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!

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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.

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.

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

IT (2017)

 

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Movie Review

Director: Andy Muschietti

Screenplay: Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunaga, and Gary Dauberman

Starring: Jaeden Lieberher, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Sophia Lillis, Finn Wolfhard, Chosen Jacobs, Jack Dylan Grazer, Wyatt Oleff, and Bill Skarsgard as Pennywise

Based on the novel by Stephen King

Thirty-one years ago, the novel It was published by Viking Press, the year was 1986. This was Stephen King’s 18th novel, and is an impressive 1,138 pages. I read this book as a teenager, as Stephen King novels were always in my house thanks to my older brother and sister. The story takes place in small town Derry, Maine, and revolves around seven childhood friends.

In 1990, Hollywood made a valiant attempt to produce a made-for-TV, two-episode version of It. While this TV version was cast with a lot of very talented actors (Tim Reid, Harry Anderson, Richard Thomas, John Ritter just to name a few), this was a flop. Taking the lead as the unforgettable Pennywise the clown (the menacing evil that takes over Derry Maine), Actor Tim Curry turned in a brilliant performance.

Just like the monster that dwells in Derry, Maine, It has returned, in a shiny new re-boot. It (2017) is creepy and scary in all the right places. The fact that I read the book didn’t save me from jumping at a few scenes, but I liked it. The seven childhood friends; Bill, Ben, Beverly, Richie, Mike, Eddie and Stan are the “Losers”. Not a name they picked for themselves, but one thrust upon them by the bullies who have it in for them. The Losers have all had an encounter with the evil that has come to their town, as if they didn’t have enough to deal with. The Losers have figured out what It is, but It is not easy to get rid of. The characters are likable, and the story keeps you engaged. This film is only half of the book, and at this writing part two is scheduled be released in 2018. It’s a good scare, but if you are not a fan of clowns, you may want to skip this one.

By: Sandie

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Family Fridays: Muppet Treasure Island

Picking a movie for family night can be a monumental task when you’ve got a bunch of people to please. Finding the balance between something kid friendly and funny and something that won’t put the adults to sleep can be difficult, especially when little ones want nothing more than to watch the same movie at least fifty times in a day. Rather than give up and put in The Lion King for the 18th time today, try browsing for something new in our kid’s DVD section.

An easy way to change up the movie pick is by looking at movies that are a bit older but underrated. A personal favorite would be Muppet Treasure Island.

Muppet Treasure Island is an underappreciated Muppet movie that features some well known actors as well as the typical Muppet characters. An upbeat take on the classic novel, Muppet Treasure Island follows the story of young Jim Hawkins as he searches for the long lost treasure of the notorious Captain Flint. Along the way he and best friends Rizzo and Gonzo come across a plot by pirates to steal the treasure away and finds himself pulled into an adventure he never expected.

Tim Curry, starring as the villainous Long John Silver, finds himself perfectly cast as he hams it up alongside his Muppet costars, showing equal parts over-exaggerated villainy and sweet sentimentality. Baby-faced Kevin Bishop is a sweet Jim Hawkins, just longing for a simple adventure.

Beyond the human leads, Kermit the Frog takes a turn as the serious and anxious Captain Smollett, but it’s Kermit’s friends Fozzie and Miss Piggy that shine in the movie. Fozzie stars as the dimwitted Squire Trelawney who spends most of the movie conversing with Mr. Bimble, the man who lives in his finger. It’s a silly gag but a funny one nonetheless. Miss Piggy, meanwhile, makes a grand and hilarious turn as Benjamina Gunn, ex-fiance of Kermit’s Captain Smollett. Since their breakup, she has found herself the leader of an island of wild pigs – and has her own glamorous secrets in true Miss Piggy style.

Of course, the movie features classic Muppet humor with characters such as Gonzo and Rizzo frequently breaking the fourth wall and references to real world events.

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It’s all in all a cute movie with a humor that appeals to both children and adults in that typical quirky Jim Henson style.

written by: kassie

Now In Theaters: War for the Planet of the Apes

War for the Planet of the Apes (2017)

Dir. Matt Reeves

Starring Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson, Steve Zahn

The eagerly anticipated threequel in the Planet of the Apes saga does not disappoint – if you know what it is you’re watching.

Backed by a haunting score that lingers long after the movie is over, the film chronicles Cesar’s navigation of a devastating war between apes and humans.  After a disturbing attack by the humans, Cesar leaves his people to find the Colonel, played by Woody Harrelson, to demand vengeance. Aided by old friends Maurice, Rocket, and Luca, Cesar finds himself haunted by the violence around him as well as his own moral failings.

The film focuses then not on violence, but on the effects of war. The story takes viewers through the war-ravaged countryside as the characters, portrayed brilliantly by their actors, attempt to cope with what has happened to them. As the film goes on, the story lingers on scenes where characters simply talk to each other. Sometimes about the plot, but oftentimes about their past traumas and the ways they deal with their own history.

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The performance given by Andy Serkis (shown before CGI effects are added on the left) as Cesar is stunning as he brings a quiet but tired anger to a character made entirely of CGI effects. His performance isn’t the only standout; Woody Harrelson plays a terrifying but sympathetic villain as the Colonel, and newcomer Amiah Miller packs clarity and wisdom into Nova, a mute human girl taken in by the group.

Of course, there is fighting and some pretty awesome explosions at the end in the final battle, but even then, the violence is grounded in the anger, empathy, and history of the characters. Even the climactic scene involves not violence, but a scene between two characters connecting.  And admittedly, if what you’re buckling in for is something more lighthearted, the movie will drag a bit as Cesar and his group interact slowly with every plot point. But if you’re looking for poignancy, War for the Planet of the Apes has this in spades.

(Note that the library does not have this movie available to check out as it is still in theaters. It is currently on order). 

written by: kassie marie

 

Now In Theaters: Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman (2017)

Director: Patty Jenkins

Starring: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Robin Wright

If you grew up in the 70s, you may have watched Wonder Woman the TV series. You know, Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman? Cool arm bracelets that deflect bullets? Golden lasso which can submit any human to tell the complete truth? I watched the TV series in my youth, and LOVED it. I was not convinced this film would do the TV series justice, but it has. Rest easy Lynda Carter fans, the original Wonder Woman went to the Wonder Woman(2017) premiere, and gave the film (and star) her own stamp of approval.

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Star Gal Gadot, Director Patty Jenkins and original Wonder Woman Lynda Carter at the Wonder Woman (2017) Hollywood Premiere – May 2017.

Gal Gadot stars as Amazon Princess Diana (a.k.a. Wonder Woman) in this modern reboot, and she really brings it to the big screen. We get a chance to learn about the origin of Wonder Woman, just in case you are not a comic book reader. The film opens in modern day settings, with Diana receiving a special package at work. She starts to reminisce about her childhood, and the island she grew up. We watch as Diana is learning the truth of who she is, and what she is capable of. With the training, and mentoring of her mom and aunt, she is now ready to set out to fulfill her purpose.

Chris Pine stars as American pilot Steve Trevor, who is on a very important mission when he crashes on Diana’s island. Steve and Diana become friends and allies (and maybe more?). The film is a visual feast for the eyes, so I urge you to catch it on the big screen. At 2 hours and 21 minutes, it may seem long, but it is fast paced and holds your attention. The fight and battle scenes are griping, every frame a cinematic work of art. I am hoping the cinematographer (Matthew Jensen) gets at least an Oscar nomination.

 

Supporting cast members Robin Wright (as Aunt Antiope), and Connie Nielsen as Hippolyta (Diana’s Mom), are strong, smart, and give Diana everything she needs to make it on her own . The training scenes are amazing. Nothing falls flat in this film, from the soundtrack, to the costumes, to all the brilliant performances, you will not be disappointed. Brava to director Patty Jenkins.

written by: Sandie Neri