The Great Prince of the Forest

Bambi II is the only direct-to-video Disney sequel to a Golden Age film. Even though it was technically given a limited theatrical release outside of the U.S. Bambi is a beloved classic, but 63 years is a very long gap between movies. My brother and I didn’t watch Bambi II right away, even though it’s one of Disney’s better sequels. The Australian animation is an impressive recreation of the old fashion artwork that captures the painted forest and dramatic lighting of the original. The title makes about as much sense as Tarzan II.

Bambi and the Great Prince of the Forest would’ve made more sense since Bambi II picks up immediately after the young fawn tragically lost his mother. We finally get to see what happened between the Great Prince raising Bambi and him returning to the forest as a buck. The soundalike cast is good, but the sequel may be a bit too chatty in comparison. Nemo himself Alexander Gould voices the eager young Bambi and the respectable Patrick Stewart voices his stern father who keeps him at a distance. Thumper and Flower are around to help toughen Bambi up. Though Thumper is also dealing with his four pesky sisters. The Great Prince teaches his son the ways of the Prince.

They struggle to bond or talk about his late mother. Friend Owl agrees to look for a replacement doe, but the creepiest scene involves Bambi mistaking a deer call for his mother. Since Man is still off-screen, Bambi’s unnamed rival is given a name and a voice. Rono is just an insecure bully who competes for the affection of Bambi’s future mate Faline. Bambi and his father eventually form a strong bond that makes him brave enough to symbolically rescue a potential mother figure. Songs like “There Is Life,” “First Sign of Spring,” “Through Your Eyes,” or “The Healing of a Heart” are fine, but a little too modern. Bambi II may not be as emotional, but I think it was still worth the wait.

20. Bambi II

Bambi and the Great Prince of the Forest

Preceded by: Bambi

Hawaiian Roller Coaster Ride

Lilo & Stitch 2: Stitch Has a Glitch feels out of place compared to the rest of the franchise. Stitch! The Movie was an immediate sequel quickly followed by the animated series. My brother and I were right in the middle of watching the show when we found out about Lilo & Stitch 2. While the animation is on par with the Post-Renaissance original, the story feels quaint compared to the sci-fi adventures that came before. Though not explicitly stated, Stitch Has a Glitch is meant to take place before the other 625 experiments were discovered. Their house has a bit less technology except for their hover car. A short film called The Origin of Stitch was meant to bridge both movie’s together. Cobra Bubbles, the Grand Councilwoman, and Gantu aren’t involved, but the rest of the cast was.

With the very distracting exception of Lilo who is replaced by famous child star Dakota Fanning. As much as I love Fanning, Daveigh Chase is the only actress who should voice Lilo. All Lilo wants to do is win a hula competition to honor her late mother. Liliana Mumy who now voices Mertle is given a slightly bigger role along with her hula instructor Kumu. Nani’s sort of boyfriend David is an interesting example since Jason Scott Lee didn’t reprise his role in Stitch! The Movie or the series. A comedic subplot shows Pleakley try to help David with his relationship while continuing to crossdress. Nani is also given several hilarious interactions with her extended alien family. Meanwhile, Stitch has a glitch just as the title suggests.

Chris Sanders wasn’t too involved, but Stitch is a bit chattier than he was before. After a nightmare about destroying Hawaii, Stitch grows concerned about his “goodness level.” Despite having glowing green eyes and bursts of destruction, no one seems to figure out something’s wrong until Jumba realizes 626 was never fully charged. He tries to build a solution while Stitch continues to make things worse for Lilo. Lilo & Stitch 2 is the only direct-to-video Disney sequel with a PG rating. The movie takes an emotional turn when Stitch accidentally scratches Lilo and dies in her arms. It doesn’t last obviously, but I do appreciate the commitment. Songs like “Hawaiian Roller Coaster Ride” get a reprise while the rest is dominated by Elvis. Lilo & Stitch 2: Stitch Has a Glitch benefits from a personal touch.

18. Lilo & Stitch 2 Stitch Has a Glitch

Stitch tries to be good for Lilo

Preceded by: Lilo & Stitch & Followed by: Stitch! The Movie

You Can’t Run from Your Past

Creed III finally distances itself from the legacy of Rocky Balboa. Though he does have a producer credit, Sylvester Stallone doesn’t return for the first time in the franchise. Rocky making peace with his son was his best conclusion since no one wants to see the death of another icon. Since Ryan Coogler was busy with Black Panther, Michael B. Jordan follows in Stallone’s footsteps by directing himself. Rather than copy Rocky III by having the son of Clubber Lang, Creed III succeeds by forging its own path. The only similarity is Adonis Creed living a lavish life with his family and choosing to retire from boxing. Tessa Thompson has a similar arc as Bianca lets go of her singing career due to hearing loss.

I probably should’ve figured their daughter Amara would be deaf, but her love of boxing adds layers to her character. Creed III brings the Creed franchise full circle by making peace with past opponents “Pretty Ricky” Conlan and Viktor Drago. Unlike every sequel from Rocky V to Creed II, the villain is finally another actor learning to box rather than a boxer who can’t act. The only real life boxer is Josรฉ Benavidez Jr. as Creed’s young Hispanic protรฉgรฉ Felix who gets outshined by a childhood friend seeking vengeance. Mere months after Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, Jonathan Majors plays another villain who steals the show.

Damian “Diamond Dame” Anderson was an aspiring boxer and Donnie’s childhood friend from the group home who took the fall for him years ago. Despite warnings from Little Duke, Dame becomes a dark reflection of Donnie who goes after his legacy. Their emotional performances are only matched by Phylicia Rashad as Donnie’s aging mother. Learning to forgive herself and her husband Apollo brought me to tears. Jordan’s direction meant a surprising amount of anime influence that enhances every fight with more stylized visuals and camerawork. Everything builds to Killmonger fighting Kang in the ring with Valkyrie on the sidelines. SPOILER ALERT! Rocky callbacks are fewer, but nothing beats hearing the original theme when Donnie wins. Creed III is a knockout all on its own.

Creed III

Adonis Creed vs. Damian “Diamond Dame” Anderson

Preceded by: Creed II

What is Your Deepest Fear?

Coach Carter is an inspiring sports drama for the MTV generation. Although I don’t see sports movies often, I have seen plenty of films where an unconventional coach comes around to push his team further than they’ve ever thought possible. Ken Carter is a real life basketball coach who worked at Richmond High School. Though they coincidentally share the same last name, Thomas Carter was still the best director to tell his story. Samuel L Jackson has plenty of opportunities to yell, but he’s also the best man for a dramatic lead role.

Coach Carter’s extreme methods include push-up punishments, suicide drills, and an academic contract. At least 6 team members are given more attention. Before Arrow, Rick Gonzalez fought Coach Carter as Hispanic drug dealer Cruz who has the biggest turn around. The team is predominantly black, but Channing Tatum made a good impression as one of the only white kids Lyle. Robert Ri’chard plays Carter’s more academically inclined son Damien. Rob Brown has his own subplot as Kenyon since his girlfriend is expecting a baby.

Singer Ashanti plays the pregnant teenager Kyra. Meanwhile, Octavia Spencer plays Junior’s concerned mother who wants him to succeed in class. The most attention Worm gets is during a humorous scene where the team sneaks out to a wild party in the suburbs. The media took attention when Carter canceled multiple games in an undefeated season after the team failed to keep up their grades. Although I understand the town and school board’s frustration, Carter’s message of respect, sportsmanship, and responsibility shines through. Coach Carter is far from inadequate.

Coach Carter

Coach Carter addresses his team

Remember My Name!

Fame (2009) is a name I’ll forget almost immediately. The 1980 original was just the beginning. It’s success led to a 1982 TV series with some of the original cast, a singing group called The Kids from “Fame,” a 1988 stage musical, another 1997 TV series set in Los Angeles called Fame L.A., a TV movie sequel that was never produced, and a reality competition series inspired by American Idol. I agree that the performing arts concept has many possibilities, but who was asking for a modern remake? Apart from annoying filters and camera techniques, Fame (2009) was ruined the moment it received a PG rating. There’s still a surprising amount of profanity and adult situations, but it’s sanitized in a way that completely misses the point of the R rated original.

Fame (2009) dropped what made the original special just to be a High School Musical clone. Some teen problems carryover, but there’s clearly a line that they don’t cross. I didn’t recognize any of the young cast with the exception of Danielle Panabaker’s lesser known little sister Kay. I did however recognize every actor who played a Drama, Music, or Dancing teacher. Including Debbie Allen who has the distinction of being in every iteration of Fame. There’s also Kelsey Grammer, Charles S. Dutton, Bebe Neuwirth, and Megan Mullally. Students are so bland that I struggled to remember any of them. Characters are either race swapped, gender swapped, or an amalgamation of multiple characters from the original.

Angry rapper Malik is a combination of Montgomery, Ralph, and Leroy. Jenny is like Doris, but she experiences an uncomfortable audition like Coco. Except that a porno shoot is replaced by some jerk failing to seduce her on camera. Marco is like Ralph since he dates Jenny. Kevin is just a male version of Lisa who also fails to commit suicide. Victor is like Bruno for his electronic music and Leroy since he dates dancer Alice who is like Hilary. Joy is mostly her own character who drops out for an acting gig. Niel is also his own character who stupidly gives money away to an obvious filmmaking scam. Though she has the parental stress of Doris, Denise is also like Coco since Naturi Naughton sings “Out Here on My Own” and an overproduced cover of the Oscar winning title song. The rest of the new songs are forgettable. Fame (2009) has no chance of living forever.

Fame 2009

Students dance in the school

Remake of: Fame (1980)

I’m Gonna Live Forever!

Fame is a name I’m not sure to forget. It marked a notable shift for both musicals and teen movies at the time. Although it was the very beginning of 1980, Fame already felt like an extended music video. The Academy Award winning Best Original Song “Fame” is a perfect reflection of the decade to come. Director Alan Parker also encouraged heavier topics that teen movies rarely dealt with at the time. Fame takes place at the New York High School of Performing Arts from the audition process all through Freshman, Sophomore, Junior, and Senior year. We follow the three major branches of entertainment including Drama, Music, and Dance. Although I can personally relate to being a Drama student, being a performer is not as universal as the many teen problems that the cast deals with. Coco Hernandez is a triple threat with big dreams played by the late Irene Cara.

Cara is a natural talent who sings the Oscar winning title song and the Oscar nominated piano ballad “Out Here On My Own.” Coco’s pursuit of fame has disturbing consequences when she ends up at a seedy porno shoot. Bruno Martelli is a music student with a cab driving father who supports his use of electronic music. It’s because of his father that Bruno’s music can be heard in the streets. Leroy Johnson is a tough black dancer discovered by accident who deals with illiteracy and a disapproving teacher played by Anne Meara. Gene Anthony Ray couldn’t overcome his own personal problems before his untimely death. Leroy’s story takes him in many directions that include sleeping with white dancing partner Hilary Van Doren. Lisa Monroe is another dancing student who contemplates suicide when her dreams are denied. Other problems like teen pregnancy are simply alluded to.

The main characters are arguably Drama students Montgomery MacNeil, Doris Finsecker, and Ralph Garci. A young Paul McCrane is awkward closeted gay student Montgomery. He eventually comes out and makes friends with Doris. The Irish Maureen Teefy plays the Jewish Doris who gains confidence through acting. Most of the drama is given to Barry Miller even though Ralph is an aspiring comedian. Ralph is an angry Puerto Rican youth who finds comfort in Doris and Montgomery eventually. Fame earns its R rating with mature language and random nude girls in a changing room. Other random moments include a showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show with a full “Time Warp” routine. The direction can feel a bit open ended, but I don’t think it’s supposed to have all the answers. At least by the end everyone is given the chance to perform at graduation. Leaving the door open for several TV spin-offs to come. Fame encouraged talented teens around the world to dream big.


Students dance in the street

I’m Checkin’ Out

Postcards from the Edge is a deeply personal mother-daughter story. The original 1987 novel by Carrie Fisher was inspired by her own complicated relationship with her mother Debbie Reynolds. Though Reynolds and Fisher didn’t always get along, I’m confident they loved each other till the end. Names may be changed, but it’s hard not to see Carrie Fisher in Suzanne Vale or Debbie Reynolds in Doris Mann. It helps that both characters are elevated by Oscar winning actresses Meryl Streep and Shirley MacLaine. Suzanne is a drug addict trying to get her career back on track after attending rehab.

Doris can be overbearing toward her daughter, but her only real flaw is her drinking problem. When they’re forced to live together, they learn to reconcile their relationship in true Hollywood fashion. The rest of the cast is a who’s who of recognizable stars. Gene Hackman steals a few scenes as Suzanne’s director who calls her out and comforts her at the same time. Suzanne’s messy love life is shown with a manipulative performance by Dennis Quaid. A young Annette Bening is another more dimwitted actress that he also sleeps with.

Richard Dreyfuss makes the most of his time as the doctor who pumps Suzanne’s stomach. CCH Pounder is her concerned therapist and Rob Reiner gives her drug testing information. I also recognized Mary Wickes as her equally overbearing grandmother and Robin Bartlett as her rehab roommate. There’s also Conrad Bain, Simon Callow, Gary Morton, Anthony Heald, and Oliver Platt. Streep’s humorous performance received another expected Best Actress nomination, but MacLaine wasn’t nominated despite being just as committed. The country song “I’m Checkin’ Out” that Suzanne sings for her mother was at least nominated for Best Original Song too. Postcards from the Edge speaks to generations of movie fans.

Postcards from the Edge

Suzanne and Doris go out

The Tiger Lady

Baby Boom is enough to warm anyone’s heart. Happy Mother’s Day everyone! Baby Boom is Nancy Meyers’ answer to motherhood. Like so many of her films, it was my mom who strongly recommended it. The 80’s were a big time for high powered businessmen and women. Diane Keaton plays the self-proclaimed “Tiger Lady” businesswoman J. C. who is very respected in the male dominated workplace. Everything changes when she suddenly inherits a baby from a deceased relative.

Keaton gives a Golden Globe worthy performance as J. C. slowly learns how to take care of the adorable baby Elizabeth. All her attempts to carry, feed, change, and look after Elizabeth at work are hilarious. Though she considers adoption and hiring a nanny, I knew it was only a matter of time before she fell in love. J. C. eventually leaves her high paying New York job for a quiet life in Vermont. It’s not an easy adjustment, but you can’t help but root for her when she finds success selling baby food.

Sam Wanamaker and Pat Hingle are good former bosses who tempt J. C. near the end. The former reprised his role in a short-lived TV series. James Spader replaces J. C. when she quits and Harold Ramis has a small, but memorable role as her equally hard working ex-boyfriend. Though her relationship with Elizabeth is the most important, J. C. does find romance with a veterinarian played by a sympathetic Sam Shepard. I know motherhood isn’t for every woman, but I also know firsthand that it’s far more rewarding than any job. Baby Boom is sweeter than applesauce.

Baby Boom

J. C. takes Elizabeth to work

We Must, We Must, We Must Increase Our Bust!

Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. is a faithful adaptation over 50 years in the making. The 1970 novel is the most beloved book written by Judy Blume. It was only a matter of time before she finally allowed there to be an adaptation. Edge of Seventeen director Kelly Fremon Craig and Simpsons producer James L. Brooks were just right for the project. I’ve known about Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. for years, because my mom actually has a copy signed by Blume herself. Though I wasn’t much of a reader growing up, I knew I would have to read it one day. My brother and I both read the book in one day and shared the movie with our mom who shared it with us. She does have a more personal connection to the story after all. Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. was controversial for its frank discussions of menstruation, changing bodies, and raging hormones. Bras and sanitary napkins are not as taboo as they used to be, but the subject still deserves a PG-13 rating.

Margaret Simon is a preteen who deals with all sorts of relatable problems like moving to a new town, having crushes, wanting a bigger bust, and getting her period to feel like a woman. After she outgrew the role of Cassie Lang, Abby Ryder Fortson proved she was mature enough to carry an entire film. Though Rachel McAdams is given a minor subplot as her mother who gives up art to be a housewife and active member of the PTA. Benny Safdie plays her klutzy father who hasn’t changed much from the book. Kathy Bates is also given a bit more attention as Margaret’s hip grandma. All members of her class remain intact including her self-absorbed first friend Nancy Wheeler (no relation to Stranger Things), Gretchen, and Janie. A welcomed change was making Janie and her supportive teacher Mr. Benedict black so that they could explore race in a subtle way. Margaret’s crush on Philip and Moose is innocent. While a character like Laura Danker is used to show girls who develop a lot faster.

The 70’s mentality makes every topic funnier and the era appropriate soundtrack is just as good as I was expecting. As the title suggests, Margaret praying to God for all of her problems to be solved is the heart of the story. Margaret’s Jewish father and Christian mother promise she can pick her own religion when she’s older. So she goes to the Jewish Temple with her grandmother, joins Janie at her Gospel service, attends Church with Nancy, and even sits in a Catholic confessional. Everything falls apart when Margaret’s Christian grandparents visit for the first time since disowning her mother. Questioning faith is just as uncomfortable as it is in the book, but Margaret does manage to find her own path to God in the end. Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. is the kind of wholesome message we need nowadays. ๐Ÿ™

Are You There God It's Me, Margaret

Margaret prays to God

Cuando los Lagartijos Corren

Tiger Eyes is the first theatrical film adaptation of a Judy Blume novel. Although Blume has been a beloved author for decades, she rarely allows adaptations of her work. It took over 30 years for the 1981 book Tiger Eyes to be adapted in 2012. It’s not her most well known book, but it is a favorite of her son. Which is why Lawrence Blume was the only director she trusted to make the film. Although I never heard of it beforehand, I decided to read Tiger Eyes after preparing for the next adaptation. Like most Blume stories, Tiger Eyes is about a young girl dealing with relatable problems. Davey Wexler is a teenager who struggles to cope with the sudden loss of her father who was shot.

Tiger Eyes is so independent that they couldn’t set the movie in the 80’s or use anything that would’ve cost more money. 7-Eleven is replaced by a sandwich shop and the play Oklahoma! is replaced by a talent show. The soundtrack is also pretty generic. The cast is made up of unknowns and TV actors. Pre-Arrow Willa Holland has the right kind of expressive eyes and youthful look to play Davey. The Pink Ranger herself Amy Jo Johnson plays Davey’s younger mother Gwen who grows despondent after the death. Davey, her mother, and naive kid brother Jason move from Atlantic City to Los Alamos where she stays with her cautious Aunt Bitsy and Uncle Walter with Cynthia Stevenson playing the former. Tiger Eyes is faithful to a certain point, but it starts to deviate from the book and streamline a lot of events just to achieve a 92 minute runtime.

Davey’s cat is left behind and her friendship with Jane puts more emphasis on her being an alcoholic. While the movie downplays her mother’s boyfriend and completely omits a therapist that helps her cope. Bitsy is made more sympathetic by being Gwen’s biological sister, but Walter doesn’t really redeem himself. The biggest change is her relationship with Wolf. Wolf is a mysterious rock climbing local boy who helps Davey heal and gives her the “Tiger Eyes” nickname. Although Spanish in the book, the movie version is more explicitly Native American with Tatanka Means as Wolf and his father Russell Means as his sick father. The subject of death is given dramatic weight, but I think the book was more emotional. Since Judy Blume co-wrote the screenplay alongside her son, I guess I can’t fault too many fundamental changes. Tiger Eyes is pure Blume.

Tiger Eyes

Wolf stands behind Davey