Fall 2015 Mini Movie Reviews

I go to the movies pretty often, usually once a weekend unless there’s absolutely nothing I want to see or I have other plans. I’ve had this habit for the past few years now, always asking around for friends to join me, but it’s rare that people want to spend the money anymore as ticket prices climb ever higher. Or they only want to go when it’s raining. Or only when there’s something mind-blowingly awesome out, worthy of a big screen night out. Not me. I’ll see anything. With anyone. Or with no one. Hell, I go alone more often than not these days.

You can find me strolling the halls of my local theater on a Sunday afternoon during their discount hours (tickets drop to just $6!) … it doesn’t bother me, in fact, it’s become my me time: I plop down in a practically empty theater, stretch my legs, enjoy my snack, and toss a sheepish grin over to the other people who are there by themselves, as if to say, I get it. We’re the film nuts. The ones who avoid the date nights, the late nights, the crowds, the kids, the squealing teens. We just want to enjoy a good movie. Or a not-so-good movie. We’re there for the experience of it. (Or because we have no social lives, but whatever, who’s judging.)

So, with all that movie-going, I can usually tell you what’s good and what to avoid. I get texts from my long-distance friends asking for my opinions and suggestions. And I’ve got ‘em. So I figured it was time to put that to good use and give you all a run-down of what I’ve seen over the past couple of months, in order of release date …

EVEREST | 9/25/15

Key Players: Jason Clarke, Josh Brolin, Sam Worthington

EverestI saw this one with my mom. (It was either this or The Walk starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and she’s afraid of heights—this movie didn’t really do anything to help that either.) It’s the harrowing story of a group of climbers caught in one of the worst storms Nepal had ever seen back in 1996. I’m trying to remain spoiler-free this issue, so if you’re unfamiliar with the tale, just consider this: If you’re afraid of heights, frostbite, freezing to death, or suffocation, maybe skip it. Looking for a triumphant survival story? Wellllll … the cinematography was beautiful and the film had the added bonus (for me) of Jake Gyllenhaal in a minor role. Keira Knightley delivered a couple gut-punches with her tearful phone calls and by the end, I was just grateful I’d never had the urge to climb a mountain. But it was still worth seeing.

See it? If you’re a hiker, thrill-seeker, or into unflinching biopics, sure. Continue reading

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Five Favorite Movies Starring … Animals!

The Lion King (1994)

The Lion KingThis gradually became one of my favorite Disney movies as I got older. I never used to consider it one of the core faves (which include The Little Mermaid, Beauty & the Beast, and Aladdin), but I have a new appreciation for it now. It was one of the few films that did sequels effectively—Simba’s Pride is pretty solid with a couple goosebump-inducing tunes. I’d have to say it has some of the most breath-taking animation of the Disney world, from the dazzling African landscapes to the herds of wild animals. And what a powerful message! I’m 27 years old and I still cannot make it through Mufasa’s death scene without shedding at least one rolling tear. (I mean, come on, can ANYONE watch that scene?) What has propelled my affection for it over the past couple years is my experience seeing the live theater adaptation on Broadway in the summer of 2012. I love stage shows, but this one knocked everything I’ve ever seen (and there have been MANY) straight out of the park. You don’t think they can orchestrate a stampede on a small stage? Oh, but they can. It was phenomenal. And the music was just amplified; I had so many chills for the entire three hours. It was infused with tribal influences and had some truly wonderful voices bringing the words to life. If you ever get the chance, go see it! Continue reading

Vacation Hangover Movies: Cruise Edition

The post-vacation transition from relaxation back to the rise-and-grind routine is usually a pretty tough one. At press time, it’s my first day “back to work” (working from home is such a godsend) after a 10-day cruise throughout the Caribbean. I boarded Royal Caribbean’s Liberty of the Seas with my family on Thursday, June 18 and spent the next week exploring: King’s Wharf, Bermuda … Philipsburg, St. MaartenSan Juan, Puerto Rico … and Labadee, Haiti. We kayaked. We snorkeled. We saw the sights. We swam. We sweat buckets on beautiful beaches. All while living on a floating oasis that offered an ice-skating rink, full-sized boxing ring, rock-climbing wall, surfing simulator, mini golf course, three pools, five hot tubs, and mouth-watering meal options that included a full daily buffet for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, a coffee café, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream parlor, cupcake shop, Johnny Rockets, sushi bar, 24-hour pizza, and a five-star formal dining room for dinner. (I’m actually working from home because I can’t see my feet anymore; I just roll from room to room.)

Needless to say, it was a wonderful escape … but it’s always nice to come home. I tend to return to reality with overwhelming wanderlust stowed away in my suitcase, so to help my travel hangover subside, I usually watch some movies that help me ease back into the real world. When I go to Disney World, I unwind with Disney movies. When I visit an island, movies that take place in Hawaii or Greece, usually. So since I just got off a 13-deck luxury ocean liner, I plan to indulge in some of my favorite flicks that take place on (or in) the high seas, such as:

Pirates of the Caribbean | 2003

PiratesBefore Johnny Depp became Disney’s cash cow and Tim Burton’s play thing, he was a respected actor who chose his roles very carefully. The tip of the slippery slope he’s found himself on in recent years (in my opinion) was his very first portrayal of Captain Jack Sparrow—which isn’t to say that I don’t love those movies, because I do, very much so. I just don’t like what it did to his career and that they couldn’t stop at just one excellent film. Regardless, the first is the best, as is usually the case, and I absolutely love watching it when I want to get into a nautical mood. Based on the popular Walt Disney World attraction, it’s a highly quotable swashbuckling adventure that I’ve practically memorized. Drink up, me hearties, yo ho! Continue reading

Five Favorite Disney Things

1. Mickey’s Philharmagic

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When I was a kid, walking down Main Street USA in the middle of Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom used to overwhelm me with such giddiness, to the point where I developed an unsightly waddle and wanted to laugh, cry, and vomit simultaneously. I’d like to say I’ve grown out of that, but for the generation who grew up with beloved Disney animation, I don’t think that feeling ever quite goes away. When the park unveiled their latest technologically-advanced attraction in October of 2003, it was the first of its kind (before Soarin’ came to Epcot in 2005) to boast an immersive 4D experience.

PhilharmagicMickey’s Philharmagic is a 12-minute theater show that starts with maestro Mickey intending to direct a grand orchestra (hence the wordplay). But Donald, ever the troublemaker, steals the magic hat and accidentally plunges himself into the vibrant and enchanting world of Walt’s classic films.

The first time I saw it, I cried. That’s not me trying to be hyperbolic and funny, a tear or two legitimately rolled down my cheeks because it was pure Disney brilliance and magic imagined and realized. How many of us Disney kids fell in love with those movies and wished we could dive right into them and join our childhood friends on their amazing adventures?

And they made it so real: 4D technology combines 3D images (projected onto a 150 foot-wide screen, in this case), plus effects that play with your other senses, momentarily helping you to forget that you’re simply sitting in a cushy chair somewhere in Orlando—a whiff of pie during the Beauty and the Beast sequence, a splash of water during The Little Mermaid, not to mention the songs we know every word to in booming surround sound. The creschendo of “Part of Your World” is probably when the chills started, but I was transfixed and grinning like an idiot all the way through The Lion King, Peter Pan, and Aladdin.

Suffice it to say, I highly recommend standing in line for this one the next time you find yourself strolling down Main Street USA. Just take the second star to the right and straight on ‘til Fantasyland. Continue reading

Welcome To Jurassic World

This past weekend, I was all about the pop culture phenom-of-the-moment: I binge-watched season three of Netflix’s prison dramedy “Orange is the New Black” and sat enRAPTORed (ba-dum-BUM) throughout the record-breaking dino juggernaut “Jurassic World”—twice.

1907492_10100414465579958_262451441502663559_nI’ll get to OITNB later, but for now, #RaptorSquad4Lyfe!

Jurassic World exceeded all expectations, not only mine, but at the box office as well. It shattered opening weekend statistics, earning $524.4 million worldwide. (It’s the first film ever to make more than $500 million in one weekend!) Domestically, it was lagging only behind Avengers: Age of Ultron before finally smashing it down with $208.8 in U.S. sales. So, uh … wow.

I wanted this movie to be so good so badly (it is). I wanted to learn to like Chris Pratt (I did). I wanted to be amazed (I was). Most importantly, I wanted to know that all the years spent waiting would be worth it; for a while, it seemed a third sequel would never happen. We last saw the residents of Isla Nublar and Isla Sorna back in 2001 and perhaps the long wait was needed to refresh and hit us hard with a brand new concept. It’s been said that Jurassic World is intended to be direct sequel to the 1993 film, safe to pretend that the other two—The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997) and Jurassic Park 3 (2001)—don’t even exist. Probably wise.

Hats off to director Colin Trevorrow and executive producer Steven Spielberg (director of the legendary original); the film was both an homage to and brilliant reimagining of John Hammond’s innovative vision. The park is open!

Here’s how Jurassic World rates against its predecessor (IMO): Continue reading

When Sequels Suck: Pitch Perfect 2

Let me start by saying I was totally psyched for Pitch Perfect 2. I was one of the ones who actually wanted to see the first one, not one of the many who heard about it from someone else and was convinced to see it. And I loved it. It was the first time in a long time that I laughed (full wheezing, out-of-breath, practically-crying laughs) and it wasn’t because it was lewd or obscene—it was just funny. Seemingly an overnight success, Pitch Perfect was a new brand of comedy poised to impact the genre. So its sequel, written by very same person as the first installment, should’ve been a smash hit, right? Well pardon the musical humor, but I walked away feeling it had fallen very flat indeed.

PP2 Review

Here are 5 reasons why: Continue reading

2015 Summer Movie Preview, Part 2

Eh, what the heck. Here’s five more.

Poltergeist | May 22

PoltergeistI find re-boots to be really frustrating, especially when I’m already a big fan of the original. I still remember the very first time I saw the Spielberg-written and produced 1982 fright flick; I was far too young and just flipping channels at my grandparents’ house. It was already to the part where Diane goes after Carol Anne and the huge hunk of skeleton head snarls at Steve. I later watched the full film a couple years later with my dad and sis, who couldn’t have been older than six at the time. She didn’t even flinch at the scene where that guy peeled his face off, but I couldn’t sleep that night. It’s since become one of my favorite scary movies, so I’m incredibly skeptical as to what an attempted remake can do to the integrity of the original, which already has a real life spooky story to back it up. But the trailer does make it look pretty terrifying and even though I NEVER see horror movies in the theater, I feel like this will be one that I just have to bring myself to sit through.

Continue reading