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Library Film Reviews Blog

Welcome to our film reviews blog! With so many streaming services around these days, and perhaps a bit more time to spare, are you wondering what to watch?  We hope these honest reviews written on a variety of different movies can help you decide!

Film Review – The Princess Bride

The Princess Bride (PG, 1987)

More than thirty years ago, The Princess Bride achieved a cult following, which remains to this day. The proof of the film’s popularity can be seen by how endlessly its lines are quoted.  “Have fun storming the castle” and “Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die” are probably two of the movie’s most quoted lines. If you’ve actually seen it, you can understand why it still has such an impact on our culture

Set in the magical land of Florin, The Princess Bride tells the story of two people who share a love so strong it can overcome even death. Five years after her true love Westley is killed by the Dread Pirate Roberts, Buttercup is chosen by Prince Humperdinck to be his bride. While out riding, she’s captured by three men: the devious Sicilian Vizzini; the expert swordsman Inigo; and the kind-hearted giant Fezzik. They’re on a boat headed for the land of Guilder when they spot a mysterious masked man pursuing them. The masked man follows them up to the Cliffs of Insanity where he’s forced into a duel with Inigo, then a wrestling match with Fezzik, and lastly, a battle of wits with Vizzini to save Buttercup. Once she’s free from her kidnappers, the masked man reveals to Buttercup that he’s actually Westley. Their happy reunion is cut short though when they spot Humperdinck close by. To escape, they enter the Fire Swamp. Despite all the dangers lurking within – like the Rodents of Unusual Size – Westley successfully leads them to safety. Unfortunately, Humperdinck is waiting for them and he forces Buttercup to come back with him in order to spare Westley’s life. Of course, Humperdinck has no intention of keeping his word. He sends Westley to the Pit of Despair where Westley is tortured to death – or so we’re left to believe. However, as Westley tells Buttercup, death can’t stop true love, only delay it a little awhile.

Based on the novel by William Goldman, The Princess Bride is both a parody and a homage to the fairy-tale genre. It’s a perfect blend of humor, wit, action, fantasy, and romance.  The most striking thing about The Princess Bride is the way Goldman frames his narrative – as a story within a story. The tale of Buttercup and Westley is being told by a grandfather to his sick grandson. Along with the audience, the grandson is introduced to the story and its unforgettable characters, and despite his initial reluctance, he is affected by it; so much so that he asks that his grandfather return to read the story again.

The film certainly owes some of its success to the actors, like Robin Wright (Buttercup), Cary Elwes (Westley),  and Mandy Patinkin (Inigo Montoya). However, the most memorable and hilarious performances, I think, are the cameos: Billy Crystal, unrecognizable as the wizard Miracle Max, and Peter Cook as the minister. These scenes may be short, but both actors are priceless in them. Cook’s speech about “mawwiage” and “twue wov” will definitely put a smile on your face.

While a lot of time has passed, The Princess Bride continues to earn acclaim, gaining fans across the world. I believe that Goldman’s exemplary storytelling deserves the credit for this. He has created the perfect fantasy movie. It has it all: romance, sorcery, intrigue, and sword-fighting. Even more, it has a story that can appeal to all generations. Children and adults alike can find something that they enjoy. In my opinion, The Princess Bride should be seen at least once in a person’s lifetime.

Film Review – Tomorrowland

Tomorrowland (2015, PG)

Every once in a while a movie comes along that depicts a fictional world so amazing, you wish it really existed. For me, that movie is Tomorrowland.  George Clooney, Britt Robertson, and Raffey Cassidy star in this sci-fi adventure about a futuristic city created as a haven for the smartest, most creative people in the world. Tomorrowland exists in an alternate dimension and can be seen by touching a pin with a big “T” emblazoned on it. Casey Newton (Robertson) is a very bright, optimistic teenager who mysteriously finds this magical pin after being arrested for vandalizing government property. When she touches it, she is instantly transported to a wheat field where she sees a shiny cityscape in the distance. Once inside the city, she is astonished at what she sees before her – a world filled with technological innovations beyond our wildest dreams. Way too soon, though, Casey is jolted back to reality. Desperate to find her way back, she goes on a search to find out more about Tomorrowland. Along the way she is joined by a young girl named Athena (Cassidy), a recruiter who gave Casey the pin. Together, they drive across the country to find the one person who can take them to Tomorrowland – Frank Walker (Clooney).

Casey’s brief visit to Tomorrowland opens her eyes to a future so pristine, yet completely out of reach. This perfect future seems to be like something out of a dream: sleek, glass skyscrapers; hover rails, rockets, flying vehicles and jet packs; series of bottomless swimming pools floating on top of each other. There, people live a life that is pure and unfettered – they are simply free to let their imaginations run wild. It is no wonder why Casey is drawn to this place. I, too, was captivated by it. I mean, who wouldn’t be? Tomorrowland represents hope and is proof that absolutely anything is possible. It’s the epitome of a utopian society, an idyllic city that you won’t soon forget – one that I would love to visit myself. Tomorrowland is so incredible that it’s sure to stay with you long after the credits have stopped rolling.

Director Brad Bird has done a superb job of bringing this futuristic world to life. With amazing special effects and exciting action sequences, Tomorrowland is just one big thrill ride. The acting is equally as good. Robertson delivers a convincing performance. Her character’s unwavering optimism is quite refreshing. Clooney offers a nice contrast as the bitter curmudgeon Frank. This disparity in personalities sets the stage for some comical, entertaining moments between the two of them. Cassidy is charming and amusing in her role. Her character’s relationship with Clooney’s is complicated – to say the least – and they both convey this brilliantly to the audience. I was emotionally moved by some of their interactions. One sweet, poignant scene, in particular, literally brought tears to my eyes.

Tomorrowland is another movie that I would recommend. It is even one that the whole family can enjoy together. There is, however, some mild language, and the action sequences – albeit thrilling – can be a little too violent. That said, older children will appreciate the film’s uplifting theme. Tomorrowland encourages all of us to think big, to resist cynicism and to never lose hope – no matter what. Both the movie and its imaginary world have left a lasting impression on me. And although I can’t actually go to Tomorrowland – unless I take a trip to Disney World – at least I can see it as many times as I want on screen.

Film Review – Girls Just Want to Have Fun

Girls Just Want to Have Fun (1985, Teen, PG)

In times of stress, nothing can put you more at ease than watching a feel good movie. A good choice is Girls Just Want to Have Fun. This classic 80’s teen dance movie stars Sarah Jessica Parker, Helen Hunt, and Shannen Doherty in one of their earlier roles. Parker plays Janey Glenn, an army brat who gets the chance to realize her dream after her family moves to Chicago, home of her favorite dance show, Dance TV. Janey loves to dance, so she is thrilled when the station announces that it’s holding a contest to find two new dancers to be featured on the show. There’s only one thing stopping her: her strict military dad. He thinks she’s too young to be running around a big city on her own. With the help of her new friend Lynn (Hunt), Janey is motivated to break the rules for the first time in her life and audition. She is selected to be a finalist and then is partnered with Jeff (Lee Montgomery) – your typical motorcycle – riding bad boy. Janey and Jeff couldn’t be more wrongly matched as a couple; yet, they find a way to work together and fall in love at the same time. It looks like they have a good chance at winning the contest. However, there is another finalist that might stand in their way. Natalie (Holly Gagnier), a spoiled, rich girl, also wants to become a DTV regular and she is used to getting what she wants. Luckily, Janey and Jeff have friends and family that they can count on for help.

Girls Just Want to Have Fun is a quintessential teen movie filled with classic 80’s pop music, teased hair, and bright clothing. While the movie is considerably outdated, I think it is pretty good overall. It has a predictable storyline, but it also has a positive message about believing in yourself and following your heart. It is also worth mentioning that this movie features some of today’s popular actors. Doherty has only a small supporting role, but she still manages to shine a little as Jeff’s annoying, younger sister Maggie. Hunt, on the other hand, is terrific as the wild and rebellious friend. With her outrageous fashion choices and funny one-liners, she literally steals the show.

Another reason why you should consider watching Girls Just Want to Have Fun is the soundtrack. Filled with upbeat and catchy music, it is guaranteed to put anyone in a good mood. Also, let’s not forget about the dance sequences, which have to be my favorite parts. The highlights are the initial competition, the dance montage of Janey and Jeff rehearsing, and the final Dance TV competition at the end. This movie definitely has some amazing choreography. If you are dancer, you are sure to appreciate this aspect of the film.

While Girls Just Want to Have Fun may not be in the same league as The Breakfast Club or Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, this doesn’t mean that the movie should be overlooked. It is just a fun, lighthearted comedy, but sometimes that is just what you need. This is especially true now more than ever. Even if you aren’t particularly nostalgic about the 80’s, it will at least make you laugh. So give this movie a try. You never know. By the end of it, you might just find yourself dancing – in the street!

Film Review – Passengers

Passengers (2016, PG-13) 

If you are sick of being stuck at home and need an escape, look no further than the movie Passengers. Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence star in this sci-fi love story set in the distant future where an overpopulated Earth has prompted people to flee to new planets. The movie takes place on the starship Avalon as it is en route – with 5,000 passengers – to the newest colony, Homestead II.  This is a 120-year journey, and so everyone has to be put into a state of suspended animation. They will sleep in hibernation pods until the ship is 4 months away from its destination.

Sounds like a relatively easy trip. What could possibly go wrong? Plenty. Despite the Homestead company’s guarantee, the hibernation pods are not completely fail-safe as two passengers soon discover. The Avalon is only 30 years into its journey when it runs into a meteor shower. The collision causes one of the pods to malfunction, jolting awake Jim Preston (Pratt) – way too early. Now, Jim finds himself trapped alone with 90 years to go before the Avalon reaches Homestead II.  He tries to occupy his time by enjoying some of the amenities that Avalon has to offer. However, even alcohol has its limits and eventually, he gives into boredom and despair. After a year of isolation, he is finally joined by another passenger Aurora Lane.  Together, Aurora (Lawrence) and Jim help each other adapt to their new reality, and as time passes, they fall in love. Of course, this is only part of the story and for Aurora and Jim, their journey is headed down a rocky path.

Even though it was not well received by many critics – some have written it off as “an interstellar Titanic”, I found that I really enjoyed Passengers. The premise is a rather intriguing one – two strangers find themselves stranded alone together on a spacecraft that is heading to a new planet. It’s a compelling love story, but it’s a sci-fi action adventure as well. The characters are relatable and you immediately empathize with their plight. This is thanks in part to both Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence who each lend a sense of earnestness, likeability, and a touch of humor to their characters. While both of their performances are genuine and heartfelt, I feel that Lawrence seems to stand out more on screen. Her portrayal of Aurora’s pain, vulnerability, and frustration is moving and at times gut-wrenching. The audience will end up sympathizing with her more than Jim by the end.

The movie is also visually appealing with its beautiful set design and amazing special effects. The futuristic design of the massive commercial starship earned Passengers an Academy Award nomination for best production design. As for the special effects, I loved watching the scenes of the Avalon gliding endlessly through space. Then there is the deep space walk scene where Jim and Aurora – secured by a tether – step outside the ship and sail through the universe. If nothing else, the stellar shots are enough to make the movie worth watching.

Overall, I highly recommend Passengers. It has a great script and it features two of Hollywood’s talented stars. Also, it has a little bit of everything – whether you have a preference for romantic movies, psychological dramas, or movies with suspenseful action sequences or stunning special effects. Most importantly, it has a message that people should take to heart: to always make the most of where you, even if it is not where you’d rather be. Whatever you may be looking for in a movie, I believe Passengers delivers.

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