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REVIEW – Selena

April 20, 2019 Leave a comment
Directed by: Gregory Nava
Produced by: Abraham Quintanilla Jr., Moctesuma Esparza, Robert Katz
Written by: Gregory Nava
Edited by: Nancy Richardson
Cinematography by: Edward Lachman
Music by: Dave Grusin
Starring: Jennifer Lopez, Edward James Olmos, Jon Seda, Constance Marie, Jacob Vargas, Lupe Ontiveros, Jackie Guerra, Rebecca Lee Meza, Panchito Gómez
Year: 1997

April 16, 2019 would have been the 48th birthday of influential Tejano singer Selena Quintanilla-Pérez. Tragically, Selena was murdered just shy of her 24th birthday on March 31, 1995 by the former head of her fan club, Yolanda Saldívar, who had been recently fired for embezzling money. Despite her young age and shortened career, Selena has gone on to become one of the highest selling Latino artists of all time and has gone on to be a major influence on countless artists after her. I was only 8 when she died and despite having heard a few of her songs here and there, I was not exactly aware of her as an artist until the film based on her life was released a mere two years after her death. The film became a staple in my family’s household, thanks in large part to my younger sister, who also had the film’s soundtrack and, I believe, some of Selena’s other albums. After moving out on my own, I largely forgot about the film beyond a few references (“Selinas!” “It looks like ‘Papa Yoyos’!” etc.), a general feeling that the film was mediocre, but the music was excellent, and so when theatres in my area decided to mark the singer’s birthday this past week with a screening, I decided to revisit the film and see if the experience could help me not only reassess it as a film, but see also if the film could provide me with some insight into the singer’s life, culture, and impact as an artist. Read more…

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REVIEW – Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas

December 22, 2016 4 comments
Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted ChristmasDirected by: Andy Knight
Produced by: Lori Forte, John C. Donkin
Written by: Flip Kobler, Cindy Marcus, Bill Motz, Bob Roth
Edited by: Daniel Lee
Art Direction by: Julie Eberley, Clive Powsey
Music by: Rachel Portman, Michael Starobin
Songs by: Rachel Portman, Don Black
Starring: Paige O’Hara, Robby Benson, Angela Lansbury, Jerry Orbach, David Ogden Stiers, Bernadette Peters, Tim Curry, Paul Reubens, Haley Joel Osment, Frank Welker, Jeff Bennett, Kath Soucie, Andrew Keenan-Bolger
Year: 1997

 

Disney may not have invented the concept of the midquel (a follow-up that takes place between the timeframe of the original work, rather than before or after), but with their direct-to-video series, I swear that they’re probably the one studio to make unusually extensive use of the concept. There’s Tarzan 2, Bambi II, The Lion King 1 ½, The Fox and the Hound II, and, as a follow-up to a film that celebrated its 25th anniversary just this year, Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas. (This would itself followed up by Belle’s Enchanted World, which was actually a compilation of episodes meant for a TV spinoff set within the timeline of the original movie that never came to be.) Along with the Aladdin movies and the first Lion King sequel, this was one of the few direct-to-video follow-ups my family actually had sitting around while growing up, and I recall that my sister and I would proudly claim that we were the owners of “the only good Disney sequels,” which… yeah, I don’t know about that, considering there weren’t that many at the time to begin with, and they all were pretty awful to meh in terms of quality. The Enchanted Christmas, in particular, is probably the worst of the four that we owned (it’s been a while since I’ve seen the others, granted), particularly considering the quality of the film that bore it. Read more…

REVIEW – This Christmas

December 7, 2016 1 comment
This ChristmasDirected by: Preston A. Whitmore II
Produced by: Preston A. Whitmore II, Will Packer
Written by: Preston A. Whitmore II
Edited by: Paul Seydor
Cinematography by: Alexander Gruszynski
Music by: Marcus Miller
Starring: Loretta Devine, Delroy Lindo, Idris Elba, Regina King, Sharon Leal, Columbus Short, Lauren London, Chris Brown, Laz Alonso, Ricky Harris, Keith Robinson, Jessica Stroup, Lupe Ontiveros, David Banner, Ronnie Warner, Mekhi Phifer
Year: 2007

 

Holiday drama. For many, if not most families, it’s intrinsic to the time of year. Usually, or at least hopefully, families usually get through it all, however, come together, and celebrate in unison, as it should be, and forget all the troubles, at least for now. Of course, such an idyllic situation would not necessarily make for good storytelling, and so we have a whole swath of Christmas films centered around seasonal drama, regardless of whether or not the films themselves categorically fall into that genre, and that is how we get films like Four Christmases, The Family Stone, Christmas Vacation, Happy Christmas, The Santa Clause, A Madea Christmas, Krampus… And those are just the Christmas movies I’ve reviewed that are centered on the drama of family during the Christmas season. This year also sees the release of Almost Christmas, a film centered on yet another family coming together and enduring their wacky antics while learning to accept each other’s faults and “act like a family.” Well, I’m not paying money for that, namely because the movie got mediocre reviews, and I have things to afford. I will, however, watch producer Will Packer’s previous Christmas family dramedy This Christmas. Read more…

THEATRICAL REVIEW: Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping

June 11, 2016 1 comment
Popstar: Never Stop Never StoppingDirected by: Akiva Schaffer, Jorma Taccone
Produced by: Judd Apatow, Rodney Rothman, Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer, Jorma Taccone
Written by: Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer, Jorma Taccone
Edited by: Jamie Gross, Stacey Schroeder, Zene Baker
Cinematography by: Brandon Trost
Music by: The Lonely Island, et al.
Starring: Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer, Jorma Taccone, Sarah Silverman, Tim Meadows, Imogen Poots, Joan Cusack, Maya Rudolph, Chris Redd, James Buckley, Will Arnett, Eric André, Chelsea Peretti, Mike Birbiglia, Bill Hader
Year: 2016

 

Ah, the lifestyles of the rich and famous. So glamorous. So scandalous. So ripe for parody. The hilariously titled Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping is a mockumentary that was bound to draw comparisons from the very beginning to another particular musical mockumentary, This Is Spinal Tap. However, Popstar differentiates itself just enough by not only focusing on the musicians themselves, but by putting real life, self-important, money-siphoning documentaries like Justin Bieber: Never Say Never and One Direction: This Is Us in its crosshairs, resulting in a film that is, of course, a bit more current and, thus, a lot more prone to poking fun at the marketing and technological synergy inherent to modern pop stars, as well as the generic, myopic, and self-important altruism so many modern celebrities seem to espouse. And, because it’s a Lonely Island production, it has more than a touch of their signature absurdities thrown in, too. Read more…

REVIEW: Music of the Heart – In memory of Wes Craven

September 5, 2015 1 comment
Music of the HeartDirected by: Wes Craven
Produced by: Susan Kaplan, Marianne Maddalena, Allan Miller, Walter Scheuer
Written by: Pamela Gray
Edited by: Gregg Featherman, Patrick Lussier
Cinematography by: Peter Deming
Music by: Mason Daring (score), Diane Warren (theme)
Starring: Meryl Streep, Angela Bassett, Gloria Estefan, Aidan Quinn, Cloris Leachman, Jane Leeves, Jean-Luke Figueroa, Olga Merediz, Kieran Culkin, Charlie Hofheimer, Rosalyn Coleman, Michael Angarano, Josh Pais, Henry Dinhofer, Justin “DJ” Spaulding
Based on a true story and inspired by the 1995 documentary Small Wonders by Allan Miller
Year: 1999

 

Wes Craven was in many ways my gateway to appreciating horror. Though I had seen and enjoyed horror films prior to anything he had made, Craven was the one who enabled me to dig further into the classic slasher movies that most people think of when they discuss the genre. When I first decided to dedicate the month of October to horror films, three of the first movies I reviewed were Wes Craven-directed: The Last House on the Left, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and Wes Craven’s New Nightmare. During that time, my unfavorable review of the first Elm Street film actually caught the attention of a group from pretty much the fan site for the series, and this encouraged me to review a few more of the films, including the Craven-produced Dream Warriors and the aforementioned New Nightmare, both of which I actually enjoyed more than the first.

Before even this, however, there was Scream, the film that both celebrated and satirized the genre Craven had helped form. Now, I actually saw the third film in the series first at a sleepover back in 7th or 8th grade, and even though it’s considered the weakest of the series, and though I had no familiarity with the characters to have much context for what was going on, I actually had a good time with it, and I subsequently sought out the rest of the films at the time and enjoyed those even more! During my time as a horror genre-hater, the Scream series remained my one exception whenever horror movies came up as a topic of conversation, as they were more fun than truly terrifying to me. It soon became apparent, however, that I really should see the movies that Scream was deconstructing, and so this actually put the pressure on me to finally give films like the Elm Street movies, Friday the 13th, Halloween, and even The Cabin in the Woods their fair chance. I didn’t always like them, but the process itself has been enjoyable, and I feel like the pressure has certainly given me a new perspective and appreciation for the genre as a whole.

Sadly, Wes Craven suddenly passed away this week after a quiet battle with brain cancer, and I actually felt a pretty great sense of personal loss when I heard the news. I’ve still yet to see other famous films of his like People Under the Stairs and The Hills Have Eyes, but Craven had unbeknownst to me actually cemented himself in my mind as a filmmaker I still greatly appreciated, if only because of his indirect encouragement to branch out in my movie habits. Craven will always be remembered for his work in the horror genre, but instead of reviewing one of those famous horror films, I figured I’d do something a bit different and honor the guy by reviewing his own foray into unfamiliar territory, the often forgotten Music of the Heart, a sentimental based-on-a-true-story drama that has been sitting in my Netflix instant viewing queue for quite a while ever since I randomly glanced at the name “Wes Craven” being tied to a film that had Meryl Streep, Angela Basset, and Gloria Estefan in the film’s poster. Read more…

REVIEW: Stormy Weather

Stormy WeatherDirected by: Andrew L. Stone
Produced by: William LeBaron
Screenplay by: H.S. Kraft
Story by: Jerry Horwin, Seymore B. Robinson
Edited by: James B. Clark
Cinematography by: Leon Shamroy
Music by: Harold Arlen
Starring: Lena Horne, Bill Robinson, Cab Calloway, Katherine Dunham, Fats Waller, Fayard Nicholas, Harold Nicholas, Ada Brown, Dooley Wilson
Year: 1943

 

I’d largely forgotten this film’s existence until I saw that Screen Archives had done a limited release of the film on Blu-Ray (Thanks, Blu-Ray.com!). The name immediately stuck out, and so I alerted my mom, an avid fan of old musicals, to the film, knowing about its historical significance as one of the earliest major studio films to feature an all-black cast, but having admittedly very little knowledge of what it was actually about – apart from the fact that it was a musical, and I had seen Lena Horne’s performance of the title song somewhere, probably in one of those musical documentaries that always aired on TCM or AMC. After purchasing it (and accidentally shipping it to myself instead of my mom), I did watch it, though, and realized something fairly interesting about the film, divorced from the racial significance: It’s actually kind of boring if you’re not that invested in the characters or their story, and I wasn’t. Read more…

REVIEW: That Thing You Do!

April 14, 2015 Leave a comment
That Thing You Do!Directed by: Tom Hanks
Produced by: Jonathan Demme, Gary Goetzman, Edward Saxon
Written by: Tom Hanks
Edited by: Richard Chew
Cinematography by: Tak Fujimoto
Music by: Howard Shore
Songs by: Tom Hanks, Adam Schlesinger, Rick Elias, Scott Rogness, Mike Piccirillo, Gary Goetzman, Howard Shore
Starring: Tom Everett Scott, Liv Tyler, Johnathon Schaech, Steve Zahn, Ethan Embry, Tom Hanks, Obba Babatundé, Holmes Osborne, Charlize Theron, Bill Cobbs, Giovanni Ribisi
Year: 1996

 

If there were any two comedies that resonated with me as a kid as being truly “great” versus merely “entertaining,” those movies were Groundhog Day and That Thing You Do! These were movies I would watch when I was bored or when I was doing chores or when I was in a bad mood or when I was in a good mood – or when I was just really in the mood for some truly great movies, period. These were also two of the few movies that everyone in my family could agree upon to watch together and be contented with while growing up, which, if you know my childhood, was something very significant. Read more…

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