The Road to El Dorado

Growing up I was inundated with Disney. Disney was seemingly the singular source of animated films that were actually good movies. But I find myself to be a part of a lucky generation. A generation where awesome and adorable animated films that aren’t in any way tied to Disney were being made and a released. Unfortunately, since Disney all but had a monopoly on animated flicks, people tend to judge all others with a heavy hand and a snotty attitude.

The Road to El Dorado

The Road to El Dorado, much like The Swan Princess, is a traditionally animated film that wasn’t produced, inspired, or in any way related to Disney aside from the fact that the Jeffrey Katzenberg, the CEO, left Disney and started this company… oh and now they distribute films under Touchtone for Disney… I guess they didn’t get very far. But this is beside the point, this animated feature was in no way related to Disney when it was first released!

The Road to El Dorado is an interesting tale of two men, thieves really, named Tulio (Kevin Kline, who played Captain Phoebus in The Hunchback of Notre Dame) and Miguel (Kenneth Branagh, who played Professor Gilderoy Lockhart and would go on to direct Thor and Cinderella… for Disney), who are best friends who are cunning and cheerful. One thing that has always drawn me to this movie, which while never mentioned in the final film because of the ‘moral guardians’ is that Tulio and Miguel were, and are, intended to be a couple. Not just partners in crime and best friends, an actual couple. But because this was an animated film in the year 2000 and animation is clearly only for children, it wasn’t stated in the film even though all of the subtext, undertones, and jealousy were left in. Kind of like Sailor Neptune and Sailor Uranus from the original dub of Sailor Moon (in which almost nothing was removed so we were left with an obviously lesbian couple who were cousins. Way to go America).

The fun part, though, is that because they treat the relationship like any other natural and normal thing, you can simply ignore it for the story and it wouldn’t make a lick of difference. The two, surviving catastrophe when their latest plan goes awry, end up on a row boat in the middle of the ocean with a horse, Altivo (Frank Welker who has played too many animals in Disney films for us to name here. Let’s just say most.). With no food, drinkable water, a map that they stole almost by accident, and tensions running high, the two are ecstatic when they wash up on the shores of a tropical beach.

Soon Miguel begins to recognize things on the island as they are on the map, and the three of them end up making their way through the jungle where they run, surprisingly, into a woman being chased by guards. All of their dreams suddenly validated, they are surprised when they are dragged back to the golden city, AKA El Dorado, where native people are aplenty with a source of wealth that is so plentiful it has two forms of meaninglessness to them, because the totem that Miguel and Tulio are riding Altivo in front of is an effigy of their Gods. Enter Chel (Rosie Perez) whom was being chased by the guards. This is where you can ignore the intended romance, as obviously they’re interested in each other and Chel and jealous of one another to the point where I could call this Degrassi or X-men and the relationships would be almost identically convoluted (I kid, I kid. In Degrassi you actually can tell).

Rolling with the God mistake, Tulio and Miguel begin to grow attached to El Dorado and the people within it. Of course, there’s always one bad apple out there to ruin everything.

Check out El Dorado, it’s a fun, entertaining movie with a multiple-choice plan of understanding it!

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Random Review – The Deconstruction

We have spent the entire week looking over what a deconstruction is, why and how they are important, and how they can breathe new life into a stalled industry. Whether comedy is at the core of a deconstruction ultimately depends on two things, your definition of comedy and how devolved the tropes and clichés are within that genre.

deconstruction_logo

A perfect example is Mean Girls, which is a deconstruction of the high school movie. We expect the hot jock and the mean girl to be in a relationship because they’re both vapid people, but when looking deeper there is more to them both. When Aaron Samuels is presented with the chance to get with Cady, he doesn’t because she is too like Regina and he has finally realized that that isn’t for him.

Mean Girls (2004) (l to r) Lacey Chabert, Rachel McAdams, Lindsay Lohan, Amanda Seyfried

 

This is clearly what you wanted!

Look at Cabin in the Woods, how many of you recognized the tried and true tropes of the horror genre being given what amounts to a laughable but tolerable explanation. Why don’t the heroes hold onto the weapons they just used to brutally tear through a monster? Electricity shocks you so you drop it! Why is leaving the area where you know there is a maniacal killer out there stalking, killing, and doing god knows what else to your friends? A barrier is going to be your end, of course!

Cabin-in-the-Woods

This is what you really wanted, though!

The tried and true is funny when it is so overblown that it is simply stale and uninteresting. Seeing the same archetypes be plagued with the same problems over and over again with the same old solutions isn’t entertaining. It’s boring, and the deconstruction knows that. When it plays one of those tropes it is manipulating it to the point where the result is nothing like what we as the audience expects.

How seriously are you going to take teen victims who are stupid in a day an age where Netflix has a larger catalogue of slasher flicks than you know what to do with? That’s right, we’re not. How about the hot young thing who’s surprised her minions have revolted because they really don’t like her and fear isn’t as powerful a binding agent as eggs or love (oooh, eat your heart out Azula!)? What you expect is boring. But does that then lead to what you want being refreshing?

No. It doesn’t. We think we want new, fresh, and original ideas but simply look at the different films that are coming out and tell me how many of the original ones were successful? Can you name any of them?

That’s because we don’t like change. At least, we don’t like big change.

A slew of movies are coming out this year that are changing a few things. Things that you wouldn’t really expect and are taking some time in getting used to. The Human Torch is black, Scream is a TV series, Netflix is doing original content, and DC is…. I don’t even know what DC is doing. But they’re trying something new (and by new I mean they’re focusing their entire empire around two characters who have more films behind their belt than Barbie… Maybe not, Barbie has a lot of films these days).

The new thing in Hollywood, which is already annoying the masses to death, is the YA Dystopic Trilogy fest (which may or may not be turned into tetralogies: box office pending of course). The Hunger Games, The Maze Runner, Divergent and so on and so forth. It wasn’t just enough to adapt books into movies, now we must adapt an entire genre of books into movies! The only saving grace is that they’ve chosen some interesting tales to tell. Okay, there are more but really, who’s counting… Oh…. Oh you are? Good luck with that.

Back on track.

The deconstruction is a treasured outlet to many. It charges us with letting go of the tried and true and opening ourselves up to new and different ways of experiencing a movie.

Doesn’t that sound like a lot of fun?

Man of Steel

It may not seem like a deconstruction at first, if only because it manages to play many of its mythos straight, but at the same time it manages to change so many of them that adaptation just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

Man of Steel

Man of Steel is a deconstruction of Superman, at its core. Everyone knows who and what Superman is. He is the pinnacle of good, he helps everyone he can, he has absolute control over his ability, and he is in love with Lois Lane for explainable reasons. Over the course of this film there are many aspects of Superman that are explored, and that we expect to be explored in an adaptation of Superman. For one, we expect Krypton to explode, for Kal El to travel space until he crash lands on Earth during a meteor storm, for the Kents to find and raise him rather than sell him for spare parts, and for them to raise ‘Clark’ (Henry Cavill)  as a normal human being.

Seeing as how they glossed over his years as Superboy and still managed to kill of an important person in Clark’s life, Man of Steel managed to hit all of the highlights of Clark’s youth. They just went about it a lot differently. Rather than supporting Clark from the beginning, Jonathan fears what might happen to Clark if anyone were to discover he was an alien and so even after revealing this information to Clark, he tells his son not to use his powers. Of course things conspire against the Kent’s and, because they live in Kansas, a tornado happens upon them one day and… oh, well there goes Jonathan Kent because he wouldn’t send his son who (mind you wouldn’t of needed his powers to move faster than Jonathan) to save the dog and then…. Then just stands there. At least Smallville had the decency to give him a heart attack after letting him win a Senatorial election.

From there Clark grows up as a nomad, when the U.S. military finds a Kryptonian space ship and, us being U.S., we investigate it! For some reason Lois Lane is here at a top secret military operation even though she’s a reporter and her job is to report on… well everything. Why would you have a reporter at a top secret military outpost…? Why? I mean seriously? I know Lois Lane (played by Amy Adams who, incidentally, was in episode of Smallville before Enchanted happened and fame became overnight for her) is a military brat but I really, really hope that personal string pulling doesn’t reach this far. I mean… this is the military and they can’t prevent the media from showing up?

Herein enters another change, Lois Lane meets Superman and, being a reporter manages to deduce precisely who he is by actually doing her job with some semblance of investigative skill and intelligence. Who would have thought? So falls away a typical part of the Superman mythos, the Lois Lane-Clark Kent-Superman love triangle is thankfully forgotten about.

Possibly one of the biggest changes, though, and the one most complained about, is the final battle against Zod (Michael Shannon) which results in untold casualties (by which I mean literally, we aren’t told the number of casualties in Metropolis alone, but considering how many skyscrapers came crashing down it’s clear that here were at least several hundred). Superman is known for not killing people, at all, and not only does he indirectly kill a lot of people, he directly kills Zod. It is an interesting change, and with a sequel on the way (which has managed to jam pack almost the entire Justice League) we’ll see how things go.

Batman V Superman

With Kevin Costner and Diane Lane as Jonathan and Martha Kent, Russel Crowe as Jor-El, Christopher Meloni as Colonel Nathan Hardy, and Laurence Fishburne as Perry White the film features an ensemble of powerful actors in supporting roles that flesh out the film in different ways. Some were better than others, but all in all they helped make the film more interesting amidst the changes.

Wonder_Womanaquaman

At least Wonder Woman is finally going to debut in film and we’ll finally get to rub Aquaman from Super Friends from our memories!

 

 

Mean Girls

Continuing with our look into the world of deconstruction comes another film that many of you have undoubtedly seen, heard of, or read a meme from.

High school is a glorious place where you spend six to eight hours of your live, five days a week, for nine months, for four years of your life. You’ll make friends there, have fond memories, and if you’re really, really lucky you’ll have an Alpha bitch and her squad of skanks to ruin your day for the next four years. Good luck with that last part!

Mean Girls

Mean Girls did something that hasn’t really been touched on in the film industry all that often. Yes, every movie or show about high school includes a group of mean girls but not every show or movie about high school that includes a group of mean girls actually goes into any kind of depth about who they are outside of being… well mean girls. Mean Girls (let’s just see how many times we can say this title in this review and get away with it!) fleshes out the titular girl posse that seems to come standard issue with high school movies.

Mean Girls the girls

You obviously have your Alpha Bitch (Regina George played by Rachel McAdams), your brainless beauty who’s a slut (Karen Walker played by Amanda Seyfried), and your gossipy hen who knows everything (Gretchen Wieners played by Lacey Chabert, and mind you I know the dialogue was originally intended for McAdam’s character, it just makes so much more sense with… someone who gossips and has big hair). Each and every single character is more than the archetype they’re based on, as long as they have more than a few minutes of screen time.

As mentioned in earlier reviews (and as will be expanded upon later in the week) deconstructions play a particularly interesting role in the industry of film, television, and literature. Things from our past our built upon so that things in our future can be expanded upon. Mean Girls opens us up to the worldview of a high school girl, and the challenges that women, in this society in particular, face on a daily basis. You have to have the rockin’ body, the fancy clothes, the perfect makeup and hair, and you must keep up with popular culture at all costs in order to be a part of that ‘in crowd’ otherwise you’re the Damian or Janis of the school. While fitting in is not the end all be all it’s also awesome to not have to be tormented for your entire high school career. But, as those of us like Janis and Damian (myself included) know, there is more to someone than the superficiality that we see in everyday life. Each of these characters, yes even Karen, have their flaws and insecurities and Mean Girls painstakingly paints a picture of all of those things that young girls and women are suffering in life that is simply glossed over in a sex-crazed society where women are nothing more than objects.

Mean-Girls-Style

Lindsay Lohan stars as Cady Heron, our Catty heroine in what would later become known as the film that eerily foreshadowed the kind of life Lindsay would lead. Here’s hoping it all works out! Lizzy Caplan (recently in the abysmal The Interview­ and the equally abysmal Cloverfield) is Janis Ian and Daniel Franzese is Damian, our comedic duo who are much more than our Goth and gay stereotypes, even if that seems to be the basis of their characters. Tina Fey, from SNL and other things, plays Ms. Sharon Norbury, a teacher seemingly cursed with bad luck and Jonathan Bennett (whom everyone and their brother has come to the conclusion is homosexual even though there hasn’t been a single press release, interview, or some other such official avenue where Jonathan Bennett himself declares himself ‘one of the gays’ as many people like to refer to us as if we’re a species other than human), is our handsome high school dream-boat who all the guy want to be and all the girls want to be with….

Mean Girls Aaron SamuelsIsn’t it awesome that this film passes the Bechdel test without even trying? Yeah, it’s that kind of movie!

The Cabin in the Woods

We all hope that when we, and all of our closest friends, go on a fun vacation that we aren’t going to end up as anyone between the ages of sixteen and twenty five find themselves in the movies. As in our entire blood volume outside of our body.

The Cabin in the Woods

The Cabin in the Woods, much like our previous review, is a deconstruction. This one, however, is a deconstruction of the horror genre and is not, I repeat, is not a standard horror film. By now the trailers may have spoiled the plot, the reviews may have thrown out surprising cameos that are missed if you don’t listen to people speak, and so on and so forth. We’re not gonna do that. Because some of you out there just haven’t experienced the beauty that is The Cabin in the Woods. We’re just going to point out the important things.

It starts out simple, five college students are going to their friend’s cousin’s cabin in the woods. Our teens are Dana Polk (Kristen Connolly who would go on to be known for her role as Christina Gallagher in House of Cards), Curt Vaughan (Chris Hemsworth who, at the time of release was most known for playing Thor in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe), Jules Louden (Anna Hutchison who none of you will know as Lily Chilman, the Yellow Cheetah Ranger in Power Rangers Jungle Fury), Marty Mikalski (Fran Kranz, who Joss Whedon diehards will know as Topher Brink from Dollhouse), and Holden McCrea (Jesse Williams who plays Dr. Jackson Avery in Grey’s Anatomy). You may have noticed something about them. Yes, all five of them have last names, which is unusual for characters in a horror film, hell it’s sometimes unusual for characters in film in general.

The Cabin in the Woods Cast

This is only the first aspect of the deconstruction. Within the first ten minutes of meeting these people you get to know details about them, something my friend Anna and I always use to determine who is going to survive the end of the movie. If you focus on a slasher flick, or a monster mash, or some sort of horror film you may have noticed a lack of information on any character who isn’t the final girl. In this film you quickly learn that Dana had an affair with her teacher, is incredibly intelligent, and a beautiful artist. Curt is intelligent, insightful, and good humored and is so in love with his girlfriend that it takes him the entire scene to realize he’s been talking to her best friend while she was in her underwear. Jules is kind and caring, and just wants her friend to have a good time while being careful in how she does it. Holden is athletic and awkward but a really nice guy at heart who is clearly quite aware that he’s being set up with Dana but isn’t pushy about it.

Tell me the last time you knew this much about characters in a typical horror film?

This film plays a particular form of irony quite well. We call it dramatic irony. We (the audience) knows almost everything about the film before the characters do, and most of them don’t even live long enough to find out. Dramatic irony isn’t cruel, but it can be tragic and in this film it often is. Our characters are blissfully unaware of what they are walking into, and that makes it all the more painful to watch.

Not painful as impossible, but you probably knew what I meant. Check out this film and see where it leads you.

So, what are our heroes up against…? Take your pick, the list is endless.The Cabin in the Woods Monsters

Shrek

A deconstruction is an interesting concept where films, books, and television are concerned. After a while media tends to get set in their formulaic ways and we’re still willing to shell out money for the same old stuffy plots and characters because we’ve grown attached to them. That’s where a deconstruction comes in. Whether it’s of comedy, horror, action, fairy tales a deconstruction can, (ironically in Scream’s case) bring new blood into a genre.

Shrek

Shrek did this in the early 2000s where fairy tales are concerned and in the process made a lot of fun at Disney’s expense (something that Disney seems to be okay with) over the years. Fairy tales are beautiful stories set in vaguely European timeframes with a touch of magic depending on the plot. The characters work strange jobs that you might not be accustomed to, like blacksmith, farmer… waitress. Okay it wasn’t that long ago but really, it all has a bit of a fantastical edge to it, doesn’t it…?

So, in your standard fairy tale you have the knight in shining armor, the beautiful princess trapped in unseemly circumstances, the oppressive tyrant who put her there, the loveable animal sidekick, and the woodland creatures who know how to set the tone. Throw in a fire breathing dragon and a kingdom wide journey and you’re made. All of these are tools of the trade, so to speak, and each and every single one of them have a very different purpose in this fairy tale.

Shrek (Mike Meyers best known for Austin Powers) is our Knight in Shining Armor and he is neither charming nor clean, or nice… Or a knight… moving on! Fiona (Cameron Diaz best known for Charlie’s Angels) is our beautiful nonstandard Disney Princess™ who is neither helpless nor Disney. Donkey (Eddie Murphy best known for tanking his career with Pluto Nash) is our loveable animal sidekick who is really more annoying to our main hero, but he’s a talking ass so what did you expect? And Lord Farquaad (John Lithgow whom I know from Dexter) is… short and evil, so basically like Tyrion Lannister with a little less cunning and a lot more evil.

Isn’t that just beautifully dissonant? Take what you know about an archetype and turn it on its head and you have something that is not only ironic (in a proper use of the term for once) but also extremely refreshing. Everybody expects a helpless princess despite G.I. Jane telling you that women can be strong or even Hermione Granger saving Harry Potter’s ass every once in a while. Everybody expects a typical animated romance because of something Disney has been selling for, by that point just under seventy years. With a deconstruction you don’t need to do what is expected. You can take the archetypes, the symbols, themes, motifs, and even the very setting itself and throw it in a blender or, if there’s metal involved chuck it in the microwave, twist the ending like Shrek famously did with True Love’s Kiss. Not only is it a lot more fun, if done right, but it’s a lot less constricting.

Pitch Perfect 2

The first Pitch Perfect was funny, engaging, and for a musical film about a group of A Capella singers it marked a branching path for musicals as a whole.

Pitch Perfect 2

Once again we have the same young women, with a few people shunted out because they’ve graduated, unless you’re Chloe (Brittany Snow) and failing a class every semester doesn’t get you placed on academic probation or prevented from performing in extracurricular activities. Anna Kendrick and Rebel Wilson return as Beca and Fat Amy, the former our main character and the latter our ascended ensemble dark horse. Ester Dean and Hana Mae Lee return as the two most notable Bellas from the previous film, in that you actually probably know who Cynthia and Lily are. Compare them to Shelley Regner and Kelly Jakle who play Ashley and Jessica who are literally, even to the characters themselves, interchangeable despite looking nothing alike. Even Alexis Knapp is recognizable as the sexual Bella, Stacie, and for a second there I would have added Chrissie Fit as Florencia, only to learn she is a new character who joined in between the two films.

Skyler Astin, Ben Platt and Adam DeVine return as Jesse, Bumper, and Benji respectively (Beca’s understanding but not as talented boyfriend, the former leader of the Treblemakers who went to work with a famous musician and is now back to claim Fat Amy’s heart, and Jesse’s roommate and Treblemakers companion). Leave it to Elizabeth Mitchell and John Michael Higgins, our comedic and loveable commentators Gail Abernathy and John Smith, to bring the jokes on every second they’re on the screen.

There is a new character in this film, Emily Junk, played by Hailee Steinfeld (Juliet Capulet from the newest Romeo and Juliet and Petra from Ender’s Game) who is a legacy to the Barton Bellas. Her mother, played by the stylish Katey Sagal (Peggy from Married with Children, Gemma from Sons of Anarchy, and Leela from Futurama) is here and there in the movie, doing her best to be a parent.

This film seems to understand the nuances of being a sequel. You capitalize on what worked before (but not too much) you cut things that didn’t work (but not entirely) and you always, ALWAYS expand on the characters development. In this film I felt that all of those notes (pun intended) were hit, except for the aforementioned Ashley and Jessica who are literally interchangeable.

The mashups were fun and, as you’ll tend to find in musicasl these days, focus is given to an original song Flashlight which was produced, written, and Steinfeld’s character but in reality it was Jessie J. The stakes were raised to remind us that these young ladies are great singers but there is much more to a capella (apparently) then just singing without instruments.

With a second sequel on the way I can guarantee you that at some point there will be a breakdown. The third film almost always has them, but until then I am looking forward to it because I adore the characters and the humor is awesome! Yes, Fat Amy did just flash the President and First Lady alongside millions of others!

The Prince and Me

Ooh, a beautiful brunette and a handsome Prince who fall in love and want to be together despite coming from two very different worlds. Will and Kate…? Oh, oh right this is a movie that predates all of that.

The Prince and Me

The Prince and Me follows Julia Stiles as Paige Morgan, a bright, beautiful young woman who is studying to become a doctor and is working at what I suppose could ostensibly be called a college bar to help pay her way through school. Luke Mably plays Edvard ‘Eddie Williams’ of Denmark is the Crown Prince of Denmark who only wants to be treated like a normal young man and not… the next in line to a royal throne. In order to combat this and find out what it is he wants to do with his life, other than rule an entire country of course, Edvard and his manservant go to Wisconsin on the promise of girls going wild. And if you’re one of those who have been duped into thinking that there are hot girls in your area just waiting to talk to you, you know exactly how this goes for him.

Unaccustomed to American culture, as most Americans are to the cultures of others, Edvard must navigate the complicated ways of women who aren’t as he had been promised, as in they aren’t girls and they most certainly aren’t going wild. At the same time Paige, who is studying to become a doctor, is having difficulty with her chemistry class when she is unfortunately paired up with the young man who asked her to go wild for him… What a lovely story to tell the kids one day! Unwilling to give up her dreams, Paige powers through Eddie’s advances and seeming stupidity where college is concerned, and finds herself at a crossroads with something she doesn’t understand and (as most people would probably tell you a class that doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the degree she is seeking) needs Eddie’s help with her Shakespeare studies. In return Paige teaches Eddie how to do laundry and then invites him to her home for thanksgiving…

As this is a romantic movie, they start to realize that they truly have feelings for one another around this point. Coincidentally it is shortly after this that a photographer somehow has managed to stalk Eddie from Denmark to Wisconsin and shows up with a hoard of people who want to get the scoop on the new dish!

The fact that this, in and of itself, could be a single film always makes me a little bit surprised when I remember that there’s at least another forty minutes left. And by a little bit surprised I mean this is how I feel Princess Diaries should have gone before the sequel happened. Actually getting to see the film past what could easily be considered an ending, albeit a downer at that, is a treat in and of itself.

Followed by three direct to dvd sequels with the seeming impossibility of keeping people or even characters for that matter, I’d also like to point out that they’re all good fun. Who needs consistency where actors are concerned? Twilight sure didn’t and we all know how that worked out!

Hairspray

Musicals are extravagant fun with song and dance scenes thrown in for seemingly no reason, and it is absolutely hilarious when someone actually points that out (Thank you Amanda Bynes!).

Hairspray

Hairspray is a musical film based on an actual musical about a young woman who is different from the norm, in this case she is overweight compared to the stick thin beauties around her, and is thrown into the mix because she’s different. Stop me if this sounds like most, if not all, high school movies ever made. Nikki Blonsky debuts as the alliterative Tracy Turnblad, a big beautiful woman with big beautiful dreams of one day being on The Corny Collins Show, a musical program that inexplicably starts before school is even out but stars high school students… Her best friend is Penny Lou Pingleton (Amanda Bynes) and they both love The Corny Collins Show. Because of one young girl’s unfortunate proclivities a spot has opened up for at least nine months. So of course they skip school to go to the audition.

Enter Michelle Pfeifer as Velma Von Tussle the manager of the station and her daughter, Amber (Brittany Snow), the top bitch of the school and the show. Zac Efron is the male lead, and another alliterative Link Larkin, that everyone wants to… you know the drill… But this film has an ensemble cast that serve to up the ante where musicals are concerned. John Travolta plays Tracy’s mother Edna (yes, mother), Christopher Walken plays Wilbur, Tracy’s father, Alison Janney (SQUEE!~~) plays Penny’s overly strict, painfully religious, and appropriately named mother Prudence, Queen Latifa plays Motormouth Maybelle the DJ for Negro Day and James Marsden plays the hot, quirky, and defiant Corny Collins. The last lead plays a powerful figure throughout the movie as he draws Tracy into the plot of the musical, which gets a slow start even as it is blatantly obvious throughout. Elijah Kelly plays Seaweed (he also played Danjou in Take the Lead) and is a rhythmic character, pun intended.

While this is a musical, it uses its film to spell out an important piece of history in the United States, Racism. The plot builds up to itself throughout the film, taking its time to establish the characters roles and personalities until everything all but literally blows up in our faces.

Sometimes racism can be a touchy subject (and by sometimes we mean always) but it is a part of our world nonetheless. While dramas often take their time to spell it out for us, a musical can give it a unique spin. Hairspray is a cute movie regardless of politics. So if you haven’t seen it, pick it up, and if you have… Go watch it again just because you can now make fun of the fact that Zac Efron wasn’t always a hot bad boy that he is today.

Far From the Madding Crowd

Every once in a while I get a feeling and that feeling leads me to watch movies I otherwise normally wouldn’t watch. That feeling has rarely, if ever, let me down.

Far From the Madding Crowd

I remember sitting in the theater, several times in fact, and the trailer for Far From the Madding Crowd (Madding not Maddening) would play and it would catch my attention. The first time I quite easily forgot it, period pieces aren’t always something I find myself interested in because I can’t identify with the time period, hell sometimes I can’t even identify with this time period. By the second or third time of seeing the trailer, and a bit of research, I decided to see this movie, and at the point at which I did see it I was quite aware that it was an adaptation of a book. But it isn’t the first adaptation, or the second or third even. No this was the fifth time that this novel was adapted for film, with the fourth one being an adaptation of an adaptation (a comic serial).

This had me asking myself; what was so damn special about this story?

So I went to go see it by myself, not about to ask someone else to sit through something they probably wouldn’t enjoy, and I found myself engrossed in its tale. The beauty of the scenery which delicately portrayed Victorian England. Bathsheba Everdene (Carey Mulligan, and for a long time I seriously thought that this was Katie Holmes) is a young woman who has lived with her aunt for a while, working on the woman’s farm for a living, and is quite the independent woman in a time of subservience to men simply for having a pair of breasts. One day, while riding her horse, she loses her scarf and a handsome, and successful, sheep herder named Gabriel Oak (Matthias Schoenaerts) finds it and returns it to her. A flirtation begins between the two of them, and Bathsheba joins Gabriel as he is training his new sheepdog how to herd sheep. Their flirtation, going both ways, leads Gabriel to propose to Bathsheba who promptly rejects the proposal as she wants someone who could actually tame her, and she knows that he never could.

Very shortly thereafter Bathsheba and Gabriel have a reversal of fortune, Gabriel’s new sheepdog does what he does in an absolutely horrific manner and Bathsheba inherits her uncle’s entire estate. This leads Bathsheba on an interesting ride as she is now in charge of a household staff on grounds that cover (if I recall correctly 1000 individual acres next to another estate with 1000 acres) a lot of ground and a fortune all her own. It is here we meet two more suitors of Bathsheba, the mature bachelor next door William Boldwood (Michael Sheen) and Sergeant Frank Troy (Tom Sturridge), a bad boy of sorts.

You can probably guess where that leads.

But the point of the story, even with the underlying plot of Bathsheba being pursued by more men than Bella Swan, is that Bathsheba is fiercely independent and doesn’t want to give that up. Her story isn’t unlike that of many young women today, and I believe this is a grand and powerful tale that may take a while to build up but is still worth your time.