The Princess Diaries is the movie that brought us Anne Hathaway. As it was her film debut when she was only 15 years old. The Princess Diaries is arguably the most iconic live-action Disney movie of the early 2000’s. Despite that fact, I didn’t watch it until I was in my late teens. My cousins tried to make me watch it once when I was a kid, but I figured it was too girly. When I did give The Princess Diaries a chance, I loved it. The Princess Diaries is based on a YA book of the same name. It centers on high school student Mia Thermopolis. She’s awkward, quirky, artsy, and has large curly hair with thick glasses. She’s also afraid of public speaking. Her life only gets more complicated when her long lost grandmother from the fictional country Genovia Queen Clarisse reveals her to be a princess (shut up!). With the full name Princess Amelia Mignonette Grimaldi Thermopolis Renaldo. So Mia must endure regorise royal etiquette training in order to become better princess material. Since Anne Hathaway was a newcomer at the time, her iconic makeup transformation was far more shocking. A lot like Garry Marshall’s other movie Pretty Woman. Disney is filled with princesses, but The Princess Diaries is the first to really capture what it means to be one. Anne Hathaway’s instant star power and Julie Andrews presence help make The Princess Diaries a true stand out.
Mia transforms into a princess
Followed by: The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement
Loving makes me happy to be alive. As my brother will sometimes say. Since I myself am mixed race. With a black mom and a white dad (just like the Lovings). A fact I’ve mentioned a few times on my blog. Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and since I’ve exhausted all the noteworthy MLK movies, I decided to focus on very different civil rights fighters. Mildred and Richard Loving were an interracial couple who got married in 1958. When interracial marriage wasn’t legal in most states. Her pregnancy was also illegal. They were arrested, forced to leave Virginia, never to return while they were still married. Until they took their case to court. It turned out to be a landmark case and that’s why interracial marriage is legal in every state. Without it, I might not be here typing this review. Despite the pivotal role they played in the decision, the Lovings weren’t trying to be heroes. They just loved each other and wanted to be together. Joel Edgerton perfectly captures Richard Lovings laid back nature. While Ruth Negga’s loving optimistic portrayal of Mildred was enough to earn her an Oscar nomination. Loving is a romance worth loving.
Air Force One features the most badass president in movie history. Harrison Ford portrays U.S. President James Marshall (even his name sounds presidential). After successfully capturing a deadly dictator, President Marshall makes the all important decision to no longer negotiate with terrorists. Showing his willingness to stand up for his country, but he’s really put to the test when Russian terrorists hijack his plane. As the title suggests, Air Force One takes place entirely on Air Force One. Making it something like “Die Hard on the president’s plane.” Gary Oldman plays the lead terrorist in a role that’s as cold as it is ruthless. Being a former war hero, President Marshall is able to hold his own against them. Attempting to rescue the First Lady and First Daughter in the process. Meanwhile the Vice President (played by Glenn Close) holds down the fort stateside. Air Force One proved that Harrison Ford could still kick ass even as he was going grey and his voice was getting gruffer. Still dropping one liners like “get off my plane.” Although I could’ve seen it at a young age, I actually saw it fairly recently. Since I tend to stay away from anything political. Although I feel compelled to mention that this is Trump’s favorite Harrison Ford performance for one reason or another. That being said, Air Force One knows to keep the focus on non-stop action.
President Marshall hangs on to his plane
Glass is the grand conclusion of M. Night Shyamalan’s unexpected Eastrail 177 trilogy. Unfortunately I found out about it before I saw Split. So there was really no way to avoid the twist unless you’ve seen Split when it was brand new. When I finally did watch Split, I was curious to see the two worlds collide. Especially since Unbreakable came out 19 years ago and a sequel didn’t seem like a possibility as long as long as M. Night Shyamalan had a bunch of crap to get through. The title Glass definitely made it sound good. Considering Mr. Glass is the third primary character not to get a movie named after him. Plus it follows in Shyamalan’s tradition of having very literal movie titles. Then I saw the trailer, and I still think it’s one of the best trailers I’ve seen in a long time. Glass brings David Dunn (The Overseer) and Kevin Wendell Crumb (The Horde) together when “The Beast” attempts to kill a new set of teenage girls. It attracts the attention of the same institution that’s currently holding Elijah Price (Mr. Glass). Leaving all three men stuck in one place. Every other supporting character returns as well. David’s son Joseph, Kevin’s victim Casey, and Elijah’s mother Mrs. Price…
Mr. Glass (left), The Horde (center), and The Overseer (right)
I don’t often disagree with critics when it comes to Shyamalan, but I think they beat up Glass too much. It is an M. Night Shyamalan movie afterall. I expect it to be mostly talk heavy. Sarah Paulson’s character is a psychiatrist who tries to convince the three of them that they aren’t superheroes. By also exploiting their weaknesses. Exposing David to water, using lights to bring out Kevin’s other personalities, and keeping Elijah sedated. Bruce Willis is his usual half interested self. Although I did feel like it wasn’t too different than his performance in Unbreakable. This is probably the easiest money Samuel L. Jackson has ever gotten. Since he spends most of his time in a wheelchair and it takes awhile for him to talk. When he does speak, he lives up to having the movie named after him. Just as expected, James McAvoy steals the show. This time displaying every other personality that was missing in Split. Seamlessly changing from one persona to another. Even elisiting a few genuine laughs out of me. When the action does come in, it’s mostly exciting. Although the occasional comic book talk in between can make it a bit awkward. Along with Shyamalan’s, still present, unusual camera work and dialogue. The twists range from unexpected to frustrating, but I won’t say what they are. In the end, Glass was exactly what I was expecting. A part superhero, part thriller, slow building crossover of Unbreakable and Split. For me it’s enough just to see all these unique characters together in one movie.
Mr. Glass suits up
P.S. I’ve now reviewed every M. Night Shyamalan movie since The Sixth Sense.
Preceded by: Unbreakable & Split
Split is the hit M. Night Shyamalan needed. Truly his career is a rollercoaster unmatched by any other filmmaker. After The Visit came out of nowhere, Shyamalan stuck to Blumhouse horror with Split. While The Visit was just good by its own standards, Spilt is his true return to form. Split is about despondent teenager Casey Cooke played by horror’s new favorite scream queen Anya Taylor-Joy. After she and two other girls are kidnapped, Casey must use all her survival knowledge to outwit her capture. Who just so happens to be a man with split personalities. James McAvoy’s performance as the unfortunately named Kevin is easily the biggest highlight of the movie. While some of Shyamalan’s trademark clunky dialogue can still show sometimes, it’s McAvoy who elevates everything else. 23 distinct personalities exist inside Kevin. “Dennis” is a ruthless germaphobe who initially kidnaps the girls. “Patricia” is a sophisticated woman who assists “Dennis” in the capture. “Hedwig” is a 9 year old boy Casey uses to her advantage. “Barry” is a calm fashion designer that spends the most time with his psychiatrist. She studies him and is the only one who knows his secret. All other personalities are never seen, because “The Beast” is the most important. His animallike superhuman strength is what makes Split (SPOILER ALERT!) a secret sequel to Unbreakable. It’s safe to say no one saw that coming. Split shows that Shyamalan still has a few good twists left in him.
Preceded by: Unbreakable & Followed by: Glass
Interstellar offers some of Christopher Nolan’s greatest visuals to date. However, it’s not nearly as thought provoking as most of his other work. After completing the Dark Knight trilogy, no one knew what was next for him. He kept its identity a secret for awhile until finally revealing it to be about space exploration. Gravity opened the door for many Oscar caliber astronaut movies like The Martian and First Man. Since Interstellar was directed by Christopher Nolan and starred recent Oscar winners Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway, one could only expect the best. Interstellar takes place in a future where resources are limited, dust storms are a threat, and farming is a necessity. McConaughey plays Cooper, a farmer with engineering and space experience. I can believe him as a farmer, but a mathematical genius is a bit of a stretch. He’s tapped by NASA to travel into deep space. Where his crew must seek out a habitable new planet. His crew consists of Anne Hathaway, a snarky blocky robot, and two others. Interstellar was praised by scientists for its scientific accuracy. Specifically for its use of black holes, wormholes, and the soundless vacuum of space. As well as the process of time being different depending on the planet. The planets themselves are mostly baron, except for one that has a stranded Matt Damon on it wearing an orange space suit (speaking of The Martian). The captivating space visuals are definitely its biggest strength. Then there’s the story back on Earth. Cooper leaves behind his daughter Murph that he loves more than anything (and his son). Murph is just as brilliant as he is and she’s played terrifically by both of her actresses. The main problem with Interstellar is how overly complex, occasionally sappy, and convoluted it can be. The ending is particularly head scratching. Nevertheless, Interstellar is still worth it for the presentation.
Astronauts explore an unknown planet
The Adventures of Milo and Otis is the cute story of a friendship between a cat and a dog. When I was a kid, I used to see a trailer for Milo and Otis frequently on a VHS tape I watched. I’ve known about the movie for many years, but my brother saw it long before I did. There were several things I never knew about it. Like I didn’t know which animal was which character. Milo is an orange tabby and Otis is a pug. They both grow up on a barn and get into all sorts of adventures. Like looking after an egg. However, their biggest adventure involves the two of them getting seperated down a water stream. Where they encounter all sorts of animals. Like bears, foxes, deer, birds, pigs, racoons, and snakes. Until the two of them eventually settle down with mates of their own. Another thing I never knew about Milo and Otis was that it was made in Japan. There are no humans in the movie, so I had no way of knowing. It doesn’t help that the narration can be done in any language. There’s also a fair bit of controversy I never knew about. There are many questionable scenes that make it look like the animals were abused. It’s disturbing, but The Adventures of Milo and Otis is still perfectly harmless.
Milo (cat) and Otis (dog)
This is 40 is a movie most people forget is a continuation of Knocked Up. Only because it spins-off Alison’s sister Debbie and her husband Pete who made such an impression in Knocked Up. Either that, or Judd Apatow just wanted to make a movie with his real life wife Leslie Mann and their daughters. This is 40 deals with the inevitable struggle of turning 40. It doesn’t seem like a big deal, but 2 hours and 14 minutes begs the differ. Leslie Mann and Paul Rudd once again give fine performances. Maude Apatow proves to be a surprisingly natural actress (just like her mother), but the same can’t be said for her younger sister Iris. At least before they just had a small part in Knocked Up. Which leads to the main problem with This is 40. Debbie and Pete were funny before, but sometimes a little unlikeable. Giving them an entire movie seemed like a weird idea. Not that they didn’t at least soften them up a bit. There’s just not a whole lot of focus on any one thing (and there’s hardly any reference to Ben or Alison). They even copy the pregnancy premise just to keep things interesting. I’ll admit my main reason for wanting to watch it was Megan Fox. Since there’s a very sexy scene of her in her underwear. Other than that, This is 40 is a painfully slow, occasionally funny, glimpse into the fictionalized lives of the Apatow family.
Debbie (left) brushes her teeth with Pete (right) in the bathroom
Spin-off of: Knocked Up
Knocked Up deals with pregnancy in a frank occasionally funny way. Between Knocked Up, Juno, and Waitress, it seemed like 2007 was the year of unplanned pregnancies. Which is a strangely specific premise. Although it’s the second movie directed by the normally very raunchy Judd Apatow, Knocked Up is far more laid back. Seth Rogen is Ben Stone, the schlubby slacker stoner with a heart of gold. Katherine Heigl is Alison Scott, the hard working career woman with no time for relationships. They couldn’t be more different, but a one night stand gone wrong forces them together forever. Much like The 40-Year-Old Virgin, I was surprised by how christian its messages were. When Alison does get pregnant, she keeps the baby, and tries to see if she and Ben can work together. Leading to a tough but touching romance I wasn’t expecting. Being an Apatow production, there is of course appearances from other “Frat Pack” actors. Jason Segel, Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill, and Martin Starr all play Ben’s roommates (all with their actor’s first names). A side plot sees them attempting to start a website where you can see all the nude scenes in a movie. Which is exactly like Mr. Skin. One of the most stand out parts of Knocked Up involves the relationship between Alison’s sister Debbie and her husband Pete. Most of their bickering pads the runtime. It’s also worth mentioning that Katherine Heigl openly criticized the movie for reasons of characterization. She was wrong to do it, because Knocked Up is a surprising bundle of joy.
Ben (right) and Alison (left) sit in a doctors office
Bird Box is currently the most viewed original movie on Netflix. I normally don’t have much interest in Netflix original films, but Bird Box is practically unavoidable. It immediately blew up on the internet within days of its release. Spawning memes for several key moments from the movie. Specifically the image of Sandra Bullock blindfolded with her children. When I saw the trailer, my first thought was A Quiet Place with sight instead of sound. After actually seeing Bird Box, it’s much closer to The Happening (only better). Bird Box takes place at two separate points in time. One sees Sandra Bullock’s character Malorie attempting to take a Boy and Girl down a river while blindfolded. Why are they blindfolded? That’s all explained 5 years prior. When Malorie was pregnant, the world suddenly drifted into chaos due to an unseen force. I won’t say what it is (or what the title means), but let’s just say if you see it you die. Malorie, along with a group of survives played by several familiar actors, must try to survive in a world where being blindfolded is the only way to survive. Bird Box is pretty good, if just a little overhyped. Although it’s perfectly chilling enough to be released in theaters. Bird Box success is all thanks to the quick access of Netflix. So unless your unsubscribed, watch Bird Box as soon as you can.
Malorie paddles her children through the rapids