiction films. Some of the many categories there include journalism, agriculture, geography, and Indigenous Studies.

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Just a few of the dozens of categories offered from Kanopy.

So does that sound pretty amazing? If you’d like to look around the website and take advantage of this free service, try signing up. Signing up is easy but requires a Berwyn Library Card. The steps are as follows:

  1. Go to the Berwyn Library Kanopy page here
  2. Click the white “sign up” button in the right hand corner
  3. Fill in your first and last name, as well as an email address.
  4. Check your email for a message from Kanopy  asking to verify your email. Once you click verify, it will take you to another page.
  5. Link your library card to your account. The library card number is the long barcode number on the back of the card. It should start with the numbers “2295700.” You want to put this whole number into the box.
  6. Start watching movies!

Have fun playing around with the site!

Mary Shelley, The Inventor of Science Fiction

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, the author of the classic gothic horror novel Frankenstein, didn’t just write a book – she invented a genre. The world of science fiction didn’t exist before Mary Shelley got her hands on it. There had been minor forays but it was Mary Shelley who took the concept of threading drama, theme, and theoretical science together to make a novel. To narrow down a handful of movies or books that were inspired by her would be nearly impossible; from Mr. Spock to Ellen Ripley to Han Solo and even to Tony Stark, characters involved in science fiction owe their existence to an 18 year old girl who had a nightmare one summer night.

The unfortunate thing is that not many know about this. Frankenstein was considered amoral and irreligious when it came out, so when the original film adaption came out, it didn’t include much of her original story about a Creator abandoning his Creature and the consequences of bringing life into the world. Despite the fact that there have been quite literally dozens of adaptions in the past decade alone, most of these movies take their inspiration from the original film, and not Mary Shelley’s original novel at all.

The initial inspiration for Frankenstein came from a nightmare Mary Shelley had at a cottage. Mary and a group of writers were staying at a villa together for the summer and the group decided to try their hand at telling ghost stories. Mary, who had already developed a fascination with life and death due to the passing of her mother, the miscarriage of several children, and the suicide of her lover’s wife, spent a while attempting to think of something, suffering from some sort of writer’s block. Finally, she had a nightmare – she saw a horrific human-like creature laid out on a table, and a scientist standing over the Creature. In her nightmare, the scientist shocks the Creature to life and then, horrified by the life he has created, he runs off as the Creature opens it’s horrible, yellow eyes.

And thus, Frankenstein  was born.

There are of course more obvious stories that take their inspiration from her. Some of theme even wind up being more faithful to her story and themes than the hundreds of adaptions that bare the name Frankenstein. In this list, you’ll find not just adaptions but also works that more heavily derive themselves from her story.

 

Avengers: Age of Ultron

There are so many similarities between the creature of Ultron and the creation of the Creature, it’s almost impossible to miss it. Tony Stark, in his bid to create an intelligent suit, winds up creating a robot that is bent on destruction. Two things stand out: firstly, that Tony literally brings Ultron to life with a bolt of lightning – an obvious homage to Mary Shelley. The second is less obvious but still notable: Ultron is an eloquent creature who frequently talks like someone out of the Romantics Era. Much like the Creature, he is an intelligent being with a violent streak.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

The popular action sci-fi series that recently got a boot has a surprising amount in common with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Starting with a medical experiment gone astray, Rise of the Planet of the Apes focuses on the relationship between a Creature and it’s father, in this case the ape Cesar and his caretaker Will. Cesar, like the Creature, is capable of kindness and complicated thought, but because of the form he takes, is looked down on by humankind. Granted, Cesar’s life takes on a much happier theme than the Creature’s does, in no small part because Will refuses to abandon Cesar, and Cesar holds onto that feeling – compared to the Creature, who is promptly abandoned by the horrified Victor Frankenstein.

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Like her classic novel, the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde combine many of the concepts that were popular with writers during the Romantics Era and threads them with science. Both novels focus on what happens when humans play God, with Shelley focusing a bit more on what makes us human and author Robert Louis Stevenson focusing more on unleashing the id.

The Hulk

The classic Marvel character, the Hulk/Dr. Bruce Banner is essentially a modern day version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, which means it already bares many stylistic similarities. What’s more interesting is that both characters deal with issues surrounding childhood – the Creature is abandoned by Dr. Frankenstein and spends much of the novel hating his father for abandoning him. Bruce Banner’s childhood bares a striking resemblance – Bruce’s father frequently abused him to the point that Bruce started acting out at school as a way to cope with his own feelings of neglect.

Penny Dreadful

The sleeper hit show combines the stories of many gothic horror books including Dracula, Van Helsing, An American Werewolf In London, and Frankenstein. This story is much more faithful to the original book written by Shelley. Frankenstein is a young man instead of a mad old scientist, played by the then 28 year old Harry Treadaway. His Creature, Caliban, is terrifying and eloquent, even quoting literary novels and scripture. Their story starts out the same – young Frankenstein, horrified by what he has created and knowing he can’t control it, abandons Caliban when he first makes him, but Caliban seeks his creator out anyways, with disastrous results.

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Victor Frankenstein (left) and Caliban, Frankenstein’s Creature in Penny Dreadful.

Van Helsing

Despite being one of the most unpopular Van Helsing movies to ever come out, Sommen’s Van Helsing is in many ways more faithful to its adaption of The Creature than the majority of Frankenstein movies. The Creature in this movie  is not the grunting, slow moving Creature from many adaptions, but an intelligent man who seeks a purpose – and to be left alone. Van Helsing even outright states in the movie that while evil may have brought Frankenstein’s Monster into the world, the Creature himself is not actually evil.

 

 

 

Throwback Thursday

Sometimes, when you want to grab a new movie, you’re not exactly looking for a new movie. Instead, you want new to you rather than new to the world. But of course, with over a hundred years of cinema, sometimes finding something interesting can be overwhelming – or difficult. So here for Throwback Thursday are some old favorites that might not be on the average person’s radar.

For all the romance lovers out there, Children of a Lesser God is the perfect movie to pop in and enjoy. Directed by Randa Haines and starring Marlee Matlin and William Hurt, it is perhaps not as well known as many other more flashy and dramatic Best Picture nominees. Based on a play by Mark Medoff, the plot follows a deaf custodian named Sarah Norman and her relationship with a hearing teacher, James Leeds, at the school they both work at. Though the two get off to a rocky start, they enter into a relationship, despite James pushing that Sarah should start learning to speak instead of just signing.

William Hurt garnered much critical acclaim for his role in the film, but the movie belongs very clearly to Marlee Matlin. Matlin plays off Hurt well in what was her feature film debut, bringing a guarded fear and passion against Hurt’s playful vulnerability. Matlin’s performance is frequently described as being similar to a silent film actress and the comparison is apt – sice her character Sarah does not speak, Matlin conveys her emotion with soulful eyes and expressive gestures, to the point where the audience does not need Hurt to translate her signing.

Their romance is troubled but full of love and the journey they both take as they navigate what it means for a hearing man to be in a relationship with a deaf woman. The film is long, coming in at just shy of two hours, but it allows the journey between the couple to unfold both as a pair and also as individuals, delving into the struggles James faces as he wishes to protect Sarah and Sarah’s own need to stand as her own person apart from James.

 

Matlin went on to win Best Actress for her role in the movie. She is the youngest woman to ever win the award, winning it at the age of 21. She is also the only deaf performer to win an Oscar in any category, and one of two disabled people to win any Oscar (the first being Harold Russell in 1946).

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Marlee Matlin as Sara Norman in the movie Children of a Lesser God.

Movie Review: Love, Simon

I’m gonna be honest – against my better judgement, I kept my expectations way too high for this movie. Between my excitement over a book I had loved being adapted and how absolutely cute all the trailers looked, I definitely bought into the hype. I thought going in that I’d probably be at least a little disappointed – but I didn’t feel disappointed at all.

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Author Becky Albertelli holding her book Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda, which the movie Love, Simon is based off of

First of all, this movie is visually beautifully. It’s bright and light and happy looking, and the pop of color and beautiful wide shots help ease the tension as the story goes on.

Secondly, this movie delivers when it comes to both romance and comedy, which is good considering it’s a rom-com. Watching Simon fall in love with every guy he even slightly suspects is gay is equal parts funny, sweet, and relatable to most shy kids who had a crush in high school. The movie does a good job of poking fun at the awkward way he carries himself without feeling like it’s making fun of him.

The movie also handles it’s serious parts just as well. As the plot pushes forwards and Simon’s life starts to spin out of control, the movie does an excellent job of touching on *why* he’s as upset as he is. The jokes take a backseat and something amazing happens – what started off as a cute and refreshing take on teen love stories turns into a well handled and serious – though never preachy – story about what it’s really like to be outed. Small but cutting jokes from family members, out and out bullying at school, the pressure to come out before you’re ready all builds realistically towards Simon’s anxieties about coming out. And of course as Simon so succinctly puts it early on: sometimes you just want to hang onto who you’ve always been seen as.

I’ve only seen Nick Robertson in one thing (in Jurassic World to be exact) so I didn’t really have an opinion on him going in but he was excellent. During a confrontation between him and the guy that outs him, he gives it his all. There was no delicate single tear going on here – he was red faced and shaking, getting up in people’s faces and then collapsing in on himself, and it was fascinating and heartbreaking to watch.

But the movie ends on a happy note, like most good romantic comedies do. The romance builds to a typically cheesy and sweet rom-com ending made triumphant because it’s for such an atypical story. Simon gets to heal, gets the guy – and no spoilers but he gets a really fantastic guy – and gets a life that is different than before, but infinitely better.

Throwback Thursday: The Beauty Inside

Sometimes when patrons come in looking for a new movie they find that the movie they were looking forward to is checked out. Putting something on hold is great – and super useful! – but sometimes you just want to settle in with a good movie that night. But libraries aren’t just full of the newest features; we’ve got old goodies too. So instead of giving up on your movie night, try something that isn’t just new but new-to-you!

A good place to start looking is our Foreign Films section. It’s got a ton of great movies that maybe weren’t as popular in the US as they were in their countries of origin, but are just as good.

Recently in the cinematic spotlight have been South Korean made movies. A slew of popular films that have made an impact even in the US have come from South Korea including the zombie thriller Train to Busan, the action-adventure Okja, and the romantic psychological thriller The Handmaiden. If you want a fantastic and visually stunning movie – and are okay with reading subtitles if you don’t understand Korean – than a South Korean movie might be a great place to start.

One stand out that we own a copy of here at the Berwyn Public Library is The Beauty Inside, a romantic comedy directed by Baik.

Based on an American short film, The Beauty Inside is a visually stunning film that relies on complicated and interesting character motivation to drive its high-concept plot.

The South Korean romantic comedy centers around a man named Woo-jin who has a very unique problem: every day he wakes up in a different body. He has no control over this phenomenon at all. As a result, he becomes very isolated, maintaining regular contact with only his best friend Sang-baek and his mother. Woo-jin eventually develops strong feelings for a woman named Yi-soo, but feels he cannot pursue a relationship with her because of his problem. He attempts it anyways after a while of pining and eventually lets Yi-soo in on his secret, which quickly starts causing problems for the couple’s professional and personal lives.

Unlike many high-concept movies, where the point of the movie is more about the premise than about the characters, The Beauty Inside lets its characters drive the plot. The movie does not spend much time trying to explain why this is happening to Woo-jin, only that it has drastically affected his life. The viewer is let in on his morning routine: studying his new face in his mirror, resizing his shoes, and searching through his extensive closet for clothes that will fit his new body. They see how this affects every facet of his life down to the profession he has chosen.

With Woo-jin constantly changing bodies, and thus actors, the guiding light is actress Han Hyo-joo as Yi-soo, and she absolutely shines. Handling a role that could be relatively boring with great sincerity, she allows us a look into how sweet their relationship can get but also how stressful it can be. While it’s certainly hilarious to watch as Woo-jin, in the body of a 50-year-old, gets mistaken for Yi-soo’s father, we also see her panic as she loses him in a crowd – and in a number of beautifully acted scenes, how her panic starts to take over her life. Oftentimes, director Baik uses the environment around Yi-soo to drive home her feelings, and it’s easy to understand her despair at losing Woo-jin as the camera circles around her, pulling out to show a large crowd in a brightly lit but nondescript street.

That’s not to say that the dozens of Woo-jin’s aren’t great in and of themselves – each actor brings something new to the character, something vulnerable and romantic and believable, while keeping similar mannerisms and core traits that remind the viewer that this is always the same person, whether Woo-jin looks like a 7-year-old boy or a 60-year-old woman.

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Just a handful of the actors to play Woo-jin throughout the movie. The actors are (l-r): Kim Joo-hyuk, Park Shin-hye, Park Seo-joon, Go Ah-sung, Yoo Yeon-seok, and Kim Hee-won.

Movie Review: Jumanji

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is something special: it is a sequel that doesn’t suck. Let’s face it – it was unlikely that someone could top Robin Williams or the comedy-horror that we all felt as a kid when we watched the original. Many sequels and remakes tend to fall flat with viewers, with a number of them being so terrible they wound up tainting the origin and ruining their franchise. When a sequel to the much beloved Jumanji was announced, many people were understandably skeptical.

So instead, the movie does its own thing – and it works. The basis of the movie is still the same: a group of kids get pulled into playing a game that is more dangerous than it seems. In this version, however, the kids get pulled into playing a video game instead of a board game. In the comical but creepy opening scene, a boy brings home the Jumanji board game but then remarks that “nobody plays board games anymore” and promptly throws the board game under his bed, already forgotten. Jumanji then changes itself to a format the boy is more familiar with. Obviously intrigued, he reaches down to play it – and then disappears.

As the movie goes on, we see that once the kids pick their avatar, they get sucked into the game. Their bodies change to match their avatars and their environment changes to match the theme of the game. This leads to a number of humorous moments when the group first gets to the game – like the nerdy main character realizing he looks like The Rock or the popular girl realizing she looks like Jack Black.

The movie is definitely more comedic than the original, relying often – though always humorously – on the body switch the teenagers’ experience, and the gag never gets stale. Honestly, you haven’t lived until you watch Jack Black convincingly act like a teenage girl and attempt to teach former model Karen Gillan the art of seduction.

Of course, that’s not to say it wasn’t just a little bit disturbing – with updated CGI and effects, the animals looked more real and more terrifying. The human villains could also look much creepier as well, with a number of special effects done on the villain’s face to make him look more monstrous.

It does have a number of sly references that you’ll get of course – most notably that Nick Jonas’ character is living in a hut implied to be the one Alex Parrish lived in while he was stuck in the jungle. There’s also a recurring theme of elephant statues similar to the game piece that Sarah uses. But the references aren’t too heavy-handed nor do they distract from the movie.

All in all, it’s a fun movie that doesn’t try to hard to be exactly the same as the original. Instead, it takes it’s own route to a surprisingly touching ending for its characters, and does so with beautiful special effects and hilarious acting.