Friday, February 17, 2017

Me Before You

Me Before You
Director: Thea Sharrock
Cast: Emilia Clarke, Sam Clafin, Janet McTeer, Charles Dance, Matthew Lewis
Released: June 3, 2016

Spoilers ahoy! 

Valentine's Day may be over, but I'm continuing my trend of romance movies through the rest of the month of February (and maybe into March, depending on how fast I can roll these out!) This movie is based on a book I had never heard of by an author I'm not familiar with, Jojo Moyes. It stars Emilia Clarke (aka Khalessi (yes, I had to look that up to make sure I spelled that right!) from Game of Thrones) as Louisa "Lou" Clark. Emilia Clarke, Louisa Clark; is it me or do those names sound really similar? While she doesn't come from a poor background, her family is struggling with money and she needs to get a job after she lost her job as a barista because the place just closed for some reason...or maybe she was fired? I'm not exactly sure what happened there, but the movie clearly wants us to move on and she goes to a job agency where they hook her up as a caretaker for a man who is paralyzed. She is hired even though she has no experience with this sort of thing.

When fandoms collide
She is interviewed by the matron of the estate (oh, yeah, this is a rich family she's working for; they even own a freaking castle!), Camilla Traynor (Janet McTeer). Lou has just assumed the man she will be tending to is her husband, but is shocked when Mrs. Traynor tells her it's her son, Will (Sam Clafin), who is only a few years older than Louisa. I'm sure Game of Throne fans went giddy when they saw that Mr. Traynor was played by Charles Dance and saw Tywin Lanister and Daenerys Targaryen in the same scenes together (did they even have any scenes together in GoT? I honestly don't remember). But wait! It gets even more fandom-y crazy! Lou has a boyfriend, Patrick, and he is played by Matthew Lewis who is best known for playing Neville Longbottom in the Harry Potter movies. When I first saw them in a scene together, I was like, "Wait a minute...is that...yes, that's Neville!" So Khalessi and Neville Longbottom are a couple....sure, I could buy it!

But don't get too attached to these two as a couple, because she's going to end up falling for Will. Will was in an accident two years ago where he was hit by a motorcycle. Before the accident, he seemed to be a complete douche: the rich, good-looking guy who did everything right and was handed everything on a golden platter. And let's be honest, pre-accident Will would have never given Louisa, a pretty, but quirky and talkative girl with an eccentric taste for fashion, a second glance. You know I'm right! He's also a douche post-accident, but I guess you can't really blame the guy because he's only 31 and will be bound to a wheelchair for the rest of his life and has a lot of physical pain. He is very rude to Lou when they first meet and doesn't want her to talk to him. She tries everyday to try to get him to open up to her, but he won't budge, so finally she just tells him he's acting like a jerk and the only reason she's there is because she needs the money. Another reason he's also so sour is because his ex-girlfriend and best friend have fallen in love and are getting married. Now, before you accuse his ex of leaving him after he got into the accident, that was not the case; instead he shoved her away and wouldn't talk to her. 

However, after about a month, they start talking and start to connect and soon a strong bond is formed between the two. When she tells him she doesn't do much besides wake up, go to work, then come home and sleep, he tells her she should live her life fully. The two attend the wedding of Will's best friend and ex-girlfriend (so awkward!) and also attend a concert together. Louisa sits on his lap as he moves around in circles in his motorized wheelchair as they "dance" to Ed Sheeran's "Thinking Out Loud" (which, remember, the first lyric of that line is "When your legs don't work like they used to before") and it's very cute.

There's another scene where Lou invites Will to her birthday dinner with her parents, sister, and boyfriend. When Patrick sees how close his girlfriend had gotten close to her client, he is clearly jealous. When she is opening her presents, they clearly stole that scene from one of the new episode of Fuller House, haha! Okay, remember that episode- (What am I saying? Of course nobody remembers this because nobody watches the Full House revival!) So there's this episode where it's DJ's birthday and Matt, her boyfriend, and Steve, her high school boyfriend who is still in love with her, each give her a present. Matt gives her a really lame present and Steve gives her a very meaningful present. This is exactly what happens in this scene! Patrick gives her a gift...it's a necklace with a heart pendant that says "Patrick" inside of it. So lame. Will gives her a pair of black and yellow tight aka "bumble bee" tights. Lou had told him she had a pair of these when she was a little kid and loved them so much, but she couldn't find made for a grown woman. She freaks out and gets all giddy when she opens her gift from him and gives him a huge hug.

Don't upset the
Mother of Dragons!
Although they've been spending a lot of time together, Lou finds out that Will is looking into assisted suicide at a place in Switzerland. He wanted to do it six months ago, but told his parents he would wait another six months before he made his final decision. His parents, especially his mother, are both hoping he will change his mind now that he has Lou in his life. They go on a romantic vacation to Mauritius (also there is Will's physical therapist, so it's not exactly just the two of them) where they share their first kiss. (If I remember right). However, Will tells he still plans on ending his life because he can't live with the physical pain anymore and he misses his own life. Did anyone find this to be a slap in the face to Lou? Oh, you did all these things to make me see that life is worth living and you took care of me for the last six months and showed me you loved me, but that's not enough...I'm still going to kill myself!

Lou is crying and won't talk to Will for the rest of the trip and on the plane ride back home. (Good thing he didn't tell her until the last day of their vacation!) When Will's parents are there to greet them at the airport, they can clearly see from Lou's expression that their son hasn't changed his mind about the assisted suicide. She tells them they don't need to pay her and gets on a bus to take her home. She does have a change of heart and flies out to Switzerland to see Will before he dies. There's a lot of tears and he leaves her a note with instructions to visit Paris, which was one of his favorite places to visit and she does, wearing her bumble bee tights. She also learns he left her with a bunch of money. Bet she's not crying anymore!

And what's up with the title? Is the "Me" referring to Lou and the "You" referring to Will or is it the other way around? Because I'm not quite sure...

Sunday, February 12, 2017

The Time of Their Lives

Dirty Dancing
Director: Emile Ardolino
Cast: Patrick Swayze, Jennifer Grey, Jerry Orbach, Kelly Bishop, Jack Weston, Cynthia Rhodes
Released: August 21, 1987

Oscar nominations:

Best Original Song - Franke Previte, John DeNicola, and Donald Markowitz for "(I've Had) The Time Of My Life" (won)


As it is February, the month of Valentine's Day, I thought I would review movies revolving around romance and what better way to start out with one of the most romantic films of our times? (Okay, I may be exaggerating a little bit on that!)

I didn't know that Jennifer Grey's character, Baby (and we will get to that ridiculous name in a bit!), was only seventeen. I don't think they actually say what her age is in the movie, but everywhere I've read about this movie, it says she is seventeen and it is mentioned that she is planning on attending college to study economics and wants to join the Peace Corps, so it sounds like she is just barely out of high school. I guess I had just assumed she was in her early twenties, not jail bait. I also figured Jennifer Grey was in her early twenties when she filmed this, but she was 27....ten years older than her character! Considering I thought she was 22 or 23, I guess she pulled it off...barely though. Still don't see her as a teenager! Her real name is Frances Houseman, but she goes by "Baby" for God knows what reason. Who the hell calls a grown ass woman "Baby?" Okay, she's "seventeen", but still, I mean, seriously now! Yes, it did give us that iconic line, "Nobody puts Baby in a corner!" ....but it still sounded pretty stupid when her father or mother called her "Baby". (And way creepy when the father said it). We do get a funny line where someone tells her, "Go back to your playpen, Baby." Baby's dad is played by Jerry Orbach and her mom is played by Kelly Bishop. Imagine my shock and delight when I saw that a young Emily Gilmore was in this! Wait! Does this mean that Baby is Lorelai's older half-sister? I can see Lorelai having a field day making fun of "Baby's" nickname. Although, the time line wouldn't work because this movie is set in 1963, but I think they forgot to dress some of the extras in the last scene because there are some very '80s clothes and hair on some of them who are watching the final dance! Plus there's this other scene where Baby is wearing acid wash jeans where you forget this movie is suppose to be set in the early '60s!

Baby's family, along with her older sister, Lisa (what? she doesn't have a saccharine nickname like "Honey" or "Sweetie"?) are going to a resort in the Catskill Mountains called Kellerman's which is owned by a man named Max Kellerman (Jack Weston), who Mr. Houseman knows. It doesn't really remind me of a resort, but rather a camp for families. There are cabins guests stay in and activities that include dancing (duh!), arts and crafts, golf, and boating.  

Crazy for Swayze!
While at a dance lesson, Baby (I cannot get over how stupid her name is!) sees dance instructor Johnny Castle (Patrick Swayze) and his dance partner (dance partner only, mind you!), Penny (Cynthia Rhodes) putting everyone to shame as they dance the salsa...or the mamba...or the waltz. Hell, I don't know what they were doing! Baby can't keep her eyes off the older guy and meets him when she accidentally gets invited to a party that's for staff members only. Apparently there's 400 people who work at this resort because that's how many people are dancing inside the lodge. This is where everyone is bumping and grinding against each other. They could never dance like this in front of the guests! This is when Johnny and Baby are introduced to each other and Baby is introduced to "dirty dancing". (Do people really call it that? I just call it "bumping and grinding").

There's a lot of drama involving Penny who is pregnant and wants to get money to get an abortion. We're suppose to think it's Johnny's baby since they used to date, but it's a douche bag waiter named Robby who also has his eye on Lisa. Baby asks her dad for the money who just gives it to her because she tells him it's for someone who's in trouble. Which, yes, is true, but sheesh, I would want to know more specifics before I shelled over $250 to anyone. To be fair, he does ask what the money is for, but she tells him she can't tell him. He seems happy enough to give her the money when she assures him she's not the one in trouble and whatever the money is for is not illegal (:::coughWRONG!cough:::) Turns out that $250 was a horrible investment because this so-called "doctor" only had a dirty knife and a folding table and didn't even use ether on her. Good Lord! Understandably, Penny is in agony and Baby runs and gets her father, who is a doctor. When he asks who is responsible for Penny, Johnny tells him he is. Mr. Houseman tells his daughter he doesn't want her associating with Johnny anymore.

What he doesn't know is that Baby has been taking dancing lessons from Johnny. Johnny and Penny usually perform the Mambo at the Sheldrake Hotel, but since Penny will be out of commission due to her, ahem, "procedure", Baby fills in for her. There's a lot of dancing montages and while I don't remember the abortion subplot at all, I remember all the dance montages, like when they're dancing on the log over the water together. (No way I would do that...I don't want to slip and break my neck!) Even though there's plenty of songs from the '50s and '60s, two of the most iconic scenes feature songs from the '80s. Obviously the last dance scene (probably one of the most famous dances in cinematic history) has "(I've Had) the Time of My Life" which was written for the movie and "Hungry Eyes" by Eric Carmen which is played during the montage where Baby is learning the steps to their dance also came out in 1987. It too was written specifically for the movie. While I do love both song, neither of them sound '60s at all! They're both totally '80s. (Well, I think so!)

There's a move at the end of the dance where Baby is suppose to run and jump into Johnny's arms and he'll lift her up in the air. (You know the move!) She chickens out doing it when they perform at the hotel and they just change it into another move. Aside from a few missteps, she does pretty well for her first public performance. Since Baby and Johnny have been spending a lot of quality time together and especially since most of this quality time has been spent dancing and touching each other, they start to have romantic feelings for each other. This is when the movie starts to feel a tad creepy to me. We never find out Johnny's age, but I'm guessing he's suppose to be early twenties. Their age difference wouldn't really be that big of a deal if it weren't for the fact she was seventeen...it's just creepy! Patrick Swayze was seven years older than Jennifer Grey in real life, so that would have made him 34 when he filmed this. And she's on vacation and she sneaks out of the cabin she's sharing with her parents and sister to have sex with Johnny. Even her sister sneaks out of their cabin to have sex with Robby (who she finds is already doing it with a cougar who is staying at the resort). Am I the only one who finds this extremely disturbing?

Grandma Gilmore!
Baby has to admit she spent the night at Johnny's cabin when he's been accused of stealing. She says she know Johnny didn't do it because she was with him in his cabin all night. Turns out the thieves were this elderly couple. Johnny is fired anyway because of his relationship with an underage girl (well, they make it sound like he was fired because he had a relationship with a guest, but really, he did have a relationship with an underage girl!) Mr. Houseman is outraged by this, but once he learns that Johnny wasn't the one who got Penny pregnant and he has some pretty sweet dance moves, he seems to be okay with the two of them hooking up.  Johnny comes back so he can dance the final dance with Baby. Nobody put Baby in a corner, indeed. If you go on YouTube, you can find a TON of videos from weddings where the bride and groom dance to this song. Although this does come from Dirty Dancing, this dance is very appropriate to dance to in front of your grandparents.





Surprise! I have a bonus movie review!

Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights
Director: Guy Ferland
Cast: Diego Luna, Romola Garai, John Slattery, Sela Ward, Jonathan Jackson, Mika Boorem, Patrick Swayze
Released: February 27, 2004



I've seen this movie referred to as a sequel (WTF?) and a prequel, but it's neither. Even though it came out 17 years after the original, it takes place in 1958 so it comes before the original in the timeline. But it really has nothing to do with the original. It's not a remake or a reboot...I guess the best way to describe it would be a re-imagining. You will notice Patrick Swayze in the cast list. No, he does not play Johnny Castle because that would make no sense at all as Johnny would have been a teenager (probably?) in 1958 while Swayze was in his early 50s when he made this. Maybe he played Johnny Castle's father, Jonathan Castle? He is only credited as "Dance Class Instructor" so I guess you could use your own interoperation for who he really is.

Diego Luna? Si, por favor!
While I'm not the biggest fan of the original, I do understand why it's such an iconic movie. This movie is fine. It doesn't hold a candle to the original, but why would it even try? This was the movie that introduced me to Diego Luna, so therefore I love it. When I first watched this movie back when I rented it in 2004, I was like, "OMG, who is that boyishly cute, yet extremely gorgeous guy with the super swoon-worthy accent?" I rented a bunch of his movies and became a fangirl. He somehow manages to be both super cute and super hot at the same time. Usually guys are one or the other (or neither!), but rarely both. To be honest, I hadn't seen many of his movie since the early '10s, but I did see him in Rogue One, and yep, even twelve years after this movie, he's still hot. A few years after I saw this movie on DVD, I was talking with a co-worker of mine and this movie came up in a conversation and I told her how much I loved Diego Luna and she said she did too and saw the movie twice in the theaters and I was like, "Girl, I don't blame you!" Diego Luna can teach me Spanish or make me tacos or make out with me anytime.

Obviously, from the title, the movie takes place in Havana, Cuba. It is about a high school senior named Katey Miller (Romola Garia) who is moving to Havana with her parents (John Slattery and Sela Ward) and little sister, Susie (Mika Boorem). I'm not sure why they move there (with only a weeks' notice too, WTF?), but it is mentioned her dad works for Ford and was promoted. Can I just say thank God the female lead in this movie has a normal name and not a creepy nickname like "Baby"? They live in a swanky hotel where all the other rich white Americans live and Katey meets some of her peers. One of the snobby girls is played by January Jones and James, the son of Katey's dad's boss, is played by Jonathan Jackson, who you probably know best as Avery from Nashville. Katey really only cares about school and studying and reading books and doesn't really associate with her peers, but when James asks her out to a dance at the country club, she accepts so she will fit in and make new friends. Because of the time period this takes pace in, the Cuban Revolution is going on with Castro and Batista and yada, yada, yada.

During this time she also meets Diego's character, Javier Saurez who works at the hotel. They have a brief run-in there but when she sees him dancing to a Cuban band in the Town Square, she likes what she sees. (I mean, can you blame her??) She had missed the bus, so he offers to walk her back to the hotel so she doesn't get lost.

After Katey is insulted at the Country Club dance by January Jones by insinuating she's too goody-goody to come to someone's house to drink, she tells them that she and James are going to a Cuban club, La Rosa Negra because Javier told her about it. Both boys are jealous of the other because they are trying to vie for the attention of Katey, but let's be honest, it's really not a fair fight! James is cute enough you can see why Katey would accept an invitation to a dance with him. Although a bit smug, he seemed to be okay until he puts the moves on her in his parked car after he sees her dancing with the Cuban hottie even after she told James no. So you have a semi-cute smug guy who assaults his date against the super cute/super hot Cuban guy with the adorable accent (and let's not forget those sweet dance moves!) and he's super sweet because he offers to walk her home. I told you it was no contest!

Javier ends up getting fired from his job because Susie and one her friends saw him with Katey and they snitched. It was a big no-no for the staff to be conversing with the guests. Katey feels awful because she knows Javier needs the money to help out his family. She sees a poster promoting a Latin dance competition which will give the winners five grand. She figures with her knowledge of ballroom dancing (both her parents were professional ballroom dancers in their prime) and Javier's street dancing, they can marry the two ideas and come up with a winning dance. Javier is reluctant at first about the idea, but finally agrees. As I mentioned earlier, Patrick Swayze played the dance class instructor and helps Katey fine-tune some of her dance moves and gives her advice.

There's a lot of dance montages and Shakira's "Hips Don't Lie" is played during it (although it's not Shakira singing...not sure who it is). Although the song works for the movie with its lyrics and Latin flair, I am still scratching my head on why a current pop song is playing during a movie set in 1958, but if you remember, the original had songs from its current day playing during a movie set in 1963. But who cares because it's a catchy song and you get to see a lot of cute dance moves in the montage!

Katey's mom, who thinks James is cute and wants things to work out between her daughter and the boss's son has no idea that Katey is spending time with a local boy as Katey is telling her she's spending the time with James. Her parents would have a heart attack if they knew she was spending her time with a poor Cuban boy and not a rich white American one! Hey! This movie is more like Titanic than the original Dirty Dancing if you think about it. I didn't find the relationship between Katey and Javier to be creepy like the one between Baby and Johnny because they were closer in age (as well as the actors) and she wasn't sneaking out to have sex with him ala Baby. Katey makes James cover for her by threatening to tell her parents of the assault if he doesn't.

The dance contest is at a swanky ballroom on Christmas and three couples will be chosen to compete in the finals set for New Year's Eve. But, surprise! Mr. Miller has a surprise for the whole family and is taking them, along with James and his parents, to watch the Latin dance contest. Katey (wearing a black coat over her slinky dress) manages to get away by telling the others she has to use the restroom. There's a funny scene where she's been gone for a few minutes and her mother asks, "Where's Katey?" and Susie (who knows about her sister's participation in the dance contest), replies, "Just wait."  Katey's parents are NOT amused at all and they are just watching her dance with stone cold faces. This is the big dance sequence of the movie and it's pretty impressive what they do. Diego Luna is adorably cute and super hot in this scene; how does he do that?? Oh, yeah, that blonde girl he's dancing with does a good job too, but who is looking at her, haha. No surprise, they are one of the three couples that will be competing in the finals. However, Katey may not get to attend that dance because, boy, are her parents PISSED! (Oh, who are we kidding? Of course she's not going to miss the final dance). Even though her parents don't approve of her relationship with Javier (even though he was totally adorable and gave her mom a flower - c'mon, Sela Ward, you weren't charmed by that?), they do want her to compete in the finals because they know how much she loves dancing. They are the last couple to dance, but they don't get to finish because Javier's brother, who is a revolutionist, has disguised himself as a waiter and opened fire in the crowded ballroom. Everyone manages to get out okay and Javier stops his brother from doing anything (more) stupid. Our favorite couple doesn't win which I thought was a little unfair since their dance was interrupted!

Katey and her family have to leave Cuba in a few days and she wants Javier to join them (like he's her new puppy she found or something!), but he tells her he has to stay in Cuba because that's where his family is and he needs to stay in his home country. Katey's mother comforts her when she gets home and yes, I would be crying too if I had to say goodbye to someone that hot (and cute!) But it's okay because she gets to have one last dance and one last make out session with him, at least.

Okay, yes, I only like this movie for purely shallow reasons! So sue me! 

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Seeing Double

The Parent Trap (1961)
Director: David Swift
Cast: Hayley Mills, Maureen O'Hara, Brian Keith, Joanna Barnes
Released: June 21, 1961

Oscar nominations:

Best Sound (lost to West Side Story)
Best Film Editing (lost to West Side Story)



The Parent Trap (1998)
Director: Nancy Meyers
Cast: Lindsay Lohan, Dennis Quaid, Natasha Richardson, Elaine Hendrix
Released: July 29, 1998


I am doing a double movie review feature which is perfect because these movies feature twins! Ah, yes, The Parent Trap. Everyone knows this movie. It's a classic. If you really think about it, it's a bit of a f***ed up movie. A couple meets, falls in loves, gets married, has twin girls, then gets divorced soon after. That's actually all normal, but it's the fact that each parent takes a twin and live on opposite sides of the country (or, in the remake's case, different continents) and neither girl has no idea that the other one even exists! Also, I'm pretty sure that's not how custody works. I don't think the parents can just choose which child they want to keep as their own! 

The '98 movie follows the original pretty closely with only a few updated changes. So much so that both movies are pretty much the same length. Hayley Mills plays Sharon McKendrick and Susan Evers and Lindsay Lohan plays Annie James and Hallie Parker. Now I know that Hayley Mills was a popular child/teen actress of the early '60s, but to me, she'll always be Miss Bliss fromSaved By the Bell! This was Lindsay Lohan's first movie and before she became a tabloid favorite, she was a pretty cute little eleven year old and it's impressive that her first movie was playing two characters who both have very different personalities and mannerisms. They could have easily cast the Olsen twins (who are the same age as Lohan), but I like that the movie cast only one actress as the original did. I felt like it would be cheating if they had cast real twins! I had always just assumed they named one of the Lohan twins "Hallie" as a homage to Hayley Mills (Hayley, Hallie, they sound close enough), but reading through the IMDb trivia section, I found out that the Lohan twins were named after the director's daughters.
  
Besides the names, the ages are also different. The Mills twins are thirteen and the Lohan twins are eleven. Both movies start with the girls going to the same summer camp. (Seriously, what are the odds of that; especially when they don't even live in the same town and the camp isn't even in the same area where they live?) I guess when they were making movies in the '60s, they didn't know how to build suspense because the very first moment Susan and Sharon are in the same room, they see each other. This happens the first night at camp when they're in line for dinner at the mess hall and both reach for something and see each other and give each other a look of surprise. At least in the remake, they milk it a bit before the twins discover each other. Like the original, there's a scene where they're both reaching for something while in line for dinner, but they don't see each other because the camp counselor is between them. They finally see each other for the first time after they've had a fencing duel and take off their masks and also gasp in surprise at their similarities. For some reason, both sets of twins take an immediate disliking to each other (with one twin insulting the other's looks...um, hello, you look exactly the same!) and a prank war ensues. This results with the girls being sent to the Isolation Cabin.  This is when they start to learn peculiar things about each other. One girl grew up with her father and never knew her mother (Susan and Hallie) and the other girl grew up with her mother and never knew her father (Sharon and Annie). They also find out they have the same birthday and will be turning the same age! And they look exactly alike! What are the odds of that?

It's the twin of the mother who realizes that something is up and has a realization that they just may be related. (Duh, no kidding!) In the original, Susan tells Sharon she's seen a photo of her mom and Sharon shows her a huge framed photo of her mom (seriously, who would bring something like that to a camp?) to which Susan asks what she's doing with a picture of HER mother and Sharon says that it's HER mother. In the remake, both girls have a torn photo, ripped down the middle of the parent they didn't grow up with. They reveal the photos and realize it makes a whole and the other girl recognizes the parent they did grow up with. "That's my mum!" "That's my dad!"

It's the idea of the twin who grew up with her father for them to switch places when they leave camp, so that way, their parents (who have never gotten remarried to other people), will have to unswitch them and will therefore meet and fall in love again. To do this, they cut the the hair of the twin with the longer locks and in the remake, they pierce the ears of the twin who doesn't have them. They also tell each other about their lives at home and the people in their everyday lives, like Sharon's/Annie's grandfather and butler and Susan's maid/Hallie's nanny.

In both movies, the twin of the father is from Carmel, California, but in the original, the twin of the mother lives in Boston while in the remake, they make her from London. Actually, while watching the original, I was a little surprised when I found out she was from Boston because she sounded more British than Bostonian; she certainly didn't sound like the people from movies and TV who are from Boston! Then I realized the "other" twin also sounded a little British and realized Hayley Mills just didn't quite get rid of her British accent as she's British in real life.

So Susan travels to Boston as "Sharon" where she meets her mother, Maggie McKendrick (Maureen O'Hara) and Hallie travels to London as "Annie" where she meets her mother, Elizabeth James (Natasha Richardson). I love that the twins are blonde and have a redheaded mother in the original and in the remake the twins are redheads and have a blonde mother? While riding in the car to her mother's home, Hallie is looking out the window and gawking at all the famous London sites. Girl, compose yourself! Remember, you're a native! The mothers in both movies are very beautiful, proper, and refined and the twins who finally get to meet her are just so enamored with her. Elizabeth is a famous wedding gown designer and takes her daughter to a photo shoot. I don't think they ever tell us what Maggie does.

Sharon travels to California as "Susan" where she meets her dad, Mitch Evers (Brian Keith) and
Annie travels to California as "Hallie" where she meets her dad, Nick Parker (Dennis Quaid). It was a little creepy in the original because when Susan was describing her dad to Sharon, she used words like "dreamy" and "sensational". Okay, let's calm down, it sounds like you have a crush on your dad! (Eww!) Luckily, they don't go that route in the remake. (I should hope not!) The fathers in both movies are rich, handsome, rugged-outdoors men and the twins who finally get to meet him are just so enamored with them. But not to the point of creepiness. The only girl who has a crush on her father in these movies is Susan! Like the mothers in both movies, both of the fathers live in large, gorgeous houses, so it's not like neither sets of twins were destitute. Both sets were living pretty great lives, but they just want to make their lives even better! Who can blame them? In both movies, Sharon and Annie, posing as the other twin, are confronted by Susan's and Hallie's confused dog who barks at them.

Unfortunately there is a little hiccup in Operation: Get Parents Back Together when Sharon/Annie discovers their father has a girlfriend - a MUCH younger girlfriend, which he plans to marry. Mitch is planning to marry Vicky (Joanna Barnes) and Nick is planning to marry Meredith (Elaine Hendrix). Joanna Barnes plays the mother of Meredith in the remake, so that's pretty cool. There's a funny moment in the remake where Nick is about to tell "Hallie" he's going to marry Meredith, but Annie interrupts him and says how she's so excited to have a big sister since he's obviously going to adopt her. Who would adopt a twenty-six year old? It's so ridiculous, but funny.

Sharon and Annie call their sisters to reveal the bad news. Susan gets a telegram from Western Union delivered from Sharon that says "Alexander Graham 3 AM important" and her mother and grandparents can't crack the code. Please. It's so obvious that she's suppose to call her "friend" (who she says it's from) at three in the morning.

Both sets of twins get caught before they reveal who they really are. Susan and Hallie get caught by Sharon's and Annie's grandfather (I guess technically, he is their grandfather too) after they've gotten off the phone with the other twin. He makes her tell the truth to his daughter. Susan is a total brat when she reveals who she really is to her mother and grandmother because she's whining how Sharon is back in California "riding my horse and having a keen time while I'm stuck here with these lousy music lessons and I hate them." Sharon is caught by the Evers's maid, Verbena and Annie is discovered by Hallie's nanny, Chessy, when both women become suspicious of the dog acting different towards the girls and their change of appetites.

By now the only person who doesn't know they've switched places is their father. Susan/Hallie and their mothers fly to California to switch places and hopefully stop their dad's marriage to a floozy and rekindle a romance between their parents. In both movies they do the old joke where the dad sees one twin, then, a minute later, sees the other twin and he's confused as to how she just popped up again so soon and she's wearing different clothes. There's a totally cringe-worthy moment in the original where Maggie takes a shower at the house while Mitch is out on his horse and when he comes back, there's a bra hanging on the shower door and he thinks it belongs to his thirteen-year-old daughter (which it obviously doesn't). Again, luckily, they take this out of the remake. When Mitch/Nick sees their ex-wife, they are shocked. So shocked, in fact, they fall into a lake/pool. In the original, when Mitch and Maggie are reunited, they start fighting and SCREAMING at each other. Now I can see why they got divorced! They're a lot more civil to each other in the remake. This is when the twins show up and explain to their father they've switched places this whole time. Both sets of twins guilt trip their parents into saying how they've grown up this whole time without a mother/father and beg their father not to marry Vicky/Meredith.


The twins set up a date for their parents that matches the very first date they ever had. This is when the Mills twins sing "Let's Get Together". The Lohan twins don't serenade their parents, but there is a scene earlier in the movie when one of those twins is humming it. However, the romantic dates don't quite work because the mother plans to fly back home with her daughter (the right twin this time). The twins play a trick on their parents by dressing exactly the same and not revealing who is who, therefore confusing their parents. They tell them they both want to go on the camping trip their dad has planned with the whole family. After they return, they will tell them who is who. Plans change and Vicky/Meredith end up going on the camping trip instead of Maggie/Elizabeth. This gives Susan and Sharon and Hallie and Annie the perfect opportunity to terrorize their almost stepmother-to-be. The remake keeps most of the same pranks as the original such as the girls putting a little lizard on the gold digger's water bottle, telling her to clap two sticks together to keep the mountain lions away, and putting water and sugar in her bug spray. The final, biggest prank is the one that's different. In the remake, they drag Meredith out from her tent on her inflatable bed while she's sleeping and float her out on the lake. I'm surprised she didn't roll into the water. She doesn't fall into the lake until the next morning when she wakes up and is standing up and screaming. Well, of course, you're going to fall into the water if you stand up on an inflatable bed! While I would have been pretty furious if someone did that to me, I would have much rather have that prank played on me than the one Susan and Sharon play on Vicky. These girls pretty much try to have this woman murdered when they put honey on her toes and leave a trail of it so when she wakes up, two bear cubs are licking at her feet. Understandably, she starts screaming and freaking out as any normal person would in that situation. Some guy (I guess the ranch hand) says, "Those are itty bitty bears! They wouldn't hurt a fly!" like it's no big deal. WHAT?!? Sure, those bear cubs may not do any damage, but Mama Bear ain't gonna be too happy! They must not have known about bear safety in the '60s, maybe? They seemed pretty laid back about two bear cubs visiting their camp. Even if they hadn't enticed the bears with honey, they still would have had them as visitors what with all the food they just left out on the tables! Susan and Sharon are just lying in their sleeping bags and I really wanted to smack them. I did not like them after that incident. Don't get me wrong: Annie and Hallie are plenty bratty to Meredith, but they never put her in a dangerous situation where she would have been mauled by a bear! Good God, movie! In the original, Vicky is furious and just leaves and in the remake Meredith is also furious and gives Nick an ultimate: them or her. Of course, he's going to choose his own children over a woman he's only known for a couple of months.

Of course, in both movies, both sets of parents realize they're still in love with each other and reunite. These are Disney movies, after all, of course they're going to have happy endings! I'm not sure where they ended up living, though. I found the original to be more realistic from the fact that the parents really seemed to hate each other so it's easy to see why they got divorced! They were just screaming and snipping at each other quite a bit! I'm not quite sure what was going on there. The parents in the remake seemed to like each other a lot more, but it is revealed they got married pretty quickly so maybe they thought that was a bad idea and that's why they got divorced? I do like the remake better because it came out when I was alive, for one thing, so I am more familiar with it. The original was still good, but there were a few parts that seemed to drag on. There are also a few questionable things in the original that I already mentioned and I did find those sets of twins to be more bratty than the twins in the remake. But Hayley Mills is much more iconic than Lindsay Lohan!



Monday, January 23, 2017

City of Stars

La La Land
Director: Damien Chazelle
Cast: Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling, John Legend, Rosemarie DeWitt, J.K. Simmons
Released: December 9, 2016
Viewed in theaters: January 11, 2017

Oscar nominations:
Best Picture
Best Director - Damien Chazelle
Best Actor - Ryan Gosling
Best Actress - Emma Stone
Best Original Screenplay - Damien Chazelle
Best Cinematography
Best Film Editing
Best Production Design
Best Costume Design
Best Original Score - Justin Hurwitz
Best Original Song - "Audition (The Fools Who Dream")
Best Original Song - "City of Stars"
Best Sound Mixing
Best Sound Editing 



Okay, confession: if I had to pay to see this movie, I probably would have just waited to see it on DVD. But since I saw this with my parents and wouldn't have to pay to see it, I was more than happy to check it out and actually liked it more than I thought it would. For the most part, I do like musicals, but I was horribly scarred by the last one I saw in the theaters (at least, I think it was the last one I saw in theaters!): the horribly never ending and dreadfully boring, Les Miserables. Oh. My. God! I HATED, no LOATHED that movie so much! So much so that it turned me off of musicals for quite awhile. One of the (many, many!) reasons I hated that movie so much is that EVERY SINGLE LINE is sung in that movie and it's like, AUGH! SHUT UP!! Luckily, La La Land is not like that. At all. In fact, I've heard a criticism that there aren't enough songs in it. I can kind of understand because sometimes it feels it goes awhile without any songs and while I think a couple more songs would have been fine, I'm glad it's not all singing because that would get really old, really fast. I like the musicals where there are a handful of songs, but the characters don't sing every single line in the movie. There are homages to other musicals in this one. If you didn't catch the Singin' in the Rain one, well, that's just sad because that one was pretty blatant! I got a Moulin Rouge vibe from the dance scene at the planetarium. (Although it was much more toned down in this movie!)

The movie definitely reels you in from the beginning with its first song called "Another Day of Sun". It's not sung by any of the stars of the movie, but rather just by L.A. commuters (I mean, obviously they were trained dancers and singers!) The premise is a big traffic jam on a freeway in L.A. and everyone gets out of their car and starts singing and dancing. I was really impressed that this impossible scene was filmed and I thought how irritated people must have been that they shut that stretch of freeway down for who knows how long. Okay. I just checked Wikipedia. It was closed for two days. It's a pretty impressive scene and if memory serves right, it's all taken in one long shot.

This is the third time Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling have starred in a movie together as romantic partners. If you're like me, you remember they were in Crazy, Stupid Love, but probably forgot they were in Gangster Squad. Actually, I've never seen that movie, so they could play siblings in that one for all I know! In La La Land, they play Mia and Sebastien, who both live in Los Angeles and are trying to pursue their dreams. Mia wants to be an actress and we see many scenes of her auditioning for some kind of role or another. She lives with three other roommates and works at a coffee house. She's originally from Nevada and we learn she wants to be an actress because she grew up watching old movies. We see her at many auditions throughout the movie and I just wanted to scream in frustration for her. I would hope that casting agents aren't this blase (pretend there's an accent mark over the e) in real life, but who knows. When we first see her auditioning for a role (wearing a coat because a customer spilled coffee on her shirt and she didn't have time to change), it appears to be a dramatic role where she's speaking on the phone to someone and it's obviously a serious scene because she starts crying, but during all this, the casting agents are talking and someone walks in to interrupt. She keeps going though, and is quite good, but doesn't get the part. We also see her try out for cop and medical dramas. (God knows there's enough of them on TV!) Her big break almost comes when she gets a call back for a show that she says is Dangerous Minds meets The OC, haha. How would that work anyway? Is it a show about inner city rich kids? Or a show about a teacher at a rowdy prep school? The whole premise was ridiculous and Mia was trying out for the teacher role and there were some pretty funny lines during her audition like, "No, Jamal, you be trippin'" or "Two options: you either follow my rules or follow my rules. Capiche?"

Sebastien is passionate about jazz and wants to own his own jazz club to keep that genre of music alive because he fears it's a lost art. In the meantime, to make money, he plays a piano at a restaurant but is fired when he forgoes the Christmas songs he's suppose to play in order to pay a piece he wrote himself. His boss (played by J.K. Simmons, who was in Whiplash, which Chazelle also directed) fires him on the spot and Sebastien storms out. Mia had heard the music and came into the restaurant to listen to him play and is about to compliment him, but he just brushes abruptly past her. The movie is divided into seasons (much like the Gilmore Girls Netflix revival!) and they (of course) meet up a few months later.

They soon start dating and encourage the other to follow their dreams. Mia feels maybe she isn't good enough because no matter how many auditions she goes on or how many call backs she gets, there is always someone who is prettier or more talented than her that ends up getting the job. That's just one reason why I would never want to be an actor (you know, other than the fact that I can't act!): it would just be so frustrating to get rejected all the time because you know that 99.9% of people who go out to Hollywood to make it big never get their big break. At least maybe they can get a small role on one of the thousands of TV shows that are out there! Sebastien tells Mia instead of auditioning, she should just have someone come to her and write her own play, so she does that. Only a handful of people come to her one-woman play (I've never had any desire to see those kinds of plays...luckily I don't have any friends who are involved in the theater!) including her three roommates. To her dismay, Sebastien isn't there and she hears people talking badly about the play when she's in her dressing room.

Mia is excited for Sebastien to start his own jazz club which he wants to call Chicken on a Stick (horrible name!), but Mia tells him she should call it Seb's with a saxophone for the apostrophe. (Much better name!) Even though Mia doesn't like jazz when she first meets Sebastien, she soon comes to appreciate it through his appreciation and admiration for it. Me? I'm not a jazz fan, as I find it to be screechy to the ear, but I could also almost be turned into a fan through Sebastien's passion for it. If you've ever listened to the podcast called Extra Hot Great, you may be familiar with their "Is This Worse Than Jazz?" section. I would say La La Land is NOT worse than jazz. Sebastien puts his dreams on hold to be a keyboardist in his friend's, Keith's (John Legend) jazz band. He begins to forget about his dream once he starts making money and Mia is angry with him and this leads to one of many fights they will have.

I am about to get into spoiler territory so continue on at your own risk! Seriously, I am about to spoil things in the movie so don't read any more if you have not seen La La Land yet and DO NOT WANT TO BE SPOILED!! You have been warned!



Okay, so of all the coincidences in the world, a casting agent happens to be one of the seven people who saw Mia's play and wants to audition her for a movie. By this time, Mia, after having a fight with Sebastien and thinking acting is not for her, has moved in with her parents in Nevada. Sebastien has gotten the call from the casting agent and convinces Mia to go back to Los Angeles to audition which she does and ends up landing the job which is in Paris. We get a "Five Years Later" time stamp and see that Mia has become the famous actress she has always longed to be. Mia has always had to serve coffee to the movie stars and now she gets to be the movie star who is being served the coffee. Sebastien has finally achieved his dream of opening his own jazz club. And thankfully he went with Mia's idea of calling it Seb's and not Chicken on a Stick! However, we get a gut punch when we see Mia walk into her home, greet her toddler daughter, then kiss her husband...who is NOT Sebastien! Uh, what! He is played by Tom Everett Scott and I guess Chazelle asked him to be in the movie because he was a fan of That Thing You Do (I get the feeling Chazelle is a fan of the jazz, haha!)

Mia and her husband take a stroll and decide to check out this new, popular club which Mia immediately realizes is Sebastien's jazz club. There's a scene where we see what would have happened if they had stayed together. My mom thought it was Mia's daydream, but I thought it was Sebastien's because in this daydreams, he kisses her at the restaurant the night he lost his job instead of shunning her. Who knows? Maybe they were both imagining the same thing at the same time. Because they are that connected.

I predict this movie will win the Oscar for Best Picture.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

No 'Room' for Error

Room
Director: Lenny Abrahamson
Cast: Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay, Joan Allen, William H. Macy, Sean Bridgers, Wendy Crewson
Released: October 16, 2015

Oscar nominations:

Best Picture - (lost to Spotlight)
Best Director - Lenny Abrahamson (lost to Alejandro Inarritu for The Revenant)
Best Actress - Brie Larson (won)
Best Adapted Screenplay - Emma Donoghue (lost to Charles Randolph and Adam McKay for The Big Short)


I should probably start out with saying that there will be spoilers, MAJOR spoilers, in this review.

I was aware of the book this movie is based on by Emma Donoghue when it was released in 2010 from reading blurbs about it in Entertainment Weekly and Marie Claire, two magazines I subscribed to at the time. I knew it was about a young woman and her five-year-old son who are being held captive in a small room (hence the title). It wasn't really the subject matter of the story that turned me off from the story, no, it was the fact that the story is told from the perspective of the five-year-old. When I read that, I was like, "I'm out!" That just did not appeal to me at all. However, while there are voiceovers from the young boy in the movie, movies are different from books in that you are not always being narrated by someone so it was much easier to take. Now maybe I'm wrong about the book and it could be wonderful, but I really do not want to read something from the perspective of a five-year-old even though this certain five-year-old is (sadly) like no other child his age.

If one went into this movie without knowing what it was about or having read the book, they might be a little confused at first about what is going on. We see a young woman, Joy (Brie Larson) celebrating her son, Jack's (Jacob Tremblay) fifth birthday. Jack wakes up and goes around the small room they're in, saying hello to the different pieces of furniture and appliances. Despite living in cramped corners, they seem to be happy. We soon realize that they aren't just living there, but are being held prisoner there (well, I already knew that since I was aware of the story!) The 'room' they are living in is a small shed outside the home of Joy's abductor, a man she calls "Old Nick" (Sean Bridgers) - she doesn't know his real name. It consists of a bed, a wardrobe, a toilet, a bath, a small TV, and a small kitchen/dining area. The only window is a skylight. Joy has Jack do small laps around the room and push ups to get exercise. Her abductor has a passcode to get in and out and brings them food and sleeps there at night so he can rape the twenty-four year old girl. We learn that Joy has been held captive in this room for seven years and obviously Jack is a product of her abductor. To be honest, I'm surprised she didn't have any more kids. When he spends the night, Joy makes Jack sleep in the wardrobe. There is a moment in the movie when Jack sneaks up on Old Nick when he's sleeping and Joy wakes up and starts freaking out and tells Old Nick to get away from him. One thing is for sure: even though Jack is his son, Old Nick obviously doesn't care about him. He doesn't even know how old he is. Of course, this is a guy who abducted a girl when she was seventeen, raped her repeatedly, and kept her prisoner in a small room for seven years. Remember in my review of The Silence of the Lambs when I said I will never help anyone move a couch into a van because that's how the young girl was abducted in that movie? Well, if someone asks me to look for their dog, I'm not helping them because that was how Joy was abducted in this movie. 

Since Jack has only known "room" (and he refers to it as though it's a town he lives in) his entire (albeit short) life, he is not aware that anything else outside of "room" exists. Everything in "room" is real while everything he sees on the TV, is not. Because Jack has seen spiders and mosquitoes in "room", they are real, but the squirrels and dogs he's seen on TV, are not. The plant (that badly needs to be watered) in "room" is real, but the trees he's seen on TV are not. There's a moment in the film when Jack sees a mouse and gives it crumbs, but Joy throws something at it to scare it and it goes back though the tiny hole it came through. (If you know anything about mice, they can squeeze through the tiniest of holes). Jack accuses his mother of killing the mouse, but Joy tells him the mouse is in the backyard, which confuses the poor child and thinks his mother is talking about a backyard on the TV. 

Since Jack is now five, Joy believes he is old enough to understand what is going on. She tells him how the mouse is on the other side of the wall to which Jack responds with, "What other side?" and his mom tells him there's two sides to every wall...the inside which they are in, and the outside, which they can't see. She explains to him how there is an entire world outside "room" and the things they see on TV are pictures of real things and the people they see on TV are real humans called actors. Jack, being a petulant five-year-old, accuses her of lying to him and you can just see the desperation on Joy's face as she's trying hard to figure out how to make him aware of the truth. 

She comes up with an idea to make Jack's face flushed so he feels like he has a fever and even gags into his hair so he smells sick. (Eww, poor kid). She's hoping this will make Old Nick take him to the emergency room where Jack can give a note to someone explaining their situation. This does not prove to work because Old Nick just tells her that he'll get "stronger stuff" for him next time. 

Joy has been reading "The Count of Monte Cristo" to Jack and if you know anything about that story, it shouldn't surprise you that it will play a big part in this story. Joy tells Jack that she wants him to play dead, much like the main character of the Dumas classic when he escapes from his prison, and she will roll him up in a large rug where then Old Nick will have to take him out in his truck and drive him somewhere to be buried. She carefully explains to Jack that she wants him to stay perfectly still while Old Nick is putting him in the truck, but once they are driving and he's come to a stop, she wants him to unroll from the blanket, jump out of the truck, and run, screaming for help, to the nearest person where he will then give said person the piece of paper explaining his situation with his mother's name. They practice, many times, having him roll and maneuver our of the heavy rug. The whole thing is very traumatizing for Jack and he screams, "I HATE YOU!" at his mother. It is a VERY scary situation for both parties involved. It's scary for Jack because it will be his first time in his life without his mother and in a new environment where he has to perform a difficult physical task (which he does end up achieving while they practice it, but practicing and actually doing it are two totally different things). Also, if he fails, Old Nick will kill both of them. It's scary for Joy because she's relying on a five-year-old child. She has to place all her trust and faith in this child who has never experienced the world and didn't even know the world existed until a couple days ago. 

When Old Nick comes in, Joy has Jack all rolled up and starts crying to him that Jack has died and she wants him to take him somewhere nice to be buried and not the backyard. Luckily, Old Nick abides to her wishes. The moment he takes the boy rolled up in the carpet and shuts the door behind him had to be a scary one for Joy, not knowing if she would see her son again or if she would be rescued. 

The scene with Jack rolled up in the rug in the back of the truck made me so anxious, especially when he begins to roll out. I was literally on the edge of my seat. When Jack starts wiggling out of the rug, I was worried that the abductor was going to notice a movement in his rearview mirror. We see a bunch of train tracks and I was worried that he was taking Jack to a place way out of the way where there would be no people around. A now freed, very visible Jack is out of the rug and standing up in the truck, looking out over the side and I was so worried that the abductor was definitely going to notice him then! As you can see, I was just so worried during this whole ordeal! It's only when he comes to a quick stop, then starts again when Jack falls over and makes a sound that he notices and stops the car. Jack jumps out, disoriented, and runs right into a man walking his dog. Because Jack has long hair, the man mistakes him for a girl. Old Nick grabs Jack and the guy knows there's something wrong, especially when Jack starts saying, "Help!" and reaches to give him the piece of paper that Old Nick takes and crumbles. He also tells the man to mind his own business. When the guy tells him he's going to call the police, Old Nick shoves Jack away and gets back in the car and you think this can't be good news for Joy.

We next see Jack with two police officers who are trying to get answers from him, but he's too confused and upset to even remember his mom's name and since he no longer has the note, they don't have that lead. There was a moment earlier in the film where Joy bites into an apple and a bad tooth comes out (well, she hadn't been to the dentist in seven years...) and she gives it to Jack so he would always have a piece of him with her and he shows it to the police woman. I thought for sure this was how they were going to identify Joy, through her dental records. But it wasn't. He just describes how long they were driving and the police woman seems to know the area he came from and they find and rescue Joy, who miraculously, was still alive. We never find out what happened to Old Nick, but he is presumably sent to jail.

All of this takes place within the first hour and I will admit I was a little surprised at how quickly Joy was rescued. Most movies would have the whole story be about them trying to escape, but that is resolved within the first hour. In the second hour, it deals with Joy getting back to the real world. She is reunited with her parents (played by Joan Allen and William H. Macy), who are divorced. She and Jack move in with her mother. It's very interesting to see Jack acclimatize to his new surroundings. Joy has to show him how to use the steps in her mother's house because he's never had to use steps before and didn't know what they were. (I guess he never saw anyone use them on TV?) There's a very sweet moment when he gets to play with a dog for the first time. And another very sweet moment when he tells his grandma, "I love you."

But just because Joy and her son have been rescued, doesn't mean everything is hunky-dory. The first night the family has dinner together, Joy accuses her father of not being able to look at Jack and after that we never see that character again. I was confused by this, but I guess it was too hard for him to see this child that was also part his daughter's rapist and abductor. She also gets very angry with her mother and accuses her she's the reason she was abducted because her mother always told her to be nice to people and that was the reason why she helped the man with the "lost dog". 

Joy does a TV interview with a talk show host (Wendy Crewson) and it is such a contrast to see how she looked when she was in "room" (no make up, dull, dry hair) to when she does the interview at her mom's house (all made up, nice clothes, shiny hair). She's being asked questions like, "Why didn't you just kill yourself?" She's thrown through a loop when the hosts asks her why she didn't just ask her captor to take Jack to a hospital when he was born so someone else could raise him. I don't think Joy should be punished for this because how would she know he would even take the baby to a safe place and not just get rid of it? And, really, Jack is the whole reason she was rescued in the first place. I have a feeling that interviewer got a lot of angry tweets the next day!

There's a very interesting scene at the end where Joy and Jack go back to "room" because Jack insists on it. I suppose it makes sense he wants to have closure with it because it's the only home he's known. Who knows? Maybe I will check out the book.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Magic in the Air

Prancer
Director: John D. Hancock
Cast: Rebecca Harrell, Sam Elliot, Cloris Leachman, Abe Vigoda, Ariana Richards
Released: November 17, 1989


My final Christmas movie (for this year!) concludes with Prancer. I don't remember seeing this in the theaters, but I'm sure I must have because I would have been the perfect age and what young kid doesn't love movies with animals? Especially magical, Christmas animals? I do know I have seen this before, but it's been a very long time and watching it again was like watching it for the first time. The basic premise of the movie is an eight-year-old girl finds a reindeer and believes it to be Prancer, THE Prancer of Santa's eight reindeer. And that was the only thing I remembered. OMG, I cried SO many times during this movie! This probably isn't a big surprise since Christmas comedies like Home Alone and Elf make me tear up when I watch them, but this movie (NOT a comedy, BTW!) just gutted me.

Jessica Riggs (known as Jessie to her family and friends) lives in a very rural area called Three Oaks (the welcome/goodbye sign says, "Happy to Have You, Sad to See You Go") with her dad, John (Sam Elliot), and older brother, Steve, who's probably twelve or thirteen. She's played by Rebecca Harrell who is very darling in this. This was her first (and only, really) movie and I think she did a good job for a movie where she's the lead at nine-years-old. I found her to be very earnest and sincere which worked quite well for her character. I was never sure exactly what state this movie was set in - I just assumed Washington. Maybe Michigan since the movie was filmed there. Her mother died, presumably of cancer, but the movie never tells us when, but I would assume in the last year. Things are tough on their farm and the Riggs family is barely scraping by. John is often short with his daughter because she's always going off on her own and getting in trouble. Like the time she and her friend, Carol (Ariana Richards...you might know her best as Lex from Jurassic Park), go sledding down a huge hill that takes them through Mrs. McFarland's (Cloris Leachman) front lawn and they knock over her potted plants. Mrs. McFarland is a reclusive old woman and has a very witchy vibe to her because she has really long hair (no person should have hair that long once they reach a certain age) and is wearing this billowy outfit. She chases the girls, calls them "terrorists"(!), and exclaims, "I'll get even with you!" I half expected her to end that line with, "my pretties!" and cackle. The whole scene is pretty laughable especially since it's obvious they sped up the girls sledding to make it look like they were going a lot faster than they really were.

Jessie is also often prone to walking alone through the woods. This is where she first comes across a reindeer, which she is surprised to see (and in another scene we learn this is pretty far south for a reindeer to be). As far as I know, the only U.S. state where reindeer are native is Alaska (makes sense to me!) Also, did you know reindeer that live in North America are known as caribou? I thought that was an entirely different species! Stupidly, Jessie goes up to this wild animal (with antlers!) but the reindeer seems to not be scared of humans. This is probably one of two reasons: 1) the reindeer belongs to a Christmas show and escaped, or 2) the reindeer is one of Santa's and somehow got lost. Guess which one Jessie believes? Bless her soul! The reindeer trots away and when Jessie returns home, she tells her dad, but he could care less.

Jessie starts piecing clues together and comes to the conclusion that the reindeer is THE Prancer. The previous day, when she and Carol were walking home from school, a wooden reindeer from one of the town's decorations fell onto the street. Jessie was naming all the reindeer in the display, and when she got to Prancer, the third named reindeer, that particular reindeer fell onto the street and smashed. Jessie is very concerned and asks someone if they're going to repair the reindeer and his reply is something like, "Santa's only going to have seven reindeer this year." (Obviously Rudolph was not part of this display!) So Jessie believes there's some kind of cosmic connection between the wooden reindeer and the real one. Also, she noticed the reindeer has a white mark on his forehead and so did the third paper reindeer she cuts out of a magazine to hang all eight reindeer up in her room. Coincidence? I don't think so!

I feel like Prancer is the only reindeer they could have used, because if they had used one of the other seven reindeer and named the movie after that particular reindeer, this is what the choices would be:
Dasher - Well, maybe that would work, but I would think the movie is about a really fast person.
Dancer - I would not think of a reindeer if I saw a movie titled this.
Vixen - Haha, I would not think of a kid's movie!
Comet - I would either think of a space movie or the dog from Full House.
Cupid - The naked baby shooting arrows at people to fall in love first comes to mind when I hear that name.
Donner - Nope, a reindeer is not the first thing that comes to mind.
Blitzen - This one maybe could work, but it doesn't have the same ring as Prancer...plus everyone remembers Prancer when reciting the names of all the reindeer. I feel like Blitzen probably gets forgotten.

Jessie shares her theory with Carol the next day at lunch. Carol is having none of it (she's also having a really bad hair day; see photo) and tells Jessie she doesn't think she believes in Santa anymore because of the impracticality of it all, but Jessie says it's magic and some things can't be explained. She asks Carol if she believes in God, since, like Santa, there is no physical proof of his existence and Carol shrugs nonchalantly and says maybe she doesn't believe in God either which therefore she thinks heaven doesn't exist which greatly (and rightly) upsets Jessie. Carol is such a bitch in this scene! Your best friend's mom is dead and you're going on about how you don't believe in heaven? She does apologizes and tries to take everything back when she realizes her faux pas, but by then the damage is done. (They do becomes friends again, only Carol will piss off Jessie once again, but in Carol's defense it wasn't even her fault).

Later that night, John picks up Jessie and yells at her when he finds her once again walking along the road by herself. She was looking for Prancer, but doesn't come across him until she's in the car with her dad who's yelling at her and she has to scream at him to stop the truck so they don't hit the reindeer who has a wounded leg due to being shot. To Jessie's horror, her dad gets out his rifle, prepared to kill the wounded animal and give his family a winter's amount of food. While they are arguing, the white mark on the reindeer's forehead twinkles and when they look over, the reindeer has vanished, kind of like magic! John tells his daughter that he is planning on sending her to live with her Aunt Sarah who lives thirty miles away. He thinks a young girl should have a woman in her life and her aunt can afford more things for her. Jessie begs her dad to let her stay and starts crying, but he's already set on it because it will be what's best for their family.

That night, Jessie hears a strange sound coming from the barn and discovers Prancer has made himself at home there. She lures him to another shed with a plate of sugar cookies - that the reindeer oddly likes. (Santa must feed his reindeer cookies whenever he visits houses that don't leave carrots for the reindeer!) This way her dad won't be able to find and shoot him. She takes him across a frozen pond and I thought for sure she was going to fall through the ice and Prancer would save her (a la Free Willy), but that doesn't happen.

She skips school the next day to stay with Prancer and calls the vet, Dr. Benton (Abe Vigoda) who, once he sees is a wounded reindeer, doesn't want to help it because he doesn't deal with wild animals. He believes the reindeer has escaped from a Christmas show. He gets back in his car and when Jessie starts screaming in his face about how "Doctors are liars...they never make anyone better!" (which gives me the clue her mother must have died from cancer), he has a change of heart and looks at Prancer's hurt leg and bandages it. A thrilled Jessie tells him, "History's going to love you for this!"

Jessie needs to find a way to buy some oats for Prancer because sugar cookies aren't the best diet for a reindeer...even if they are ONE of Santa's. She goes to Mrs. McFarland's house to apologize and tells her she will clean any room in her house for five dollars because she's trying to raise money for an animal shelter. Mrs. McFarland takes her to the most cluttered room in her house and Jessie exclaims that it looks more like a ten dollar job. Honey, I think you're getting the shaft here....that looks like a FIFTY dollar job! Mrs. McFarland tells her she said ANY room for $5, so Jessie is stuck cleaning it. They make Mrs. McFarland look so creepy because after Jessie comes in, the older woman looks around outside to make sure no one has seen them and locks the door. The whole thing is shady. There's a montage of Jessie sorting all the junk and dusting and vacuuming the room. This easily had to take all day. Jessie finds some old Christmas lights and decorations in the room and strings up the lights to surprise the old woman. Mrs. McFarland tells Jessie to take them down immediately. We learn that Mrs. McFarland used to win Best Lit House every holiday, but hasn't put up her decorations in a very long time. I'm not really sure why (or why she became a recluse for that matter) because the movie never tells you any of that information. However, after Jessie pleads for her to put up the lights and decorations, she agrees. This child has some magic power to plead and whine to adults and she gets what she wants! The only adult it doesn't work on is her father! Jessie puts up the star on top of the three story house and I have to wonder how an eight-year-old got on the roof? Something tells me her dad wouldn't be thrilled about this if he found out. Mrs. McFarland gives Jessie ten dollars more than she asked for and tells her it was $15 job. I still maintain that Jessie got the shaft since she cleaned that ridiculously cluttered room AND risked her neck to put up the decorations on the roof. I think fifty bucks would have been just the right amount in 1989 money. The two become friends as Mrs. McFarland invites Jessie to stay for cookies and milk, but Jessie runs off, telling her she has something important to do. Mrs. McFarland goes back to her old ways and shouts, "Be that way!" to Jessie. She is so petulant for an old lady!

"Surprise!"



Jessie shows Prancer to Carol, only to discover that her brother, who's a complete jerk, has also found the reindeer and is teasing her about how much meat the animal will give them and is threatening to tell their dad. Jessie goes to the mall with a Polaroid of Prancer and waits in line to see Santa Claus where a little boy is sitting on Santa's lap and telling him he wants a slime kit and Skeletor for Christmas - how very '80s. Jessie starts her convo with Santa by telling him, "I know you're not the real Santa..." I would have said she stole this line from Kevin McCallister, but this movie came out a year (pretty much to the date!) before Home Alone. I do think it's amusing both movies deal with eight-year-old kids who need help from Santa with something so they tell a mall Santa to put in their word for the real one. Like Kevin, Jessie also believes this Santa works for the real one and she wants this Santa to give the photo and note she wrote to the real Santa so he can pick up Prancer on December 23rd (so he has plenty of time!) at Antler's Ridge. This mall Santa also happens to work at the town's newspaper so he writes an editorial called "Yes, Santa, There are Still Virginias"and includes the photo and letter Jessie gave him. The piece is in the paper the next day and this is a great example of how this movie could never be made today. In the movie, Jessie has no idea about the editorial and she is angry at Carol because she believes she told three of their classmates about Prancer because she finds them in his stall the next day and tells them to scram. Funnily enough, one of her classmates is played by Johnny Galecki - shouldn't he be helping Chevy Chase putting up Christmas lights? That movie came out the same time as this one! In this day and age, she would have found out about it as soon as it was up through social media. She goes to church with her aunt and brother (and it is mentioned that her aunt is married, but we never see her husband...I guess he stays at their home which is thirty miles away) while John stays at home. He reads the paper and there are many close calls where he reaches for the "Living" section which the article about his daughter is in, but he always goes for another part of the paper. We also see that Prancer has gotten out of his stall (and managed to let the other farm animals out as well) and is wandering around outside, unbeknowst to John. Meanwhile, during church, Jessie has no idea why people are coming up to her and telling her they've inspired her. That is, until the minister reads the article about her.

She's worried that her dad has already seen the article, but he never does because Prancer has entered the house and is destroying everything which makes John pretty angry. A bunch of people from church have come over, wanting to see Prancer. When Jessie comes home, she sees the destroyed house and notices Prancer is gone and thinks her dad has killed him, but he has sold him for $200 to the butcher which freaks Jessie out. While the town butcher doesn't make flank steaks out of Prancer, he does have him in a cage with a harness of bells around his neck for children to view (for a fee, of course!) Her brother, Steve, stops being a jerk for the first time in the movie when he sneaks out with Jessie that night to free the reindeer. Jessie climbs to the top of the cage and encourages Prancer to fly out after she lifts the top off. The reindeer attempts to jump many times, but never flies out. Instead, he rams the door and breaks out that way after Jessie has fallen from a tree and hits her head. While Prancer could have easily escaped, he stays next to the unconscious girl, keeping her warm while Steve runs for help. Just one of the many scenes that made me cry.

Jessie is fine, physically, but emotionally, she is a wreck. She tells her aunt that Prancer is just a reindeer (since he didn't fly out of his cage) and that Santa Claus probably isn't real and that it's time for her to grow up since she's almost nine. Everyone in town comes to her house to sing carols to her (including Dr. Benton and Mrs. McFarland) and that made me cry. But the scene that made me cry the most is the next one when she and her father have a heart to heart and he tells her he's not going to let her live with her aunt because he had almost lost her and didn't ever want to have that feeling again and she says, "I'm sorry, Daddy" and he says, "I'm sorry, Jessie" and I am tearing up so much! She wants her dad to read her a passage from a book that her Mom always used to read to her. There's a scene earlier in the movie where Jessie brings the book into the stable and reads it to Prancer. It's from "Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus" which makes sense since the article in the movie about Jessie and Prancer is a play-on of that article. He reads the passage and I am just bawling on my couch. I was a total emotional wreck watching this movie!

Her dad has bought Prancer back from the butcher and he and Jessie take the reindeer to Antler's Ridge. Prancer is still wearing his harness of bells which I'm just sure an animal in the wild would just LOVE to wear to attract all the hunters and wild animals! But there is a reason for the bells. A very tearful Jessie says goodbye to the reindeer and tells him she'll never forget him. (And if I was't already still crying from the previous scene, I would start welling up again!) Prancer prances off and Jessie and her dad follow the hoof prints until they reach a cliff where the prints stop. Jessie looks down, but can't see anything because it's a long drop. A still tearful Jessie exclaims, "He couldn't have jumped...and lived!" This poor child! Her dad tries to cheer her up and says, "Maybe he flew...it is Christmas Eve, after all." He tells her to listen for Prancer's sleigh bells and Jessie strains to hear them. She can't at first, but then there's a slight jingling in the distance. Now from this point on the movie was much more steeped in reality than I thought it would be. I wasn't sure if this would be a movie where Santa Claus really does exist. They don't cut to scenes of Santa in the North Pole putting up MISSING signs for Prancer or any of that kind of stuff. And Prancer doesn't talk or exude any magical elements, save for the time he vanishes in thin air. It's really the story of this girl who still believes in the Christmas faith that gets to everyone in her town. I like that Santa isn't real in this world; I like that this is a "realistic" Christmas movie. But then the last scene kind of cheapens it because you see a silhouette of Santa and his seven reindeer, soon joined by the eighth. I groaned out loud at that. I wished they had kept it more ambiguous and all you needed to know that Prancer was THE Prancer was hearing his sleigh bells. Because he obviously flew. Jessie is right: there is no way any living thing could jump off that cliff and survive. I suppose they had to add that scene in for the young kids so they would know for sure that Prancer was back with Santa. But other than the last five second of the movie, I really liked it. This is a very underrated Christmas gem.




Here is the passage from "Yes, Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus" that Jessie reads to Prancer and Jessie's father reads to her:

You may tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside,
but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man,
nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart.
Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside the curtain and view and picture the
supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real?
Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is northing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God he lives and he lives forever. A thousand years from now. 
Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.


End scene. Cue tears. Merry Christmas!