Top 10 Favorite On Screen Pirates

Avast ye matey’s, yesterday be International Talk Like a Pirate Day, so I thought I would look at all of the pirates that have ever swash buckled their way into our hearts and count down my favorites from film and television. Some are dastardly villains, some are humorous foes, some are romantic heroes, and some are every thing in the book. But all definitely have a flair for the dramatic, a distinctive personality and have tongues and wits as sharp as their swords!

10. “Captain Hook” portrayed by Hans Conried (Peter Pan)

disney hook

This version of the classic character may be a codfish, and one we can find humor in more so than be frightened of, like other Disney villain’s. But make no mistake, this pirate may often be fooled by his nemesis Peter Pan, but also has his moments of intelligence, clarity and downright evil, and against those who are very young including Tiger Lily, the Darling children and Pan himself. Thank goodness Tinkbell’s bravery out shined her vanity, and in the end Peter was saved and the Crocodile will continue to give the captain what he deserves.

9. “Blackbeard” portrayed by Charles Mesure (Once Upon a Time)

blackbeard
Much more of villain than his on screen nemesis’ Killian Jones, this dastardly pirate looks more like a traditional version of Captain Hook than the show’s actual Hook with his long red coat and dark long hair. He is elegant, deceitful, but also quite funny, with a great chemistry between Mesure and O’Donoghue to boot, making this pirate one of the show’s best recurring characters.

8. “Captain Hector Barbossa” portrayed by Geoffrey Rush (Pirates of the Caribbean)

barbossa
The brilliant chameleon of an actor Geoffrey Rush manages to take a wicked, typical pirate villain and turn him into a well layered and compelling character that is more than villain throughout the course of the franchise. He is killed, then resurrected and continues in his cunning pirate ways, only for us to discover that there is an actual heart that is vulnerable and sympathetic to others, from the couple he married aboard his ship during an epic battle, to the daughter he never knew he had. I can’t believe I ended up crying over Barbossa, but I did!

7. “John Merrick” portrayed by Gabriel Byrne (Shiprecked)

shipwreckedgabrielbyrne2
A pirate who is most definitely dark and evil, this understated pirate carries out his sinister work in the shadows and in disguise as the Naval Captain he murdered. Taking over a crew of good, hard working sailors, he slowly poisons a good Captain, delves out harsh punishments and is willing to hurt the young and innocent, all in the name of money. What a true pirate definitely was in reality, this is a grounded and effective character indeed.

6. “Elizabeth Swann” portrayed by Keira Knightley (Pirates of the Caribbean)

elizabeth swann
The beautiful Elizabeth was born into a world of propriety and wealth, but all her life longed for adventure and was drawn to more. Make no mistake, the girl who showed us all that life is more than corsets, gowns and arranged marriages, learns inner strength as well as the ways of a Pirate life and found her way as both a capable woman and swashbuckling pirate in her own right. Eventually she is elected Captain Swann, a pirate King leading all of the crews of the world in an epic battle for freedom. She is fearless, strong and willing to do anything for those she loves. But like her eventual husband Will, always remains on the side of honor. Her story was one of resilience and patience as she is finally reunited with her beloved Will permanently, True Love knowing no bounds.

5. “Captain James Hook” portrayed by Dustin Hoffman (Hook)

hook dustin
There is not a more traditional version of J.M. Barrie’s Captain Hook more brilliant than Dustin Hoffman’s portrayal of the villain. Many years after Peter Pan left Neverland and had a family, Hook kidnaps Pan’s two children, wanting revenge and war against the “boy’ who cut off his hand and threw it to the crocodile. An evocative, delight of a film, what makes it stand out is definitely this Hook who is sardonic, sour, slimy and yet charming. He is funny but never ridiculous, cunning and resourceful but not without his moments levity. Hoffman’s Hook is dastardly perfection.

4. “Will Turner” portrayed by Orlando Bloom (Pirates of the Caribbean)

will turner.gif
The more traditional heroic pirate of the series, comparatively, the handsome and steadfast William Turner, son of the pirate “Bootstrap” Bill Turner, didn’t even start out in this role. Beginning the franchise as a humble blacksmith who turned his nose up at those filthy, low life pirates he encountered as he vowed to rescue his love Elizabeth from, he soon became the ideal combination of pirate and hero as he teamed up, and sometimes became at odds with, Jack Sparrow, Barbarossa, Davy Jones and a vast crew of miscreants. However, he always remained on the side which was honorable and in the best interest as those he loved. Will Turner is the pirate who went on a great journey all in the name of love and family.

3. “Captain Jack Sparrow” portrayed by Johnny Depp (Pirates of the Caribbean)

jack sparrow
Is there any other character like Captain Jack Sparrow? I had seen many a pirate film, and had been on the ride in which the film is based on countless times. But when Jack first appeared on screen in the 2003 film, it was an indicator of exactly the kind of unique, wonderful and instantly beloved character he would become. Standing tall on the mast of a ship, the salty sea wind in his face, he looks proud and resolute, until we see he is on a modest boat that is sinking in which he sails right into the dock on the boat’s final moments afloat. He’s hilarious and unlike any other pirate we’ve seen. The seemingly perpetually drunk Captain Jack Sparrow is a character we can laugh at and root for despite his look out for himself ways. The franchise would not be what it is without this clever, funny, and resilient pirate, who simply wants freedom, respect, and above all rum.

2. “Westley/Dread Pirate Roberts” portrayed by Cary Elwes (The Princess Bride)

westley
As Wesley’s portrayer Cary Elwes so perfectly stated recently, there’s a shortage of perfect films out there, and I would say that not only is The Princess Bride one of those films, but one of the main reasons is due to the character of Westley, and the incomparable performance by Elwes. After being presumed dead by his True Love Buttercup, poor farm boy Westley returns as the Dread Pirate Roberts, ‘kidnapping” (but truly rescuing) the princess and only revealing himself after a tumble down a cliff and an exclaim of those famous words of I Love You, “As You Wish.” Like the film itself, this pirate is charming, funny, and full of line after line of wisdom, truths, and flair. Westley is strong, romantic, brave, and all in all the perfect fairy tale pirate hero.

1. “Killian Jones/Captain Hook” portrayed by Colin O’Donoghue (Once Upon a Time)

killian smile 7

Was there any doubt as to who my number 1 pick would be. The dashing rapscallion of the beloved fairy tale series didn’t appear until Season 2, but soon became not only a fan favorite, but one of the best characters in the show with the brilliant performance by O’Donoghue and excellent character and story development. Going from a charming villain whose allegiances often simply aligned with whoever he could benefit the most from, this version of Hook, real name Killian Jones, became a fully fledged romantic hero, helping to save Storybrooke and many characters numerous times and winning the heart of the show’s leading lady, the Savoir herself Emma Swan. His story ended in a beautiful way as he retained his pirate flair, charm, and intelligence, while becoming a hero, husband and father. This modern version of Captain Hook is one for the ages!

What are your favorite on screen pirates? Did I mention some of yours? Let me know in the comment section!!

 

Shipwrecked Image Credit (x)

End of Summer Movie Night

The end of summer may be drawing near, but for those us who want to hold onto that sweet summer fun just a bit longer, one of the best ways to do this is with a fun “Summer Movie Might.” Whether it be in the comfort of your own home, at a special screening in the park, on a television, or from a projector, these are some films that are perfect reflections and companions to the summer season, whether it be in the heart of it or in those sweet final days.

Classic

The Parent Trap (1961)

The original and superior film, this Disney classic starring Hayley Mills, Brian Keith and Maureen O’Hara is a funny, sweet and naturalistic classic look at two girls who meet at summer camp and realize they are sisters, separated and each going with a different parent when they were just babies. That realization is quite sad when you examine it, but when they devise a plan to switch places in hopes of getting their parents back together, in turn it becomes a heartwarming and often hilarious film. Taking place in the summertime, the scenes at Camp Inch and at the father’s home in Monterey, California are rich with warmth, sunshine and sweetness of a more carefree era.

Gidget (1959)

gidget

A slice of Americana, 50’s and 60’s era summer nostalgia, Gidget starring Sandra Dee, James Darren and Cliff Robertson is both adorable, light-hearted fun about the surfing craze and beach lifestyle of the time period, as well as a surprisingly poignant look at the complexities, confusion and pangs of being a teenager on the cusp of adulthood when it comes to love, sex, and what you want out of life. It’s simply seen with a lens that is less explicit than modern cinema, but still relatable. Of course at its core, the adventures of Gidget, Moondoggie and the Big Kahuna  are sweet summer fun.

Summer Magic (1963)

summer magic 1

 

Another oh so sweet lesser known Disney family film, is for those with a love for old fashioned sensibilities and way of life. Following a family who have fallen on hard times after the death of their father, they find happiness again in the Yellow House in the provincial town of Beluah, Maine where life is slow, and the people are friendly and generous. This may not be for everyone, but it’s rich with nostalgia of a bygone era. Taking place from summer all the way to Halloween, Summer Magic is a sweet showcase of overcoming loss and finding beauty in the little things from serenades on the front porch, to games of croquet and carving pumpkins.

Romance/Drama

Letters to Juliet (2010)

letters to juliet

Lovely little tale for the hopeless romantics, this film is not only beautiful in the sun-kissed splendor of Italy, but in the story of Sophie and the “Juliet” she helps to find her long lost love, while also finding a little romance of her own. What makes this film so lovely is that it showcases a love story that is about those who have lived a long life and yet their hearts still beat for each other after many years apart. A fine cast including Amanda Seyfried and Vanessa Redgrave, this modern tale of love in Verona is the perfect romantic summer delight.

Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants Series (2005, 2008)

Touching, poignant, relatable interweaving stories of four best friends as they make the transition into young adulthood, going through the trails and tribulations of young love, the loss of loved ones, personal struggles, and insecurities, all while sharing a miraculous pair of jeans that somehow magically fits all of them. Over the course of two summers, these four young women discover so much about themselves and life and realize that their bond, their sisterhood is an unbreakable one, and that together, or apart, true friends will always be there to offer love, support and comfort as soft as a well worn pair of jeans.

Musical

La La Land (2016)

la la land

City of Stars, are you shining just for me? A bittersweet love story, a nostalgic, colorful musical splendor, a love letter to the beauties of Los Angeles, La La Land is all that and more. If you are a lover of the old fashioned musical and a modern romantic story, then this is the perfect combination. It makes one want to head to LA and see all of its local treasures. It may be a bit of a fantasy, but it’s one wrapped in love, joy and the thrill of summer days and nights filled color and music. And who does not love the effervescent duo of Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling who shine as brightly as that city of stars.

Summer Stock (1950)

Gene Kelly and Judy Garland made three films together for MGM, and this one is by far the sweetest, funniest, and brightest of the bunch. A summer stock company led by Kelly descends on Garland’s farm, as her sister, often carefree and thoughtless, brings them to rehearse their upcoming production. Of course, mayhem ensues and well as the romantic entanglements that so often fill these type of musicals are presents, as well as lovely musical numbers, incredible dancing, the fantastic chemistry between Garland and Kelly, and just wondrous summertime fun for all.

Adventure

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)

pirates 1

The first (and still the best) in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise is a perfect, swashbuckling adventure. Filled with humor, romance, a creative story, incredible cast, and characters that have become so a part of our culture, The Curse of the Black Pearl is not only a great “popcorn” flick for a summer night, but ones that never seems to grow old, no matter how many times we watch and are transported to the exotic and beautiful Caribbean, frightening battles of moonlight crews of skeletons, romantic tension of young Elizabeth and Will, and hilarious, captivating Captain Jack Sparrow, the clever rapscallion we all adore.

Swiss Family Robinson (1960)

The strength of the human spirit, the importance of love and family, and the admiration of ingenuity and bravery are what make this story of a family who are stranded on an island truly special. They must learn to adapt to this new world while encountering wild animals and fending off cutthroat pirates in this Disney classic based on the book of the same name. It’s a fun and touching family adventure film that remains a lovely, timeless classic.

Sports

The Sandlot (1993)

sandlot

No matter if you love or play baseball, this coming of age story of kids learning about this sport and themselves is a hilarious and often sweet look at childhood, its pangs and its simple joys, is one we can all can find something to relate to. Nostalgic, funny and rich with a small town American vibe, the summer spent with these young boys changes their lives forever, and the film has become part of or culture. Forever we will quote it when we think of that summer classic treat s’mores. If you don’t know the line, “You’re killing me Smalls,” do yourself a favor and check out this hoot of a summertime family film.

Bend it Like Beckham (2002)

Soccer, or as it is known in the UK where this film is set, Football, may not be a sport we all are familiar with. But the story of two young women who want so much to play while dealing with families who do not necessarily approve or understand is one that remains always relatable and poignant. Both dealing with cultural and gender issues, breaking free from the norms, and coming out triumphant and happy is a story that we should always delight in, celebrate and encourage to see more of. Bend it Like Beckham is a perfect film to end the summer with.

What are your favorite films to watch in the summer? Did I mention some of yours? Let me know in the comments!!

 

My First Trip to the D23 Expo

My first trip to the D23 expo which is held in at the Anaheim Convention center every two years was most definitely quite the learning experience. While I enjoyed myself, it was also a bit overwhelming and I now know what to expect, what to do and what not to do if I decide to attend the next one. Instead of taking the plunge and attending all three days, I went only one day (the last one). I actually almost missed attending all together because I grew ill a few days before, but luckily I started to feel better quickly enough and was able to power through and still go- albeit because of said illness I went about things at a slower pace and not at 100%, so there was definitely things I missed. But going in I had a few things I hoped to accomplish: see the show floor and attend at least one panel. And for the most part I did that.

IMG_4438.jpeg

Without a doubt my favorite thing I saw from the expo was The Art of Disney Storytelling Panel, hosted by John Stamos and his wife Caitlin and featuring Disney Legends, animators, producers and imagineers Tony Baxter, Floyd Norman, Don Hahn and Paul Briggs. They each told stories and offered insights on their experiences and different approaches to storytelling in film and in the Parks and it was funny, informative and overall a delight. Some of my favorite things including stories about Walt Disney inventing the concept of storyboards (which I was unaware of), and Howard Ashman and Alan Menken being really involved in story meetings and Ashman explaining how foreshadowing exists in the song “Part of Your World,” which for as many times as I have heard that song and seen The Little Mermaid, is something I never thought of. I also loved Tony Baxter’s story of how he received a postcard from Ray Bradbury after he rode Peter Pan’s Flight with Charles Laughton of all people. He wrote to him that he had “boarded a pirate galleon, flew out of a child’s bedroom and over London! You can’t get much better than that!” And how true is that!

IMG_4484IMG_4485IMG_4490IMG_4492

IMG_4494IMG_4495IMG_4496IMG_4497IMG_4498IMG_4500IMG_4502IMG_4503IMG_4504IMG_4505IMG_4506IMG_4507IMG_4508IMG_4509IMG_4510IMG_4511IMG_4512

The other favorite thing I saw was The ‘Heroes and Villains” Disney Archives costume exhibit. For just about anyone this display of a wide array of gorgeous and intricate costumes is amazing. But for someone like me who truly appreciates and loves what goes into filmmaking, including the aesthetics and true artistry of costumes, this exhibit was absolutely incredible. I truly lucked out with this year’s display as we got to see such a variety of yes, heroes and villains, and such a variety of films and television, from Once Upon a Time’s Cinderella and Captain Hook, to the live action remakes Cinderella, Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast, to the wonderful National Treasure and Prince of Persia, to EnchantedHocus Pocus, Alice in Wonderland and three different Mary Poppins costumes. It was a sumptuous feast for the eyes and I loved seeing each and every work of art.

IMG_4526IMG_4527IMG_4528IMG_4529

IMG_4525IMG_4524

IMG_4530IMG_4531IMG_4533IMG_4534IMG_4535IMG_4537

IMG_4541IMG_4542IMG_4543IMG_4544

IMG_4612IMG_4613

IMG_4540IMG_4545IMG_4546IMG_4547IMG_4549IMG_4550IMG_4554IMG_4555IMG_4556IMG_4557IMG_4558IMG_4559IMG_4560IMG_4561IMG_4562IMG_4563IMG_4564IMG_4566IMG_4567IMG_4568IMG_4574IMG_4609IMG_4610IMG_4569IMG_4570IMG_4571IMG_4572IMG_4573IMG_4614IMG_4615IMG_4602IMG_4601IMG_4604IMG_4605IMG_4593IMG_4594IMG_4607IMG_4608IMG_4587IMG_4598IMG_4599IMG_4588IMG_4589IMG_4590IMG_4674

As far as everything else I saw, and the overall process I can say it was a combo of fun, overwhelming, and in my particular case a little lonely and confusing. The staff was overall friendly but would sometimes give me conflicting information and finding the line for my reservation panel was quite difficult. And lines are definitely everywhere. Consequently, I missed seeing some stuff because lines were quite long, or just long enough that I skipped them as I was tired. It is also very large and, at least for me, easy to get turned around and not be sure exactly where you were and if you missed walking by/through anything on the floor. After watching some videos from the expo I discovered, there was A LOT I missed. And being by myself, I didn’t have anyone for another set of eyes and help with confusion and bearings, take pictures, and overall share the con experience with. I have been to many cons alone before, but for some reason, perhaps because it was my first one, or simply the nature of it being a Disney con, I wish I had not been alone and with a friend or group. It was a little lonely. Still there were come really cool things to be seen and I was able to enjoy myself despite everything.

IMG_4513IMG_4515IMG_4518IMG_4519IMG_4520IMG_4521IMG_4522

Attending the D23 also gave me the opportunity for a few other things. I stayed at the Anaheim Hilton for the first time, and this is a beautiful hotel. My room offered an amazing view and Disneyland’s fireworks were visible at night. And On Monday I had the great pleasure of finally meeting Becka, aka DisneyKitee, in Disney California Adventure, along with her husband. I spoke about Becka in this article about Disney Tubers, and since have been getting to know her. Finally getting to meet was so wonderful as she is a sweet and lovely person. Disney friends really are the best!! Go watch her videos on YouTube if you don’t already!!

IMG_4621IMG_4626IMG_4643IMG_4645

So all in all, while I enjoyed walking through the show area and seeing the panel, I know that if I decide to attend in 2021, there are definitely things I would do differently. I would only go if I went all 3 or at least 2 days as there is just so much to see, panels to watch and stores to shop in, and there must be sufficient time to walk around and wait in lines. I also would only attend with another person or group as it would be an easier, more relaxed, and simply more fun con experience than attending alone. That might not be an issue for some, but for me it is. Disney is my favorite thing in the world, but sharing that love with others makes it even more magical. Fingers crossed for magical D23Expo experience in 2021!!

IMG_4620

 

Aladdin (2019) Film Review

aladdin

When it comes to the live action remakes of Disney’s animated classics, the results most definitely vary. For me, some are absolutely enchanting (Cinderella), while others are middling and underwhelming (Maleficent). When it comes to Aladdin, I will be honest and say I was extremely nervous to see this movie. Not only does the 1992 Aladdin rank at number 4 in my list of favorite animated films, but the trailers left a lot to be desired and felt somewhat off and disjointed. It’s puzzling how the trailers did not do the film justice, but it just goes to show you how significant context is. Those fears were not only put to rest, but absolutely vanished and replaced with sheer delight and overall love. Indeed, much like the classic song we are treated to a shining, shimmering, splendid film that is infused just the right amount of nostalgia and feel of the original, while also adding some wonderful and rich new story beats, character enhancements, and music. Aladdin is a visually sumptuous, funny, and heartfelt retelling of the classic story that soared right into my heart.

Casting/Performances & Story/Character Enhancements

When it comes to any film, but especially in these Disney remakes, casting, and in turn performances, plays a crucial role in the overall quality of the film. And one of Aladdin’s finest attributes is indeed its cast. Mena Massoud is a brilliant and perfect Aladdin. He’s charming, funny and earnest with a dynamic energy and dazzling smile to match. He was able to make Aladdin’s agility look natural and believable, and his journey of self discovery that his strength of character was always there really touching. Naomi Scott’s Jasmine is equally terrific, infusing the feisty princess with heart, compassion, strength and an intelligence that comes from inherent nobility and desire to truly help her people. Individually, they are fantastic. Together they are equally wonderful with significantly more screen time together which added some lovely depth to their relationship, and showcased a natural, sweet, romantic chemistry that helps makes Aladdin and Jasmine remain of Disney’s greatest couples.

aladidn 1

Of course, a great deal of the film’s success rests on Will Smith’s Genie’s shoulders, and is undoubtedly who audiences were anticipating the most. No one can ever replace or replicate Robin Williams. What he created was unique, brilliant and beloved. But Smith truly brought his own amazing spin to the character. He brought a great deal of charm, sweetness and humor, and with the music a hip hop flair that he is not only known for but does exceedingly well. He was charismatic, but also at times profound and importantly very human. And that may be one of the best things Smith brought to the role. Instead of trying to replicate the larger than life portrayal by Williams, this Genie is more grounded, which not only felt appropriate but was undeniably likable. And like the original, the friendship between Aladdin and Genie is poignant and the cornerstone to the film’s themes, and the chemistry between both actors is terrific. I’m going out on a limb here and saying that this may be my favorite role Will Smith has ever done.

aladdin 2

The more human and grounded qualities in the other cast members and characters, as well as the story additions and changes are also what made the film work so well. What works in an animated film may not always translate or work in a live action one. Moreover, it’s important to distinguish it from its predecessor and add the necessary story beats needed for a new and longer live action film. In Aladdin’s case, these changes felt necessary and were executed beautifully. Jafar for example is an amazing villain in the animated version, but mostly a mustache twirling, over the top kind of villain whose evilness is obvious. That is great and works perfectly in an animated film. But I loved what they did with this new version of Jafar, who is younger, handsome and much more subdued. Marwan Kenzari grounds the character and showcases that villainy not only can come from a place of hardship but also that evil may not always look as such. It can be simmering under a surface that can be very attractive and persuasive. Honestly, much like they did with Gaston’s character in Beauty and Beast it’s important to portray villains in this realistic way. The same can be said for the Sultan (Navid Negahban), who is more reverent and realistic rather than goofy, as well as the animal characters of Abu, Iago and Rajah. There is obviously still the fantastical element about them but they feel closer to reality and in turn perfectly blended into the story. I smiled whenever they were on screen. Moreover, some other character and story additions that I absolutely loved were Jasmine’s hand maiden Dalia (Nasim Pedrad) who was sweet, funny and gave Jasmine a true friend and another scene partner that added real humor and heart. Some other changes were made at the climax and conclusion to the story that I won’t spoil, but they were refreshing, added dynamic action, and meaningful messages that a modern audience will certainly appreciate.

Direction and Visuals

I am a fan of many of Guy Ritchie’s films and his signature style. Aladdin is a much brighter and happier story than his usual fare but he was still able to bring his moments of slowed down or sped up film that is his trademark in some of the dancing and action sequences that I comes to expect from his work. This may be off putting or odd to some, especially if unfamiliar that this is Ritchie’s trademark visual that he always employs. I personally find it fun, but it may not be for some viewers. In addition to the direction, indeed all of the visuals are sumptuous and wondrous, from the rich and colorful costumes and sets to the sweeping camera work. These truly are an artistic feast that are both similar to the original but something entirely different and often as magnificent as what we saw in Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast. And while the blue version of the Genie is still a bit jarring on first glance, you quickly get used to it and are simply looking at the character.

Prince-Ali

Music and Songs

If I were to rank my favorite Disney soundtracks, 1992’s Aladdin is tied for the top spot with The Little Mermaid, so there was certainly a great deal to live up to with these new versions of the songs and score. All of the songs that we love are included and are brought to life with amazing and fresh takes and a different but wonderful energy. It’s difficult to actually choose a favorite, but “Friend Like Me,” which was already so fun and colorful in the original, has the same kind of fun flair and new hip hop vibe, also found in “Prince Ali,” which is slower, but drawn out in a way that almost felt necessary with the changes to Genie’s character. There is definitely a vibrant Bollywood influence to this number, while “One Jump Ahead” is just fun and gives added interaction between Aladdin and Jasmine. “A Whole New World,” which is my favorite Disney song, perhaps may not soar as high as the original, but at the same time, it’s almost impossible to do so. What is does do a give us a beautiful new version on this romantic scene. And I loved it vocally, orchestra wise, and visually with new locals the couple flies throughout and a lovely depiction of their inherent and natural chemistry. The new song “Speechless,” which is a anthem of strength given to Jasmine’s character, is a great song and moment for her arc. However, it’s inclusion, which is sung in a dream like sequence, and songwriters are La La Land and The Greatest Showman’s Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, instead of one of Menken’s other collaborators feels a bit disconnected and decidedly different from the rest of the songs. Is the song great? Yes, indeed it is. But its style does feel like a Paul and Pasek song as opposed to a Menken song.

Lastly, what is truly remarkable is that Menken composed new versions of his Aladdin themes and motifs as well as all new orchestrations for the entirely of the film, all of which are magnificent. They are deep, rich, and gorgeous and profoundly demonstrate what we already knew- that that Menken is not only a living legend for his body of work, but can still compose equally brilliant new musical scores. Menken should be revered in the same breath as such illustrious composers as John Williams and Hans Zimmer.

Final Thoughts

If you are debating whether to see this new version of Disney’s Aladdin, especially if you are a tremendous fan of the original or not always sure about live action remakes, I cannot recommend this film enough. Currently, for me this Aladdin ranks just below 2015’s Cinderella, but another viewing may move that to a tie for the top spot. Regardless, what I do know is that despite trepidation Aladdin proved to be a funny, effervescent, colorful and heartfelt diamond in the rough.

disney-screenshot-aladdin-1539714089

 

2018 Year in Review: Favorite Films of the Year

With Awards Season in full swing and many “Best Films” of the year being shared, here at The Girly Nerd, it is high time to share what were my favorite films in 2018. And there were an abundance of amazing ones. Common denominators certainly were abound: Netflix, post apocalyptic drama, super heroes, the return of the rom-com, welcome and meaningful diversity, and the beauty of stories and recapturing our childhoods and what truly matters. Without further ado here are my favorites for 2018, with some special acknowledge of standout performers and outstanding directors.

10. Dumplin’ dumplin_004.0

Dolly Parton once said “Find out who you are, and do it on purpose” and that is definitely the mantra that Dumplin’ employs so beautifully as Willowdean, the daughter of a former beauty queen, along with some fellow “revolutionaries” join their local pageant to prove a point about what pageants are, only for everyone involved to discover something profound about themselves and life. Dumplin’ is about embracing who you truly are, learning to forgive and not to judge others, and living and loving your best life, brought to life with great humor and heart.

9. What Still Remains what-still-remains

An evocative, thought provoking post apocalyptic drama, What Still Remains examines an extreme but profound “what if” scenario. What if you were living in a desolate world where so much of the population was gone and some that remained were lost in the most inhuman way imaginable. Would you in turn lose your humanity, in order to “survive” or would you maintain it because losing that would be equally devastating- because essentially you would be losing yourself. In this story that is what Anna encounters, when fellow survivor Peter brings her to his village which seems welcoming but underneath it all, does what cults do- twist religion and abandon the concept of free will and choice. Led by a nuanced and often chilling performance by Colin O’Donoghue, we see with Peter how the charismatic can be hiding something truly sinister within themselves (and casting someone as striking and charming as he is talented as O’Donoghue is brilliant), as well as the devastation of dark choices that cause us to lose our own humanity and try to take away those of others. Perhaps their world is bleak, but we must never lose ourselves or hope that something brighter is within reach.

8. Black Pantherblack-panther-movie-characters

The world of Wakanda is an extraordinary one and I have no doubt that most who were captivated by this world, found themselves chanting “Wakanda Forever” as the credits to Black Panther rolled and beyond. We first met the new king of Wakanda T’Challa in Captain America: Civil War and right away were drawn into his story and fine character. But Black Panther not only expands his story but the entirely of this world with even more remarkable characters, my personal favorite being T’Challa’s sister, and true genius Shuri. The accomplishments and exemplary thing about this film are two-fold. Not only is the story engrossing, acting wonderful, aesthetics gorgeous, and themes resonant, but we see representation with real, full and non stereotypical characters. This should be and hopefully will begin to be commonplace. But above all Black Panther is simply a wonderful and captivating film. A comic book film it may be with extraordinary circumstances, and heroes and villains alike. But at its heart, it’s resonant story about integrity and honor and learning how the world and the motivations of others are more complicated than we perhaps thought.

7. A Quiet Placejohn-krasinski-a-quiet-place-1200x675

Can you imagine a world where sound was your damnation? Where if you make any kind of loud noise, your life will most likely be lost, hunted down by a monster? That is the haunting concept of A Quiet Place, which is an extraordinarily artistic and evocative take on the classic thriller, post apocalyptic world. In truth, this film is about the power of love between family, most especially that between parent and child.  Anyone who is a parent is no doubt deeply moved by this tale of a family in a desolate world where sound, and the monstrous creatures that attack when they hear it, is their daily enemy. One of their children is deaf, and that combined with their necessary situation, provided such an effective usage of sound and sign language. When we are in young Regan’s perspective the film is almost completely silent to represent her point of view and it is truly affecting. The anxieties of the family are high when the birth of another child is imminent and they are separated. Not only on the edge of your seat in the traditional thriller way, A Quiet Place accomplishes what many films of the same nature do not. It deeply moves us. Director John Kraskinski said this was a love letter to his daughters, and with his on and off screen wife Emily Blunt, they created a story of true love, sacrifice and hope abound with the significance of always striving to learn and invent, and most especially to not just listen with our ears, but with our hearts and minds. A Quiet Place is a quietly profound film.

6. Crazy Rich Asianscrazy ricj

Funny, sweet, hilarious and another welcome and profoundly diverse film, I could not say it better than the wonderful Michelle Yeoh about what this films accomplishes so wonderfully, “To be represented- we’re not just a token for diversity. Real representation means you have a meaningful character with hopes and dreams and in Crazy Rich Asians that’s what we all have.” Diversity is not a trend, and something that should be done haphazardly or without much thought. It should be done, (and is in this film it is) in a beautiful and meaningful way. The world is a large place and everyone should be able to see themselves at some point on screen in a significant way that has us crying or laughing and having that moment of true recognition. What is also special about Crazy Rich Asians is that it’s about both diversity and universality, and it’s a celebration of that. We have seen this kind of romance story before with love having to overcome class differences, and pressures from family. What’s different is who is portraying these characters. It’s both specific in culture but also universal thematically. It’s about family, love and traditions that are specific to the Asian culture but can be relatable to all. But even if it weren’t it still would remain praiseworthy. Crazy Rich Asians is the type of film that I truly love and hope to see more and more in years to come.

5. Avengers: Infinity Waravengers

A film that is the culmination of over 10 years and 18 films is bound to have a great deal riding on its shoulders. And the first part of this climatic cinematic event, in one of the most spectacular cinematic universes of story and character was just that- absolutely spectacular! Marvel is most certainly a master of creating dynamic films filled with real emotion and amazing action, and with so many characters filling the screen, the task of balancing all of them, giving them sufficient screen time, all while managing to create a coherent and compelling story that was 10 years in the making, is indeed a tall order. And boy did they deliver. The first two Avengers films were amazing films, as are so many of the other individual films for every character, but there was something special about this one. What was most compelling was the way this truly centered on the villain- Thanos- as he is hell bent on erasing half of the universe, and like most villains feels he is totally justified.  You feel every moment and are on the edge of your seat, and the film flies by until it reaches the climatic battle which was one of the most, again, compelling spectacles to ever grace the screen- and for one very significant reason. It wasn’t just about the amazing effects and cool imagery. It was because it felt human. And when Thanos wins with a snap of his fingers of that coveted Infinity Gauntlet, we felt the depth of this “victory” down to own very souls.

4. Mary Poppins Returnsmp retirns

Magical, colorful, a feast for the eyes and ears, and a wonder for the heart and soul, Mary Poppins Returns accomplishes something that seemed impossible. It created a new and wondrous version of the practically perfect nanny and her adventurous and wise ways, infused with heart, poignancy and above all, magic. And I will be perfectly honest- when I first heard about the film I was adamantly against attempting to recreate the perfection that is the 1964 classic. But as time moved on and I saw who was involved, from the top notch casting of Emily Blunt and Lin-Manuel Miranda, to director Rob Marshall who has proven to immensely talented at bringing musicals to life with vitality with Chicago and Into the Woods, and lastly to composers Marc Shaiman and Scott Whitman whose songs for the TV series Smash play on repeat in my home on a regular basis, I went from opposition to cautious optimism, to out right hope and excitement. And that shift in feelings was more than warranted. It may not reach the levels as the original in story and song, but more than succeeds in bringing warmth and heart into characters new and old as well as simply being stunning in its visuals and orchestration.

Emily Blunt more than makes the character her own with wit and cheekiness and the oh so important subtle emotion when dealing with Michael Banks and his children who have lost their mother and may lose their home. Lin-Manuel Miranda is the perfect blend of charming and sweet, much like Bert was with an added depth and connection to Jane Banks that was both unexpected and lovely. Ben Whishaw feels so much like his late father (portrayed originally by David Tomlinson) that it’s uncanny, while Emily Mortimer was a lovely blend of tried and true giggly effervescent Jane and social activist that would make her Suffragette mother proud. The greatest songs are without a doubt, the lovely and soft “The Place Where Lost Things Go,” the rousing  “Trip a Little Light Fantastic” and above all “Nowhere to Go But Up” which literally soars and is the film’s, most timeless tune. The cameos by Dick Van Dyke and Angela Landsbury will make your heart happy, the music smile and the story cry. Mary Poppins Returns is magical in every way and shows us that things are never truly lost because they will always remain in our hearts.

3. Sun Dogssundogsjennifermorrison

Some of the finest films are simple stories, well told. Sun Dogs is a beautifully crafted film with moving performances, immaculate direction, and affecting themes in a story that is poignant, humorous and touching all at once. A lovely marriage of story and artistry, this film that takes place in a post 9-11 world, where the earnest Ned Chipley, who has dealt with a mental deficiency since birth, wants more than anything to join the Marines, help keep the country safe, and above all save lives. And when he thinks he stumbles onto a possible terrorist threat, he and a young girl named Tally go on a journey of self discovery, that is often mirrored in that of his parents and indeed the audience. Fine performances by Michael Angarano, Melissa Benoist, Ed O’Neil and Allison Janney, you feel deeply for all of these characters, and will simultaneously laugh and cry. Sensitive issues it may be, but they are handled with tender care and respect. You feel and sympathize with Ned, but you don’t pity him. His earnestness is so heartfelt even when everything is not what it seems. And above all the themes combined with these characters draw you into the story in a way that is truly gripping.

The full length feature directorial debut of Jennifer Morrison (whose talent is superb and surely has a fine directing career ahead of her), the direction of the film is sublime in its subtlety and specificity, visually interesting and reflective of the film’s main themes. (In fact, look out for a more in depth film study on this one soon.) As Morrison said, “Sun Dogs shines a light on the idea that every person has a purpose in life. I believe that we are all misfits in one way or another. We feel misunderstood. We fail. We struggle. We hope. It’s what makes us unique in our search for meaning.” And therein lies the true heart of the film. Through Ned, and indeed all of the characters, we see and can relate to feeling lost or needing someone to believe in us, hold our hand and be there in sincere understanding or compassion. Moreover, the phrase, “Hello, how are you today?” takes on new meaning as we learn that even the simplest of gesture can save someone’s life in more ways than one. We all are searching for that meaning in life and our purpose and in Sun Dogs that is expressed in a truly beautiful and meaningful way.

2. Christopher Robinchristopher robin

Can a film have heartbeat? Does a film have the ability to simply and effortlessly tap into childhood nostalgia and the remembrance of life’s true wonders and beauties in a way that reaches your very soul? In the case of Christopher Robin, the answer is unequivocally a resounding YES!! The Winnie the Pooh stories by A.A. Milne, 1977 Disney film, and other incarnations of the classic characters have always held a special place in my heart, but this latest film perhaps made me feel more than all the others combined, as we once again ask, is it possible to say an audible “Awww” throughout an entire movie? The heart of Christopher Robin lies within its ability to tap into feelings beyond comparison, with visuals that are so realistic you actually believe that Pooh and his friends truly are real and have returned to Christopher’s life when he needed them the most, with fine performances by Ewan McGregor and Hayley Atwell as well as the immaculate voice work and artistry  of every single person who brought Pooh, Piglet, Tigger, Eeyore and the rest of the 100 Acre Wood to life.

Visually and thematically, Christopher Robin is brilliant and beautiful in its simplicity, subtlety and unabashed sweetness. With muted colors that reflect the time period, and a subtle use of vibrancy seen in Pooh and his friends and single red balloon, as well as a gentle direction and similar themes to director Marc Forster’s equally stunning Finding Neverland, this film can makes us smile and cry and touch our hearts with its poignant wisdom about life, friendship and family. We all must grow up and mature, but we need not lose that ability to find joy in life’s simplest treasures and never lose our child like wonder. We may be lost but we can always be found when we open our hearts to tthat wonder and joy, found as easily as a bright red balloon in a vast sea of gray. And that is something truly special.

1. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society guernsey

Acclaimed author Stephen King said, “Books are a uniquely portable magic,” and is that ever the case. And although King’s works and Guernsey couldn’t be more different, his assessment is attune to what the book and this subsequent original Netflix film expresses. But Guernsey indeed takes this even steps further in an exquisitely delicate and moving depiction of a group of people who come together under the darkest of circumstances in the shadow of the Nazi occupation of World War II, showcasing the ways they manage to find joy and comfort despite everything. Make no mistake, the fear and loss this society formed out of self preservation experiences is profound, but when a young author connects with this group of individuals young and old, they all find something they truly needed: a collective family who understand the importance and resplendent joy of the written word, and truly human connections.

Guernsey is the type of period movie, so exquisitely filmed that your eyes are in a constant state of awe from the London golden parties to its cobblestone streets. And most especially, you will wish you could transport to every single beautiful local in this seaside British town. Indeed, from the cinematography, to the costumes, to the score, Guernsey is a wondrous delight, while the performances and story, much like Christopher Robin, have the ability to awaken and move the soul in a profound way. For we see how books can bring people together- reach across time and space and not only make us feel, but help us feel connected to others. Isn’t that what the finest books, or films, or music, or art can accomplish- create an unique kind of radiant magic that can help create unbreakable bonds of love, family and friendship. In a world filed with darkness, this is a glowing beacon of light and hope. The Guernsey Society may have created a group to save their lives in the literal sense, but the way it truly saved them can never truly be measured. And that is why this film sits at the top of this year’s finest.

Honorable Mentions: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, When We First Met
Yet to See: Ralph Breaks the Internet, The Incredibles 2

Stand Out Performers:
Emily Blunt (A Quiet Place & Mary Poppins Returns)
Michael Angarano (Sun Dogs)
Awkafina (Crazy Rich Asians)
Josh Brolin (Avengers: Infinity War)
Michael B. Jordan (Black Panther)
Lily James (The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society)
Colin O’Donoghue (What Still Remains)
Ben Whishaw (Mary Poppins Returns)

Outstanding Directors:
Jennifer Morrison (Sun Dogs)
John Krasinski (A Quiet Place)
Marc Forster (Christopher Robin)
Rob Marshall (Mary Poppins Returns)
Mike Newell (The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society)