CLASSIC STORIES ARE SOMETHING I CAN revisit again and again. During my school years, I wound up reading Moby Dick three times. I am not sure I can even define what constitutes being a classic, but at least I know a classic story has the ability to emotionally move a person. Love plays a prominent role in many classics. For example, My Fair Lady was based on the George Bernard Shaw play, Pygmalion and The King and I was based on Margaret Landon’s novel, Anna and the King of Siam, which was based on the memoirs of the governess to the children of the King of Siam. One of my favorite stories is Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare. I do not remember if I read the story or not in school; however, my most vivid memory was seeing the movie directed by Franco Zeffirelli. It was a special showing that was being done in only one theater in the city. A friend joined me as we had to take the train down to go see the movie. To this day, I remember the theater because it was a big classic theater that had these art deco lamps hanging down from the lobby ceiling. To get to the balcony, there was a red carpeted staircase with gold-colored bannisters that curved up to the 2nd level. Because I loved the story of Romeo and Juliet, I knew I was going to equally love the movie West Side Story which was based on Shakespeare’s story. AS YOU CAN SEE, I DO not have an issue with new movies coming out that were based on previous movies/stories. It can be fun to see a story told through a different set of eyes. In some cases, the movie gets remade because there is technology available to enhance the story that was not available when the story first came out in film. For me, some of the successful remakes have been A Star is Born, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Departed. However, as most of us know, there are also remade films that were disastrous. Off the top of my head, I can think of The Stepford Wives, House of Wax and Guess Who. I know when the original movie is idolized, it is hard to try and remake or update the story. It would be best if the movie studio doesn’t refer to the original movie at all; let their new creation come out with any false expectations. With today’s film it did not take me long to decide which category this remake falls in. IN THIS RETELLING OF THE CLASSIC fairy tale, Cinderella has a dream to become a dressmaker. Marriage is not something she was focusing on. With musical artist Camila Cabello as Cinderella, Billy Porter (Like a Boss, Pose-TV) as Fabulous Godmother, Nicholas Galitzine (High Strung, The Changeover) as Prince Robert, Idina Menzel (Uncut Gems, Glee-TV) as Vivian and Pierce Brosnan (False Positive, Mamma Mia! franchise) as King Rowan; this comedic family fantasy took the original story of Cinderella and added a layer of female empowerment to it. I would not have an issue with this update; however, the script was a big misfire that dulled the delivery of the story. Though the musical numbers by themselves were fun to watch, they seemed so out of place to me because of the modern songs. Here was the perfect case not to associate this picture with the classic Cinderella. There were cringeworthy scenes that were painful to watch. The other thing that I felt diminished the telling of this story was the lack of chemistry between the characters. The whole appearance of the cast seemed flat to me. With the music and special effects, this movie might appeal to a narrow range of viewers.
1 ¾ stars
I WANT TO BELIEVE CORPORATIONS ARE NOT intentionally taking advantage of me along with other consumers; but I cannot help feeling they are whenever I make a change to my account with them. For several years, I had an account with a cable company. When I called to cancel my subscription, they asked me why I was cancelling my account. After I explained my reason, they told me they needed to switch me to an account representative to complete the process; I did not think anything of it. The rep came on the line and asked me a couple of questions. After explaining myself again, the rep asked if I would keep the service if the monthly price was lower. This is where I got annoyed because it was not like they were looking at ways to lower my bill; they were simply willing to reduce the monthly charges to keep me as a customer. Hearing this made me feel like they had been gouging me the whole time. Suddenly when they feared they were losing me as a customer, they miraculously can lower the price now? Why couldn’t they start me out at the lowest price when I signed up in the first place? And the thing is, I know they are not the only company that carries out this type of practice; my friends and family members have told me similar stories about their experiences when they went to cancel their accounts. MY EXPERIENCES WITH THAT COMPANY LEFT a bad taste in my mouth. I have never felt comfortable with companies and individuals who I would classify as schemers; someone or something that makes secret plans to benefit themselves, even if it means taking advantage of or deceiving someone else. I had an acquaintance who I classified as a schemer. Whenever a group of us would get together for a meal at a restaurant, he would always order an expensive item off the menu. He knew we would split the bill, so he always came out ahead in how much he owed. Even when he was the only one who ordered an alcoholic drink, he expected the price of it would be part of the split. I do not mind when one goes out with the same group for a meal and splits the bill each time; sometimes you pay more sometimes less than the cost of what you ordered, it evens out over time. However, this person was always coming out cheaper because the rest of the group was picking up more of his tab. It came to a point where we started asking the wait staff for separate checks and suddenly, he started ordering less expensive food. I did not care to be around him anymore; I had the same feeling about the schemer in this film festival winning dramatic, crime mystery. OVEREXTENDED WITH HIS CUSTOMERS’ MONEY jeweler Howard Ratner, played by Adam Sandler (Blended, The Wedding Singer), was trying to complete a major score before the consequences would have a major affect on his business and family. With newcomer Julia Fox as Julia, Idina Menzel (Rent, Glee-TV) as Dinah, LaKeith Stanfield (Sorry to Bother You, Short Term 12) as Demany and Eric Bogosian (Talk Radio, Cadillac Records) as Arno; this film festival winning feature provided Adam with the perfect role. He was excellent as Howard. For the first part of the movie I thought the script was repetitive; it pretty much was Howard yelling and swearing at everyone. It came to a point where I got tired and bored with it. I enjoyed the 2ndhalf more because there was at least a better sense of emotional depth on display among the characters. I have to say I prefer seeing Adam in these serious roles instead of comedic ones like he has done in the past. Despite not being comfortable around schemers, I did not find the watching of this film to be an entertaining experience.
2 ½ stars
WE WERE WALKING AROUND THE TOWN looking for buildings that were still standing from the turn of the century. On a road trip with a friend, he asked if we could make a stop at this small town where a relative of his had lived. He had never met the relative but wanted to find his grave. The town came as a total surprise to me because it had this mixture of old and new buildings that complimented each other, giving off an old-world vibe. As we walked down the main street, we found buildings that had been built and standing at the time my friend’s deceased relative had migrated to the area. My friend took photos of the buildings we had found; he wanted to form some type of bond to this man he never knew, but who yet was connected to him. All my friend had was an old photograph of his great uncle when he was a teenager. Whenever he looked at the photo of the man, he would see a strong resemblance to his Dad, who coincidentally happened to be named after this departed relative. As we walked around, I thought how lucky my friend was to be able to visit his relative’s town and travel the same streets his great uncle might have used when he was alive. HOW I WOULD HAVE LOVED TO BE able to visit the town of an ancestor. Since I was a little boy, I was always fascinated with looking at old, family photographs; both mine and other families. There is something about me having a similar genetic makeup to a long line of individuals that comforts me. Maybe because I really was never part of any type of group growing up that now I find myself comforted knowing I have an immediate connection to a group of people. I am always amazed when I run into someone who is a distant relative that shares similar features to myself or to an immediate family member of mine. Only recently I was at a restaurant where I bumped into a group of distant relatives. One of the relatives looked strikingly similar to one of my immediate family members that it startled me for a moment, especially because this person was a cousin twice removed from me. As we briefly talked about our family connection, I could not help thinking how important it is to me to look back at those who came before me to find out where I was going now. The main character in this animated, adventure comedy would know what I am talking about. A DISTANT VOICE THAT ONLY ELSA, voiced by Idina Menzel (Rent, The Tollbooth), could hear was calling out to her. Something about it sounded familiar enough to make Elsa leave her kingdom and put herself in terrible peril. With Kristen Bell (Bad Moms franchise, The Boss) voicing Anna, Josh Gad (Beauty and the Beast, Marshall) voicing Olaf, Jonathan Groff (Glee-TV, Looking-TV) voicing Kristoff and Sterling K. Brown (Hotel Artemis, This is Us-TV) voicing Mattias; this sequel was a visual masterpiece. The amount of detail and creativity put into every scene was breathtaking at times. As for the script it was good but not as good as the original movie. Since there was no main villain, I felt the drama waned at times. It seemed as if the studio’s marketing department was working overtime; for example, the script had a new cute character that would be perfect in toy version and there were places where songs were sung (though I could not remember one song when I left the theater) in the hopes that one of them would be a chart topper. All of this does not mean much since the theaters were packed with small children and their parents dressed up as one of the characters. There was such a high bar to reach due to the success of the first movie that it would have taken super powers to try and top it. I give the studio credit for its valiant effort. There was an extra scene at the end of the movie credits.
The first thing I noticed was the high darkened ceiling. Laid out were curved rows of burgundy colored seats that reminded me of a lake at sunset. I was excited to be at the movie theater, though you could easily say, “movie palace.” The place was built years before there was such a thing as stadium seating. I can still remember a phone book being placed underneath me so I could see over the people’s heads in front of me. The animated films that played in those movie theaters are now considered classics; they enchanted us with their stories, songs and animation. I would get totally engrossed in those wonderful films; their magic would draw me in to become part of their world. Early on in this animated adventure movie those feelings I experienced as a young boy welled up, magically taking me to the kingdom of Arendelle. Kristen Bell (When in Rome, Veronica Mars-TV) and Idina Menzel (Rent, Enchanted) were the voices for Princess Anna and her sister, Princess Elsa. When the kingdom plummeted into a perpetual frozen winter, Anna set off on a perilous journey to find her sister who was the cause of the frigid temperatures. Helping her track down her icy sister was Kristoff, voiced by Jonathan Groff (Taking Woodstock, The Conspirator) and his loyal reindeer Sven. Inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen, which was one of my favorite cartoon movies, this film is proof Disney has not lost its magic. First of all, I loved the story and thought Kristen and Idina were ideal for the roles. The music and songs were not only memorable, but I believe will earn this film an Oscar nomination. There was comedy for all age groups, exciting action and beautiful visuals; just like the old classics. It was so satisfying to watch a well done animated film where the entire audience was enjoying the story as much as me. I found it funny that Olaf the snowman, voiced by Josh Gad (Jobs, Thanks for Sharing), was the one character who I thought would be the most annoying but instead turned out to be amusing. One of my few complaints was about the ending; I felt it was rushed as if the studio had to keep the movie length low, so they could fit in their movie short and abundance of previews. The bottom line here is I had such a good time seeing this wonderful film, experiencing the same feelings I had when I was a kid, except without having to sit on a phone book. Notice the disclaimer towards the end of the film and there was an extra short scene afterwards.
3 1/3 stars