Well to end Black History Month, I finally got around to seeing Moonlight after avoiding it for a year. Not entirely because of its subject matter. I was trying to get over how annoyed I was that it won over La La Land. I still see it as more of a personal favorite, but I get why Moonlight won. Moonlight is very well made, like a work of art. Its camera work, blue and purple color palette, performances, story structure, music, and themes all make it work. As soon as I saw the trailer I knew it would get Oscar attention (the trailer is also really good). Moonlight has all the elements of an Oscar bait movie. The main character is black, gay, there’s drugs, poverty, growing up, it’s based on a book/personal experience (really the only thing missing is some form of handicap). Moonlight is about Chiron and it’s separated in three different segments. One when he’s a child, a teenager, and an adult. I don’t often watch movies about race or homosexuality, but Moonlight actually isn’t entirely focused on that. Moonlight is about life and identity above anything else. Which made it easier to watch then I thought it would be. Mahershala Ali and Naomie Harris are notable standouts, playing a fatherly drug dealer and drugged out mother respectively. My feelings towards the Oscar results haven’t changed much, but Moonlight is definitely a worthy winner.
Before Midnight completes Richard Linklater’s 10 year trilogy. It was at this point they realized bringing these two characters together after a decade should become a tradition. Or at least a trilogy. Before Sunrise was about falling in love and Before Sunset was about catching up with a past love. Logically, the theme of Before Midnight is trying to decide if you’re right for somebody or not. Jesse and Céline have been together ever since they ran into each other back in Paris. They’re not married, but they do have twin daughters. Their day is spent on vacation in Greece, with the two of them facing relationship difficulties. Like the first and second movie, the two of them talk about life, love, and the future. Since they’ve been together for so long now, their conversations are deeper and a lot more strained at times. Which is just the kind of thing that happens when you’ve been with someone for so long. You start to question the nature of your relationship. There’s a lot more arguing then there was before and even some nudity. By the end, they have to decide if they should stay together before midnight (so of course I saw the movie late at night). Before Midnight is more different than any other movie in the trilogy, but it strikes a cord that older couples will appreciate.
Preceded by: Before Sunset
Before Sunset continues Richard Linklater’s 10 year trilogy. After the success of Before Sunrise, they had no idea how to continue the story. Originally it could of had a big budget, four locations, and come out much sooner. Eventually it became apparent that having the movie take place nearly a decade after the events of the first movie was the best idea for a sequel. A line in the first movie actually hinted at that possibility. Before Sunset brings Jesse and Céline back together after not seeing each other since that magical night they spent in Vienna. Only this time, their encounter takes place in Paris. Jesse is an accomplished author and Céline has been living in Paris. This time the central theme is catching up with a past love. Just like the first movie, they talk for an entire day, this time before sunset (so I watched the movie in the afternoon). Their conversations are a lot more personal then they were before. They haven’t seen each other for so long that they have to talk about their lives and how much things have changed since the last time they’ve seen each other. Some of it even parallels things that happened in the lives of the actors playing them, but everything always comes back to that one night. Before Sunset is for anyone who’s ever wanted a second chance at love.
Before Sunrise begins Richard Linklater’s 10 year trilogy. A trilogy I’d never even heard of until after it was already completed. In case you’re just as unaware as I was, the Before trilogy is a collection of romance movies that take place roughly on one day. They follow a couple that spend the entire movie just talking to each other and seeing the sights of a foreign location. That may not seem all that interesting, but try to imagine following a couple around, and just listening in on their conversation. You’d be very interested to know what they had to say. Before Sunrise takes place in Vienna. This is where American Jesse and French Céline meet each other for the first time. They meet on a train and it becomes apparent that the two of them have a connection. So they decide to spend the entire day together before sunrise (I even watched the movie in the morning just to drive that point home). Since the two of them think they’ll never see each other again, they end up talking about just about everything. The city, their lives, opinions on love, religious views, music, and all in great detail. In order to keep the conversations sounding realistic, the script was written by both a man and a woman. With its central theme being falling in love. Before Sunrise is simple, but effective.
Followed by: Before Sunset
The LEGO Ninjago Movie is unfortunately the first mediocre LEGO movie. After the highly entertaining The LEGO Movie spin-off The LEGO Batman Movie, The LEGO Ninjago Movie was their next planned spin-off. It was even released in the same year, but where The LEGO Batman Movie sounded like a good idea, The LEGO Ninjago Movie was a bit of a harder sell. Batman is a well known character, but Ninjago is a completely original LEGO creation. Sure they had a popular animated TV series, but robot driving super ninja’s don’t really offer much along the lines of depth. I got into Ninjago a little bit when it was first introduced. Although that didn’t last very long, because I was getting a little old for it. Still it’s a LEGO movie, so I was curious. The biggest problem with the movie is how surprisingly unfunny it is. The LEGO Movie was funny because it was fresh and played up the LEGO angle. The LEGO Batman Movie was funny because it exaggerated Batman’s funniest traits. The LEGO Ninjago Movie doesn’t know what kind of humor it wants to have. Is it LEGO humor, is it ninja humor, is it just trying to be weird. There’s a joke about a live action cat destroying a LEGO city that could have been funny, but it drags out and ends up being dumb. The LEGO Ninjago Movie is ultimately a boring and skippable edition in the previously flawless LEGO movie library.
Spin-off of: The LEGO Movie
The LEGO Batman Movie portrays Batman as the most human he’s been in a long time. Bare in mind we’re talking about a LEGO minifigure version of Batman. After the awesome The LEGO Movie, spin-offs were the thing to do before the sequel came out. The first spin-off is The LEGO Batman Movie. After Will Arnett’s take on Batman proved to be a scene stealer, it only made sense for him to get his own movie. Plus DC is a lot more likely to do side projects while their main movie series is going on. I’ve always been a big fan of two things: superheroes and LEGO. Since Batman is one of my top favorite superheroes, I was curious to see what they’d do with it. Everybody knows everything about Batman, but do you know what Batman does when he’s not fighting crime? Well among other things, The LEGO Batman Movie is about Batman’s relationship with others. Whether it’s his butler Alfred, his newly adopted sidekick Robin, newly appointed Commissioner Barbara Gordon, or even his arch-nemesis The Joker. Just like the video games, the movie utilizes every single Batman villain (even the obscure ones), as well as every member of the Justice League. Not to mention the Batcave with every Batvehicle there is in it. The movie’s humor is very reliant on your knowledge of Batman and his history. There are so many hilarious references. In a time where almost every major movie is a superhero movie, The LEGO Batman Movie stands out above the rest.
Spin-off of: The LEGO Movie
A Beautiful Mind is brilliant. It makes you think and it challenges everything you may think you know. I’ve been familiar with A Beautiful Mind for many years, but I didn’t see it until I was a little older. Luckily the story wasn’t spoiled for me. Which is good because something (I won’t say what) that happens in the movie is better when you don’t know it’s happening. A Beautiful Mind is based on a true story about brilliant mathematician John Nash. From when he attended Princeton to when he received the Nobel Prize, and all the trama in between. His genius mind is shown by the way he sees numbers and letters. Making for a fascinating and shocking viewing experience. Russell Crowe’s performance is what really makes the movie. Portraying John Nash as an awkward and often antisocial super genius. Which is why he really should have won the Best Actor Oscar (but that’s a whole other story). Jennifer Connelly on the other hand, did win an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. She plays Nash’s wife in the best possible way. As a woman dealing with a man with a beautiful mind. A Beautiful Mind also won Best Picture and Ron Howard won for Best Director. It’s also, in my opinion, a more worthy winner of Best Picture in 2001 than Chicago was in 2002 (both movies that beat The Lord of the Rings). I promise when you really know what’s going on, A Beautiful Mind is a whole new experience.
P.S. The bold letters are an anagram that reveals the movie’s twist.
Ella Enchanted is a quirky and fun children’s fantasy. You either love it or you don’t. I lean more towards the former. Ever since my brother showed it to me after he’d seen it in class. This was back when future Oscar winner Anne Hathaway was in her early Disney era of performances. Her performance is just as charming and well acted as I’d expect from all her other roles. Ella Enchanted is sort of like Cinderella, but with a twist. Ella was given the gift (curse) of obedience. Which means she has to do whatever people say, no matter what. It’s just as bad as it sounds, but it does offer some good comedy and a surprising amount of emotion. When things get too bad, Ella sets off to force the fairy who gave her the gift to reverse the curse. Along the way she meets elves, ogres, giants, and enchanted objects. There’s also a cute romance to fill the need for a love story. Your standard fairytale fair. Although Ella Enchanted is a lot like Shrek in the way that it feels more like modern day. In the way that they sing modern day songs like “Somebody to Love” or “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart.” The only real problem is the dated CGI and occasional juvenile joke. Other than that, Ella Enchanted is an enchanting fairytale that I would recommend if you have a choice.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is Tim Burton’s slightly darker take on Roald Dahl’s book of the same name. This is the point in Tim Burton’s career when he started to do less original work and more remakes. Though I don’t think anyone expected him to do a remake of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. It was such an odd choice. Even though I was still a kid at the time and I’d already seen the original, I didn’t see the movie in theaters. Although I did see one scene when I peeked into a theater that was playing the movie (long story). If I recall, I saw the movie about a year after it came out. Some people will say the movie is a pale (no pun intended) imitation of a classic that shouldn’t have been made in the first place, but I actually really like the movie. Certain aspects of the book and original movie can be improved upon with certain advancements in technology. The factory is bigger and grander than it was before. A lot of the chocolate, like the chocolate river, is actually real chocolate. Unlike the original movie’s brown water. Say what you will about the movie, but Tim Burton is a creative genius. His sets look delicious. Good enough to eat. Of course the plot is pretty much the same…
Finding golden tickets, exploring the factory, each kid getting punished, and of course the ending. That being said, there are some pretty major differences. Some of which is closer to the book. This is a Tim Burton movie, so of course its snowy and dark. Of course Johnny Depp plays Willy Wonka. He’s no Gene Wilder, but I thought his quirky oddball performance was hilarious. One of the biggest differences is that there are flashbacks. Willy Wonka’s backstory including his childhood, how he found the Oompa Loompas, and why he closed his factory, is shown. Charlie Bucket is about the same (although a bit too perfect), Augustus Gloop is fatter and a bit more greedy, Veruca Salt is still spoiled, but kind of toned down, Violet Beauregarde is actually meaner and more of a competitive gum-chewer, and Mike Teavee is a jerky video game player instead of a TV addict. Some choices made sense for the modern setting, while others feel a little off. The parents are also different. Grandpa Joe is about the same, but some (not all) of the parents are swapped with a different parent. Finally, the Oompa Loompas are just smaller clones of actor Deep Roy. Which isn’t nearly as iconic as the original. The songs are catchy though. The ending is also sort of a soft adaptation of Roald Dahl’s sequel Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator. As a remake, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a gothic treat that should be viewed as its own movie.
Remake of: Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory
Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory is arguably the most generationally beloved movie to come out of the 70’s. It’s also Roald Dahl’s most famous movie adaptation. As children’s movie’s go, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory is one every child should see. I know I first watched the movie when I was very young. Since then I’ve seen the movie many times, including one time in school. We all know the story, mysterious chocolate factory owner Willy Wonka sends out 5 golden tickets to 5 lucky children via 5 bars of chocolate. The first act focuses on the entire world trying desperately to find the golden tickets. Even adults are desperate to find them (most of which is seen in short vignettes). Charlie Bucket is the main character. He’s a sweet poor kid who wants nothing more than to win a golden ticket. The first winner is Augustus Gloop, an obese kid from Germany. The second winner is Veruca Salt, a spoiled brat from England. The third winner is Violet Beauregarde, a snappy gum-chewer. The fourth winner is Mike Teavee, a TV obsessed know-it-all. And of course Charlie wins the fifth and final ticket, much to the delight of his Grandpa Joe. The second and third acts take place inside the factory…
It’s there we meet the absolutely bonkers chocolatier/inventor Willy Wonka. Played flawlessly by the late Gene Wilder. He’s charming, he’s hilarious, he’s meme-worthy, he’s sarcastic, and possibly psychotic (what is up with that scary tunnel?). I think that’s why they renamed the movie Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. Since Willy Wonka is the biggest scene stealer. Along with his equally famous factory workers, the Oompa Loompas. Small orange creatures with green hair that often break into song. Another great part of the movie is the music. Songs like “The Candy Man,” “I’ve Got a Golden Ticket,” “Pure Imagination,” or “I Want it Now” will forever be stuck in my head. Along with any of the four songs that the Oompa Loompas sing. It’s also very tastefully done. All the chocolate and candy is guaranteed to make you hungry. Some of which, like the “Everlasting Gobstopper,” is actually available in real life. The kids, as well as their parents, are also great. Especially the actress who plays Veruca. Probably the biggest brat in the history of cinema. There’s also a big emphasis on Wonka’s inventions. Which hold up pretty well considering the time it came out. Really the only person who doesn’t like the movie is the author himself. So much so that he forbid the filmmakers from adapting the book’s sequel. He just didn’t like the changes they made to the book and some of the casting. Despite Roald Dahl’s complaints, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory is an absolute children’s classic that’s beloved by every generation. It’s scrumdiddlyumptious!