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THE LION KING Comes Alive

Lion King poster

Jeri Jacquin

Coming to theatres from director Jon Favreau and Disney is the 1994 iconic animated story now come to life with THE LION KING.

In case you come from another solar system I’ll give the story a run down. There is a young cub named Simba (Donald Glover) who is born a prince. Father King Mufasa (James Earl Jones) tries to teach his young son what it is to be a king. He is also learning side lessons from his jealous Uncle Scar (Chitwetel Ejiofor) that get him into a few scrapes.

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Along with his best friend Nala, the two explore much to the fright of Mufasa, even if the royal bird Zazu (John Oliver) can’t keep up. Scar gets an idea enlisting the help of the hyenas and their leader Shenzi (Florence Kasumba) to take what he thinks is his.

Simba is caught up in a stampede that brings death and sadness to the pride and the young prince decides to run. He walks away and meets meerkat Timon (Billy Eichner) and faithful companion Pumbaa (Seth Rogen) who embrace Simba as one of their own.

In the meantime Scar is destroying the valley and Nala (Beyonce) knows it is time to get help. What she doesn’t plan on is running into Simba who is now fully grown. Explaining what has happened, Simba meets Rafiki (John Kani) who shows him why it is important to remember who he is and what it means to be a king.

Glover as Simba is a little less animated vocally than I would have expected. The younger cub prince was delightful and brought a bit of playfulness that made the little furry growler even cuter. Beyonce as Nala stayed in her lane so to speak meaning I had thought she would have song-wise taken over but instead they kept it easy and lovely.

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Several characters that I enjoyed so much are Oliver as Zazu making me laugh several times with his antics, Kasumba as Shenzi with a tad less humor than her 1994 Goldberg counterpart but still very good and Ejiofor getting a chance to be the devious Uncle Scar.

Eichner and Rogen got all the silliness that made the animated version so much fun. I giggled so much as the antics of Simba’s smaller friends. It must be said that my four year old granddaughter couldn’t stop smiling when these two were on the screen.

Finally, James Earl Jones is the one and only Mufasa and having him once again accept the mantel of King was a wise choice. He is Mufasa and his presence at the beginning and at the most important point of the film’s emotion is something only his voice could capture. It also soothes the ruffled feathers of those not happy with Disney and its live action choices as of late.

Other cast include Keegan-Michael Key as Kamari, Eric Andre as Azizi, JD McCrary as Young Simba, Shahadi Wright Joseph as Young Nala and Alfre Woodard as Sarabi.

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Now, let me get this out of the way – do I think THE LION KING needed to have a live-action version? Nope. Am I a fan of live-action films? Not really. I just think it’s a huge waste of money when we could easily enjoy the animated versions of stories on the big screen and my family would love it. Plus, after seeing the trailer for MULAN and the latest LITTLE MERMAID ruckus – I’m still not a fan.

THAT being said, I can’t fault THE LION KING at all. From the moment the screen is lit up with a beautiful sunrise and music that continues to be recognized with The Circle of Life and I Just Can’t Wait to be King, this is absolutely how it’s done folks!

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Favreau should be applauded on several fronts – first of all he stayed ever faithful keeping to the original 1994 story that has become so iconic and also allowed the songs to once again bring joy. I saw this on the faces of not just the children at the screening but the adults as well. Oh trust me when I say I caught a woman six seats down singing along to Hakuna Matata and thrilled to be doing it.

The cinematography in the live-action is colorful and lively to the point that it was easy to forget that these lions, hyenas, birds, and the rest weren’t actually real. From the look of joy in Rafiki’s eyes to the sadness in Simba’s eyes, everything that needed to be related emotionally is there. The humor is wonderful in the film and there is a moment between Timon and Pumbaa that gives a nod to a beast of another kind so listen for it.

In the end – the King has returned!

 

 

 

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STRANGER THINGS Season 3 Brings More Frights in Friendship

 

Stranger Things 3

Jeri Jacquin

Currently on Netflix with its continuing story is the highly successful and long awaited STRANGER THINGS Season 3.

It is 1985 and Hawkins has fallen to shopping malls causing the shops in town to begin closing. The Starcourt Mall is now the hangout for everyone who wants to see and be seen. Mike (Finn Wolfhard) and Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) aren’t seen there much because they’ve been spending quality time together much to the dismay of El’s guardian Officer Hopper (David Harbour).

Looking for parental tips, Hopper turns to Joyce (Winona Ryder) who is coming to terms with her choice to move away from Hawkins. That doesn’t give Hopper much time to deal with his feelings about anything. The rest of the gang – Will (Noah Schnapp), Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) and Max (Sade Sink) welcome Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) back from science camp.

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At the nearby steel mill, something wicked this way comes and Mike is feeling it on the back of his neck. The power goes out and a weird creature emerges from the darkness. Max’s brother Billy (Dacre Montgomery) is on his way for a rendezvous when his car is struck by an invisible force and without warning he is dragged into the Upside Down.

The tips Joyce gave to Hopper about Mike and El didn’t work out so well and Mike now fears to be around El. She doesn’t understand it but Max shows her the fun side of life with a trip to the Starcourt Mall and another way for El to use her powers. At the local paper, Nancy (Natalia Dyer) gets Jonathan (Charlie Heaton) to help her investigate a local woman who is having a weird rat problem.

Dustin is still weirding out by the hilltop transmission that sounds like Russian and convinces Steve (Joe Keery) to help figure it out. What they both don’t expect is that Robin (Maya Hawke) who works with Steve is more than happy to lend her language ear to the problem at hand.

Discovering the joys of the mall, El and Max decide to spy on the guys again with powers but Eleven only discovers that Billy may be responsible for a missing lifeguard. Billy is changing and he can’t explain why he is making dangerous choices. Hopper finally asks Joyce on a date but she loses track of time when her refrigerator magnets lose their magnetism.

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Dustin, Steve and Robin make a chilling discovery when they see Russians moving shipments of mysterious crates down into the mall. Nothing is going to stop these three from uncovering what is going on below their town and they find help from the very smart and no-nonsense Erica (Priah Ferguson).

What they don’t know is that Joyce and Hopper have gone to high school teacher Murray Bauman (Brett Gelman) for answers about the magnets. It leads them back to the place they didn’t want to ever go again. That’s when they take Russian scientist Dr. Alexi (Alec Utgoff) sort of hostage to get answers as to what is happening but they are being chased mercilessly.

Nancy and Jonathan are still trying to discover what has happened to the source of their story. Once at the hospital, the two are also attacked by something, well, gooey that comes together to create an insanely large beast! Still below the mall, Steve and Robin are interrogated by Russians but Dustin and Erica save the date.

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Now above ground, they all manage to come together to put the pieces of the monster puzzle together. El discovers from Billy the exact location of the beast and now a plan is formed as the gang handles the food court, Dustin handles the communications while Joyce and Hopper take on the reason for all of this happening again.

What the Russians and the monster don’t realize is that this group isn’t afraid of taking hard knocks and they have El on their side!

Brown as Eleven is growing up so fast and under the protection of her guardian and new boyfriend. Her world is still relatively small until Max shows her what she’s been missing. Of course that doesn’t last long but Brown has made the character of Eleven her very own and I love when she embraces her powers.

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Wolfhard as Mike is smitten with Eleven and wants to spend every minute with her. Of course this doesn’t set well with his buddies, especially with Will. The other person it doesn’t make happy is Harbour as Officer Hopper. Trying to keep his ‘fatherly’ instincts in check, it is policeman instincts that take over and are a little harsher than poor Mike can take. Harbour is a little more intense this season but then again I think I would be too if the town I’m responsible for can’t catch a break.

Matarazzo as Dustin returns from science camp with a new outlook and a new love even though no one believes him. I adore Matarazzo because he is quick and hilarious all rolled into mischievous eyes and a quirky smile. Keery as Steve is thrilled to see Dustin as their friendship finds another level – that of Russians and being a hero to the town. Hawke as Robin is a breath of fresh air and don’t like the ice cream costume fool you. She’s smart as a whip and has a secret of her own.

Ryder as Joyce is still dealing with the death of Bob Newby and can’t quite catch on to Hopper’s intentions. The one thing she is sure of and that’s there is a creepy in Hawkins that she knows all too well. Ryder continues to give her character everything I remember about Moms of 1985. Schnapp as Will understands the creepy as it tends to bring goose bumps to the back of his neck. Of course he’d rather be playing D&D with his friends but they all have other plans.

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McLaughlin as Lucas keeps busy with his relationship with Max but is also surprised when Ferguson as sister Erica joins the mix and madness. Ferguson as Erica is smart, doesn’t take any garbage from anyone and has a thing for ice cream which is a good thing for Steve, Robin and Dustin! Sink as Max is a fiery redhead who has the chance to solidify her friendship with El through fashion and boy advice. Montgomery as brother Billy gets the intensity award this season! He lives through the creature and throughout the season it just gets worse and worse. What a great role for the season!

Dyer as Nancy smells a story and nothing or no one is going to get in the way of her investigating.  Heaton as Jonathan doesn’t want to follow Dryer’s character but it all starts to make horrible sense and he can’t turn away.  Gelman as teacher Murray Bauman carries all the science and language and finds himself deep into all that is happening to the town, what’s under the town and the people in it.  Utgoff as Dr. Alexi thinks he holds all the cards so get the man a cherry slurpee and get on with it!

Other cast include Cara Buono as Karen Wheeler, Joe Chrest as Ted Wheeler, Andrey Ivchenko as Grigori, Cary Elwes as Mayor Kline, Peggy Miley as Mrs. Driscoll, Jake Busey as Bruce, Francesca Reale as Heather Holloway, Michael Park as Tom Holloway, Rob Morgan as Officer Powell, Arthur Darbinyan as Dr. Zharkov and Misha Kuznetsov as Ozerov.

The episodes include Chapter One: Suzie Do You Copy?, Chapter Two: The Mall Rats, Chapter Three: The Case of the Missing Lifeguard, Chapter Four: The Sauna Test, Chapter Five: The Flayed, Chapter Six: E. Pluribus Unum, Chapter Seven: The Bite and Chapter Eight: The Battle of Starcourt.

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 Season 3 of STRANGER THINGS has to be the most intense yet and with that being said, watch carefully the last few moments of the last episode. That means Season 4 has it’s work cut out yet I think the writers have accepted the challenge. As these characters have grown older, I can’t wait to see what they all do next in the season and in other things. Brown already tested her chops in the summer film GODZILLA.

What I love best about STRANGER THINGS is everything about the era the story takes place in. From the outrageous clothes, shoes and hair to the music that I still embrace and listen to today. Wrapping the story around the setting of an era we still hold dear is so much fun and brings back memories for some of a time when things like bike riding, malls, friendships and big hair were more important than cell phones and texting.

All of the friendships are so endearing and even though they are growing up (both on and off camera), it hasn’t changed this group in the way they interact with each other. It is totally believable that they would have been friends in 1985, played D&D, went to the mall, and watched early zombie movies – all of it. This cast, these actors and actresses have given us a treat and when the final season comes around (because we all know its going to happen), we will be all the sadder for it.

The downside of binge watching the whole season in one day is that the waiting begins for the next season. Of course it will drag its heels making us all crazy with wonder and craving the first trailer of what is to come. It’s a pretty cool torture and I don’t mind saying so.

In the end – friends like these are amazing and necessary!

SPIDER-MAN: Far From Home Brings Early Fireworks to the July 4th Holidays

Spiderman cover

Jeri Jacquin

Coming to theatres just in time to help celebrate the 4th from director Jon Watts, Marvel Studios and Columbia Pictures is our friendly neighborhood SPIDER-MAN: Far From Home.

It is after the Endgame as Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is still dealing with the loss of Tony Stark and looking forward to a school trip to Europe. His hope is that he can finally tell MJ (Zendaya) how he feels and enjoy some time away from his spider suit. His Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) is happy for him as well.

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On the trip is best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon), Betty (Angourie Rice), Brad (Remy Hii), Flash (Tony Revolori) and teachers Mr. Bell (J.B. Smoove) and Mr. Harrington (Martin Starr). They are ready to explore Italy first but there is a creature under them with other plans. When it rises to the surface, Peter must do his best to protect as many people as possible.

That is until he sees Quentin Beck (Jake Gyllenhaal), fly in and lend a hand. When it’s all over, his friends give the superhero a name – Mysterio. Later Peter is visited by Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) because he needs Spider-Man’s help and gives him something special. Yet Peter can only think of MJ, their trip and being a kid.

Trying to explain his feelings to Fury, he goes back to his classmates only to discover that their itinerary has changed to go, oddly enough, where Fury wants Spider-Man to be. A plan is set in motion with Mysterio and Spider-Man working together to save even more people.

That is when Peter makes a decision that may cost far more than he could have imagined!

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Holland as Spider-Man has to be one of the best choices ever made for the Marvel Universe next to Robert Downey, Jr. as Iron Man. He is funny, insecure, fearless and fearful at the same time, has teen angst and most of all – just plain adorably charming. He has made the role of Spider-man his and fans love it.

Gyllenhaal as Mysterio is, and lets be honest here, so cool to watch. Here he works with Spider-Man and befriends him which helps Peter with the loss of his good friend. Gyllenhaal fits into his costume as if it were always destine to be his.

Jackson is back as Nick Fury who doesn’t mind guilting Spider-Man into getting a gang back together. Zendaya as MJ is still her dark self and occasionally has an eye on Peter, Batalone as Ned is there for his web weaving friend but has his eyes drawn in an unexpected way. Tomei as May is happy with her life and to have Peter in it but may have a surprise of her own.

Hii as Brad returns a little older and crushing on MJ. Revolori as Flash once again plays the tourist except he spends more time trying to get social media friends than actual friends.

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Shout out to Favreau for returning as Happy Hogan! I have come to love his character and am thrilled to see him be there for Peter Parker.

Other cast include: Toni Garrn as The Seamstress, Michael Mando as MacGargan, Numan Acar as Dimitri, Hemky Madera as Mr. Delmar, and Cobie Smulders as Marla Hill.

SPIDER-MAN: Far From Home is going to delight fans because Holland has done such an amazing job of portrayed the young webbed one. There is something for everyone in the film with action, story, twists, turns and – well, a teen love story that has been trying to break free.

Being a superhero has its price and it is a talk between Happy and Peter that helps the young man decide how to continue being a hero people can look to. I honestly believe that’s what makes this incarnation of the Spider-Man franchise more believable than it has ever been. Holland brings it all together with a tender and emotion filled performance that is so relatable.

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The film is fast paced, full of cgi eye-candy and warmth that lets us know that AVENGERS: Endgame is just a beginning for the webbed one. Of course I’m being evasive in my description of the film because, as with most fun films, the fun is absolutely seeing it with the least amount of spoilers possible. I want everyone to have just as much fun as I did!

So as you prepare for the 4th of July holiday, make sure you start it off with a visit from your friendly neighborhood (both in country and out) Spider-Man!

In the end – he is more than your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, so much mor

OPHELIA Tells Another Story 

Ophelia cover

Jeri Jacquin

Coming to theatres this Friday from director Claire McCarthy and IFC Films comes her life from a different point of view with OPHELIA.

Ophelia (Daisy Ridley) is a young spirited girl who is being raised by father Polonius (Dominic Mafham) and devoted to brother Laertes (Tom Felton). Not exactly lady-like as most women in court, it is Queen Gertrude (Naomi Watts) who embraces the motherless girl.

Hamlet (George MacKay) also has an eye for Ophelia but knows they can’t be together. Feeling she is not a beautiful as other women in the court, Ophelia is often taunted by lady-in-waiting Cristiana (Daisy Head).

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While away with friend Horatio (Devon Terrell), Hamlet learns that his father has died. Before he arrives, Uncle Claudius (Clive Owen) has not only taken the throne but married Gertrude.

Hamlet rekindles his feelings for Ophelia but they both know that something isn’t right in court. There are secrets, plots, ghosts, potions and when Hamlet makes a fatal error, the young couple has no choice but to call out those responsible.

Their love carries the highest price of all!

Ridley as Ophelia takes this iconic character of tragedy and dives deep into another perspective of the happenings in court. Keenly aware that she isn’t high-born, this telling of Ophelia gives her survival instincts and the ability know when to speak and when to stay silent. Ridley embraces it all and gives a stellar performance that, frankly, blew me away.

Watts as Gertrude has the opportunity to also tell another side of her story in a way that is both shocking and completely sad. The duality of her role is based in desires, sadness and torn between what she wants and what is happening around her. All of this affecting the life of her only son Hamlet.

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Owen as Claudius has the opportunity to be cruel, ruthless and a plotting fiend. Not that Owen hasn’t had the opportunity to have those traits in other roles, just not all at the same time so perfectly. Claudius clearly has one goal – castle domination.

MacKay as Hamlet is taken with Ophelia and he would do anything to protect her, even leave the castle. Returning under circumstances that are entirely questionable, he decides to take control of his fate and love for Ophelia. Claudius keeps his eye on Hamlet and one tragic effect gives the twisted king an opportunity to tighten his grip on the throne. MacKay gives Hamlet such heart and a man with a plan.

Felton as Laertes is a devoted brother who wants the best for his sister but at the same time wants to get as far away as possible from the castle and the mayhem inside it. Felton takes more steps away from the wizarding world and shows his scientific chops in this role.

Head as Cristiana is the lady-in-waiting that is the weight around Ophelia’s neck. Terrell as Horatio is Hamlet’s friend and his main role is to keep the prince out of trouble and making sure Ophelia knows his true heart.

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Other cast include: Sebastian De Souza as Edmund, Martin Angerbauer as Guildenstern, Noel Czuczor as Rosencrantz, Rupesh Tillu as Yorick, Angela Nwagbo as Viola, Anna Rust as Young Mechtild, Jack Cunningham-Nuttall as Young Hamlet and Mia Quiney as Young Ophelia.

Director McCarthy takes from the adaptation by Semi Chellas. This producer and writer is also known for The Romanoff’s, Mad Men and American Woman.

This telling of young Ophelia stays on target to what she sees, hears, experiences and brings that all together in this film. In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, she has her part to play but in truth the story isn’t about her, only the effects of what happened to her. OPHELIA is intelligent, lovely and cinematically ethereal.

Ridley and MacKay play the star crossed lovers in a very sweet way but are both being torn in directions that keep moving them closer together emotionally but farther apart physically. They both know who is responsible but each can only do their part from their stations in life. This story of Ophelia is smart and still staying with the twists and turns of the Shakespeare tale.

In the end – experience Hamlet through her eyes!

 

 

ANNABELLE COMES HOME Needs to Stay in the Box

annabell cover

Jeri Jacquin

Coming to theatres this Friday from director/writer Gary Dauberman, James Wan and Warner Bros. Pictures is ANNABELLE COMES HOME.

Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) and Ed (Patrick Wilson) are bringing the doll Annabelle back to their locked room of evilness. What they haven’t realized yet is daughter Judy (McKenna Grace) is having difficulties of her own in that arena when an article comes out in the paper about her parents and what they do.

Leaving town for a night, the Warren’s leave their daughter in the care of trusted babysitter Mary Ellen (Madison Iceman). When her friend Daniela (Katie Safire) learns where Mary Ellen is babysitting, she wants to see the house of the demonologists.

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The sitter has other plans which are to make a cake for Judy who is going to have a birthday soon. Seeing the parents off, the two settle in for a little cake baking time but are interrupted by Daniela who barges in. Mary Ellen isn’t thrilled but when Judy wants to skate around the block, Daniela volunteers to watch the cake baking.

In fact Daniela has other plans as she finds the keys to the artifacts room. Instead of being curious, she has opened the door to a room full of things that have been waiting to get out – especially the doll Annabelle.

That’s when a night of scares begins and the reality of what has been freed means the Warrens need better locks!

Iceman as Mary Ellen is as sweet as can be and looks very responsible from the get go, but then she is easily swayed by a someone who doesn’t seem to care about a friendship. Once the evil is out, Iseman gets a chance to show her flashlight skills but not her common sense.

Grace as Judy is a kid living with parents that are demonologists – let that sink in! Judy is a moody kid but with reason yet that reason seems to disappear as quickly as it came. She seems more disturbed about her birthday party than a doll wreaking havoc on her home.

Sarife as Daniela is an arrogant, self-absorbed and disrespectful teenager who, at the era the film is supposed to represent, would have gotten an ass whuppin’. She is asked to leave – doesn’t, she is asked not to touch anything – does – repeatedly, and is given a gentle slap on the wrist for endangering a child’s life? Yea, didn’t work for me.

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Wilson and Farmiga return for a bit before and after the film which saddened me. They ARE the reason for all of the films success and are whittled down to practically a cameo.

I do, however, give high fives to Bob (Michael Cimino) for his cuteness, scared tenacity in the name of love and wolves and knowing how to use a guitar properly under pressure. I cheered for Bob!

ANNABELLE COMES HOME is a sad ending to a series of films that otherwise always got my attention. I’ll be honest; it’s mainly for the story’s that included the Warrens. The characters played by Farmiga and Wilson are the very reason people crowded to the theatres. They Warren’s made us jump, scream, grab and throw popcorn in fright. Without them, there really isn’t anything left and there shouldn’t have been an attempt to try.

But this is Hollywood milking the last bit of cash from a doll that has clearly lost her mojo. The first ten minutes I thought were a peek at what the film’s frights might be but instead I got a pre-teen and teen film filled with the most ridiculous happenings. I laughed at the comedy of it all.

Yes, there were “scary” moments but nothing along the lines of what we have seen in Wan’s prior Warren-based THE CONJURING stories. The tease of what could happen shows up and then falls flat. It’s like this story was thrown together with everything but the kitchen sink and the only reason they didn’t use that is because it was full of unwashed dishes.

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There was so much more than could have been done in this film, the artifacts are there for the telling and yet it gets the slight of hand and the odd remark here and there. The ending is ridiculously pat and layered on thick like the icing on Judy’s cake.

Let’s hope the doll stays in her case – permanently – or at least until someone takes THE CONJURING/ANNABELLE genre a little more seriously and remembers what made us all jump and cheer in the first place. Get back to that, get back to the basics and for gawd sakes bring Wilson and Farmiga back into the game coach!

In the end – she comes home to stay!

CHASING THE MOON in Three Parts comes to PBS with American Experience

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Jeri Jacquin

Coming to PBS July 8th-10th from American Experience and Academy Award Nominee writer/director/producer Robert Stone is the six-hour series celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the moon landing with CHASING THE MOON.

Part One – A Place Beyond the Sky begins the series in the 50s and 60s with the thoughts of astronauts regarding going to space. Neil Armstrong made his indelible and small speech before planting his boot on the moon surface and in his words ring true today. Little did he realize it is used in so many other forms to recognize that we are in a very big universe.

There was a time when people could not fathom “being born on this planet and then taking off for another world”. The world was taking on a new identity and the people in it reflecting on how nothing could possibly ever be the same.

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Beginning with Russia and Sputnik, it pushed the US to do one better than the enemy. It also brought fear of war and destruction. When Sputnik II was launched, the American fear becomes even greater as rumors of what they could do next before the US – the moon.

The Vanguard Project was sent up first followed by Jupiter C. Scientist Wernher von Braun from Germany was considered a hero and not a hero all at the same time. World War II brought 120 of the best scientists from that country to be part of looking for a way to space. Becoming a consultant on films about space, von Braun would even help Walt Disney with his theme park.

Project Orion and Freeman Dyson were called in to work on it. Flights and living for years exploring space was their goal. Russia also brought in German scientists to expand their space program. When it didn’t work out, the Germans are sent home which benefitted the US. In 1959, Nixon and Khrushchev talked between each other in harsh terms at the Worlds Fair in Moscow about space.

Then the introduction of the Mercury astronauts with John H. Glenn, Alan B. Shepard, Virgil I. ‘Gus’ Grissom, Malcolm S. Carpenter, Leroy Gordon Cooper, Wally Schirra, and Donald K. Slayton. As the training of these men goes on, Russia sends a cosmonaut up in 1961. President John F. Kennedy isn’t happy and von Braun tells him they can make it to the moon first. The Saturn rocket then comes into being.

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Alan Shepard starts as the first man in space and makes sure it is done live. Still, another cosmonaut makes his way into space and President Kennedy gives NASA the money to get to the moon. Construction in Florida brings people out in droves because of NASA. The excitement builds as John Glenn is the first US astronaut to go into orbital flights.

Television and journalists like Walter Cronkite brought space into homes of the average American. The intensity of interest from the public was kept in the forefront. Bobby Kennedy wanted to bring an African-American astronaut on board as Capt. Edward Dwight was brought into training.

In Houston, the families came to live and formed their own ‘space’ family. The Mercury men were young pilots and had to be watched. It was 1962 when the decision was made to go from the earth to the moon while transporting a vehicle for moon exploration. President Kennedy thought to have joint missions to the moon with the Soviets as both sides wanted it to happen. All of that changed on November 22, 1963. After that the idea was silenced.

In Part II – Earthrise – President Lyndon Johnson took up the mantle for the space program, even picking up the JFK mantle of Soviet cooperation. Now, the Soviets were behind the US in the space race. The Gemini Project brings computers aboard in outer space. A serious problem was that reporters were starting to question why space and at what cost? NASA had to do what they could to keep the public relations good with the public.

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With each Gemini launch, NASA was getting closer to the moon. The Gemini 8 launch was the first craft to have problems as the ship rolled out of control. Neil Armstrong brought it all home with his cool head and abilities. The final Gemini 12 launches with Buzz Aldren and James Lovell and becomes successful in teaching how to train for space.

The first Apollo mission crew is announced with Gus Grissom, Ed White, Roger B. Chaffee. Then tragedy as none ever expected even though the astronauts all knew it was possible. The affect on the other astronauts caused stresses that went down to family members. They were a family and now their family was broken.

NASA dealt with a media nightmare that once again brought into question of ‘why space?’ But 1968 brought civil unrest and wars to the forefront of life yet NASA still wouldn’t let go. The Saturn 5 was conceived to put men on the moon.

And what a show! Now the interest in once again peaked by the media and a shot of the moon to beat the Russians right in front of them. The accelerated Apollo 8 brought an orbit of the moon. One person there from the beginning was also the first woman, Poppy Northcutt, in a very serious job. Now Anderson, Borman and Lovell, who are inside the powerful rocket, finally bring a dream to reality. Of course doing it at 25,000 miles an hour. Once in space, there would be a television camera on board that give the people of Earth a good look at what they had all been waiting for.

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Once home, people celebrated and cheered after a year of sadness in the country.

Part III – Magnificent Desolation – brings the question involving von Braun in World War II that were never asked before because he was helping the US get to the moon. Once they questions started being asked from the media, von Braun had to take each question carefully, especially when the questions dealt with Nazi atrocities.

The US was also changing as protests grew on college campuses while soldiers continued to fight overseas and this applied to astronauts. Russia was still a hot topic and they were also trying to get a man to the moon before the US. Dealing with failures, the N1 Project took it all step by step. Col. Borman was asked about Russia landing on the moon and he agreed that they were just as motivated as the US.

Now, the Apollo 11 crew was being introduced with Buzz Aldren, Michael Collins and Neil Armstrong making the trip. This was going to be the crew to land on the moon as 2 out of the 3 actually stepping on the moon’s surface. Russia had ideas of their own launching an unmanned craft to the moon at the same time.

People converged near the landing pad to witness the next Apollo launch. Some were even protestors who were unhappy about social injustice. On July 16, 1969, the promise of President Kennedy made about reaching the moon is one rocket launch away. Countries around the world were also glued to watch the launch. Waiting for the lunar module to land on the moon was the culmination of a dream turned reality. On July 20th, 1969, the cameras are on and rolling as the world see Neil Armstrong descend the lunar ladder and say, “one small step for man – one giant leap for mankind”.

On the moon

Soon he would be joined by Buzz Aldren as the two men walked on the moon and the world in their line of sight celebrated this monumental achievement. The celebration continued when the astronauts landed safely back on Earth. Their lives have been completely changed and they could never have imagined how much to this day.

So where do we go from here now that we’ve been shown the beauty of our own world from the surface of another? Of course Mars holds the mystery now as the moon once did so perhaps that is our next man made challenge. There are so many worlds, so much beauty and a dash of charm about the space that surrounds our Earth.

I wonder who will be next in planting their foot on the surface of another world!

Filmmaker Stone says of this experience, “As a 10-year-old kid in England in July 1969, my mother woke me up in the middle of the night to watch two Americans set foot upon another world, the Moon quite literally staring at us through the window above our television set. I’d recently seen Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY and the one-two punch of those two intensely visceral experiences ignited a fire in my mind that’s stuck with me ever since.”

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“It’s when I first began to want to be a filmmaker. In many ways Chasing the Moon is a culmination of a lifetime of thoughts that have been churning through my mind about this extraordinary period in which I grew up, about the boundless ambition and promise of a brighter future that space travel inspired, the belief that anything is possible if we join together in a common goal, and the urgency it ignited to preserve and care for our home planet. Having PBS as a partner to take this film out worldwide is a real honor for me”.

AMERICAN EXPERIENCE executive producer Mark Samuels says about Chasing the Moon, “When we think of that breathtaking moment of the 1969 moon landing, we forget what a turbulent time that was. The country was dealing with huge problems in Vietnam, poverty, civil rights – and there was a lot of skepticism about the space program. Chasing the Moon explores the unbelievably complex challenges that NASA was able to overcome. Not a week goes by when someone doesn’t say, ‘Why can’t we do something today as ambitious, as grand as putting a man on the moon?’ It was a century-defining achievement, and our film tells a familiar story in an entirely new way”.

Ballantine Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House, also has a book Chasing the Moon by Stone and writer/researcher Alan Andres that expands on the stories told in the documentary. The details found in the book are absolutely riveting to the point that I couldn’t put the book down. The surprise to me is that I knew I have always been interested in NASA, I just didn’t realize how much until page after page I was wanting to know more.

For 30 years, AMERICAN EXPERIENCE has been television’s most-watched history series. Their documentaries have been honored with every major broadcast award including 30 Emmy Awards, four DuPont-Columbia Awards and 17 George Foster Peabody Awards. The series received an Academy Award nomination for Best Documentary Feature in 2015 for Last Days of Vietnam. For more information please visit pbs.org/americanexperience.

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Along with AMERICAN EXPERIENCE Chasing the Moon, PBS brings viewers the universe with SUMMER OF SPACE, a multiplatform experience that includes six new science and history programs, all commemorating America’s journey into Space. The celebration kicks off July 8 with a new space-themed ANTIQUES ROADSHOW Out of This World, NOVA specials Back to the Moon on July 10, 8 Days: To the Moon and Back on July 17,  three-part Ancient Skies on July 24 and The Planets on July 24. For more information please visit www.pbs.org.

Chasing the Moon is a three-part experience that allows those involved to tell their stories and personal experiences. Listening to them share also opens up behind the curtain of NASA during a time when every move they made was dangerous. Everyone wanted to get to space and the moon but I’m sure no one then realizes the cost of making that dream come true.

As outsiders, we only witnessed the results of years of dedication and ingenuity but Chasing the Moon allows us to know so much more. This is a stunning way to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the 1969 walk on the moon. A way to remember where we have been and what is absolutely possible for space in the future.

Gather the family around the same television that families 50 years ago gathered around except this time to listen and learn about one of the greatest human achievements ever.

In the end – it took millions of steps to make one giant leap!

In the end – it took millions of steps to make one giant leap!

THE AFTERMATH

 

The Aftermath Bluray

Jeri Jacquin

Coming to Bluray/DVD and Digital from director James Kent and 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment is war and THE AFTERMATH.

It is 1946 and the war with Germany is over. Colonel Lewis Morgan (Jason Clarke) of the British Forces has been assigned to Hamburg and brings wife Rachael (Keira Knightley) as well. Col. Morgan has been assigned with helping to rebuild the city while also handling the problem of German insurgents who aren’t happy about their presence.

The home of architect Stephen Lubert (Alexander Skarsgård) has been requisitioned for the Morgan’s. Trying to keep the peace, Lubert moves himself and teen daughter Heike (Anna Schimrigk) into the attic of the house after Col. Morgan allows them to stay.

Rachael is furious about the Lubert’s continuing to stay as she believes her reasons are sound. Having lived through the Blitz bombings in London, not everyone in her family was as lucky.

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Heike is also angry feeling that no one has a right to be in their home. Her anger causes a few missteps that are based on the same anger as Rachael’s. Little does each family realize, but their pains are not so dissimilar. Col. Morgan is sent all over to deal with city problems and while gone, Rachael and Stefan start a dangerous relationship.

Every bit of what is happening is because Rachael can not find her way, can not get through the pain and can not understand why her husband doesn’t see it.

Knightley as Rachael is a woman who isn’t happy about being in Hamburg, isn’t happy about the Lubert’s stay and isn’t happy about the state of her marriage. Continuing to put on a brave face, it becomes more and more difficult as Col. Morgan refuses to see what is in front of him. Knightley gives a performance that is strong but slowly melts into another kind of strength. This is a character she is known for, keeping it all together until a moment of self discovery.

Clarke as Col. Morgan has managed to hide everything from his wife. Making decisions in Hamburg that go against her wishes, he shows compassion for the German people and wants Rachael to do the same. What she doesn’t know is that his work is dangerous which he needs to hide his own pain. Clarke portrays his character with a steel grace that begins to crack.

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Skarsgård as Lubert is a man who doesn’t want to make waves and is willing to surrender his home to Col Morgan. Dealing with his own losses and a daughter who feels betrayed, Skarsgård keeps his character centered and doesn’t give much away. Personally I wouldn’t be thrilled if someone took my home all the while forgetting that not all Germans were Nazi’s.

Schimrigk as Heike is a young girl who doesn’t want to be comforted about her home and the life that was once hers. Not understanding why her father takes everything in stride, she finds herself tempted to go against the grain of everything post war.

Other cast include: Jack Laskey as Wilkins, Kate Phillips as Susan, Martin Compston as Burnham, Rosa Enskat as Greta, Frederick Preston as Michael, Flora Thiermann as Freda Lubert and Fionn O’Shea as Barker.

Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment brings award-winning global product and new entertainment to DVD, Bluray, and Digital HD. There amazing collection offers fans an opportunity to expand their own home libraries with the best films. To discover what other titles they have please visit www.fox.com.

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MOVIES ANYWHERE gives viewers the ability to download the Movies Anywhere App. With that you can view films by downloading or streaming to your favorite device using a Digital Code. For more information on Movies Anywhere please visit www.MoviesAnywhere.com.

The Bluray and DVD Special Features include Deleted Scenes, VFX Progressions, First Look, Audio Commentary by Director James Kent and Gallery.

Rhidian Brook wrote the book The Aftermath as well as The Testimony of Taliesin Jones, Jesus and the Adman and The Killing of Butterfly Joe. He has also dabbled in television with the 2005 broadcast of Mr. Harvey Lights a Candle, the series Silent Witness and the drama Atlantis.

THE AFTERMATH is the story of people after tragedy. If you scrape away the war from the surface of the story, what you see is the lives of people on a deeper level. Personal pain is universal and the four people in the Lubert’s home are all dealing with that with the added strain of post war in a torn up Hamburg.

The paths that are taken by each character are based on the confusion of their lives. Everything has been shattered and it is difficult to remember what life was like before war and what to do with life after.

In the end – the city isn’t the only thing shattered!

TOY STORY 4 Reunited Our Favorite Friends

Toy Story 4 cover

Jeri Jacquin

Coming to theatres from director Josh Cooley, Pixar Animated Studios and Walt Disney Pictures brings back our friends for TOY STORY 4.

Sheriff Woody (Tom Hanks), Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) and the gang are still living with Bonnie. As time has gone on, Woody has found himself spending more time in the closet and less time with Bonnie. Yet Buzz, Jessie (Joan Cusack), Dolly (Bonnie Hunt), Trixie (Kristen Schaal), Rex, (Wallace Shawn), Hamm (John Ratzenberger), Slinky Dog (Blake Clark), Mr. Potato Head (Don Rickles), Mrs. Potato Head (Estelle Harris) and the gang are still supportive of Woody.

But he has other things to worry about when Bonnie (Madeleine McGraw) is upset about going off to kindergarten. Taking the initiative, Woody decides to make sure she has a good day! When things don’t seem to be going in that direction, he helps Bonnie create a new friend, Forky (Tony Hale) and she is delighted.

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Before the real school year starts, Mom and Dad decide it’s time to go on a little road trip. The toy-gang is thrilled as well and wait to be packed into the RV for a little adventure. When Forky escapes the RV, Woody tells he gang he will meet them at the RV park in the next town while he goes off to settle their new toy friend down a bit.

It gives time for Woody and Forky to bond as the sheriff gets time to explain the situation to him. Getting close to the RV park, Woody sees something in an antique store window. A lamp that his friend Bo Peep (Annie Potts) once called her home with the three sheep Billy, Goat and Gruff. Taking a small detour to find out if she is in the shop, he and Forky meet Gabby Gabby (Christina Hendricks) who only wants one thing from Woody!

When she doesn’t get it, Gabby Gabby takes Forky as hostage at the same time Woody finds Bo Peep. Now she needs to bring her friends to help including Duke Caboom (Keanu Reeves) because Bonnie and her parents are about to leave the RV park and not everyone is aboard. Buzz jumps into action to help as the gang in the RV make a little plan of their own.

It’s pretty much help your friends, help your new friends and make a decision that will change the lives of everybody all while getting back to Bonnie.

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Because that’s what friends do for one another!

Hanks as Woody will now and forever be considered a beloved icon in both movies and animation. He has brought all of us so much love and teachable lessons in the character of Sheriff Woody. From the very first TOY STORY in 1995, I knew this was going to be a ride from adults to children, little did I know now that it would include grandchildren. Woody can be found in kids rooms still because he is the friend we all wish we could have for a lifetime.

Allen as Buzz is once again the lighthearted friend who tries to keep Woody’s spirits up and when it comes time to bring him home, it is Buzz who go to find him. They are an unbeatable pair and even if he is still a little confused sometimes, he doesn’t let that stop him from hearing his own ‘inner voice’.

Potts as Bo Peep is sweet, strong and has a little fight in her swagger. She has a story to tell and it is about where she has been and how she now sees the world. McGraw as Bonnie is such a young girl learning to be outside of her bedroom and toy world into something much bigger – but she still needs her toy friends.

Cusack, Hunt, Schaal, Shawn, Ratzenberger, Benson, Clark, Rickles, Harris return as their respective and beloved characters and, of course, we wouldn’t have it any other way. As much as there wouldn’t be a TOY STORY without Woody and Buzz, there equally wouldn’t be a Woody and Buzz without Jessie, Dolly, Rex, Hamm, Barbie and the Potato Heads.

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Hendricks as Gabby Gabby can be a little bit off putting and a tad-bit like Lotso from TOY STORY 3 in that she wants to be large and in charge. It is clear that there are deeper issues and Woody needs to get to the bottom of it.

Reeves as Duke Caboom may have only been in the film briefly but man did he make me laugh! This was a fantastic chance for Reeves to show his comedic side in a way that most would see as unexpected and awesome at the same time.

Other cast include Bill Hader as Axel the Carnie, Ally Maki as Giggle McDimples, Jay Hernandez as Bonnie’s Dad, Lori Alan as Bonnie’s Mom, Emily Davis as Billy/Goat/Gruff, Carl Weathers as Combat Carls, Jeff Garlin as Buttercup, Jordan Peele as Bunny Timothy Dalton as Mr. Pricklepants, Jodie Benson as Barbie, Jeff Pidgeon as Aliens, and especially Mel Brooks as Melephant Brooks, Carol Burnett as Chairol Burnett, Betty White as Bitey White and Carl Reiner as Carl. Reineroceros.

TOY STORY 4 is a chance for the toys themselves to actually have an adventure that is about – well – them! Of course there is the continuing story of Bonnie but it is also about how these toys are still caring of one another.

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They have their own attachments and feelings about the years they have spent together and TOY STORY 4 has a chance to tell that side of it all and do so in a way that brings closure we didn’t even know we needed.

In the end – on the road of life there are old friends, new friends and stories that will change you forever!

 

 

LATE NIGHT Tackles Funny

Late Night Cover

Jeri Jacquin

Coming to theatres this Friday from director Nisha Ganatra, writer Mindy Kaling and Amazon Studios is the funny found in LATE NIGHT.

Katherine Newbury (Emma Thompson) is the host(ess) of television’s LATE NIGHT. An icon of late night she is also having difficulty in the ratings. Part of the problem is that she seems a little out of touch and always dominating her all male writer’s room.

Brought to her attention by Brad (Denis O’Hare), she makes it clear that hiring a female writer for the team is top priority. The writing staff of head writer Tom (Reid Scott), Charlie (Hugh Dancy), Burditt (Max Casella), Mancuso (Paul Hauser), Reynolds (John Early) and others are surprised when Molly Patel (Mindy Kaling) walks in the door.

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A chemical plant worker by day, Molly has a dabble of experience in comedy and that’s enough to be hired for. The team tries to come up with ideas to save the show when they discover that the head of the studio Caroline Morton (Amy Ryan) has taken enjoyment with the announcement.

Newbury is in a state that even her husband Walter (John Lithgow) can’t get her out of. That’s when Molly kicks her ideas into high gear and the team beings to crank out comedy that it working.

As much as Tom fought against Molly, Molly finding a workplace romance and Newbury fighting change – it takes one work to the media to potentially bring it all down.

That’s when comedy does its best work!

Thompson as Katherine is a strong woman who has become a tad complacent about her show. Fighting the change that could have kept her on top, it is a changing of the guard that makes her realize she will try anything once – twice if it will get ratings. Thompson is a favorite of mine so it’s always good to see her go in a different direction.

Kaling as Molly brings out all the big guns in her character and honestly doesn’t do a thing for me. She uses every excuse in the book for her lot in life from calling herself a “diversity hire” to jokes about “white privilege” and all I could think was ‘and she wrote this?’. I don’t mind films that bring out issues but when it’s every issue on the planet you lose me quick.

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Scott as Tom is a guy who doesn’t like the idea of having Molly thrown into the mix with no experience. That would be said of anyone who took the job in the writers room but of course he’s going to be raked over the coals. Dancy as Fain gets the chance to be a douchebag and plays it perfectly.

Lithgow as Walter is absolutely lovely and doesn’t fit in the film at all. He’s the quiet cheerleading squad to his wife’s mania. O’Hare as Brad is constantly browbeaten so that is about the extend of his role. Two amazing actors used badly.

Casella, Hauser, Early, Slattery, Barinholtz and the rest of the writer’s room are made to look incompetent when in actuality they were just stuck in a room with their hands tied around their backs.

Ryan as Morton is the iron fist that comes down on Katherine’s head with plenty of enjoyment. So basically its one woman of power smacking down on another woman who thinks she has power. So much for lifting one another up eh?

Look, I’m sure there are those that will enjoy LATE NIGHT and it isn’t that I totally hated it. There are moments that are funny even if they are far apart.

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I didn’t know whether to cheer women, women of color, women taking care of their man, women for change, men being brow beaten, men living in job fear, blah blah blah blah. I couldn’t invest myself in pretty much any of it because instead of it being a learning experience it felt like constant jabbing.

I’m not sure what Kaling was trying to prove here but for me it didn’t work well enough for me to even watch it again on television. Not a fan of whining, blaming or poor me in general but when it’s all in one film I pretty much check out early.

The sad part about this is that there are some very talented people in this film and, to me; it feels as if they have just been put in roles that they didn’t deserve.

Oh well, that’s how I feel about it anyway.

In the end – they are attempting to give comedy a re-write!

 

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