Hocus Pocus

Hocus Pocus 7What started out as a Disney Channel Original Movie would be viewed by executives as a goldmine and turned into a theatrical release that is now shown on ABC Family’s Thirteen Nights of Halloween every single year.

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Hocus Pocus 9Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy, and Sarah Jessica Parker are the Sanderson Sisters (Winifred, Mary, and Sarah specifically) and are finally revealed to be witches who must eat children every once in a while to maintain their power and beauty. Unfortunately, after kidnapping Emily Binx one year her brother Thackery (Sean Murray of NCIS fame) refuses to let them have her and goes to save her. But while he is too late to save his sister his sacrifice is what leads the sisters to being hanged by the townspeople. Of course, since they’re actual witches, they cast a spell that prophesies a virgin lighting a candle that resurrects them at some point in the future.

Hocus Pocus 2Rather than burn the house down, no doubt because they might have a virgin do it of course, the house is left standing in Salem, Massachusetts as a museum commemorating the Salem Witch Trials. Smart. Thackery (Voiced by Jason Marsden) sits over the house for all time, having been cursed into the form of a black cat and unable to die and rejoin his sister in heaven. One day, the Dennison Family move to Salem Dave, the dad (Charles Rocket) and Jenny, the mom (Stephanie Faracy) are hoping that getting away from Los Angeles will do something for their teenaged son Max (Omri Katz) and their young daughter Dani (Thora Birch). Because that always works out so well.

(GERMANY OUT) Hocus Pocus Kathy Najimy, Thora Birch, Sarah Jessica Parker, Bette Midler Auch Dani (Thora Birch,m), die Schwester von Max, brauchen die Hexen Mary (Kathy Majimy,l), Sarah (Sarah Jessica Parker) und Winifred (Bette Midler,r) zum Leben. (Photo by United Archives/ullstein bild via Getty Images)

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Its Halloween in Salem and as Max finds himself crushing hard on Allison (Vinessa Shaw) in class and, after randomly accidentally ending up in her house while taking his sister trick or treating, he tries to impress her with his nonbelief in the Sanderson Sister myth. Funnily enough, from a Disney film, Max is revealed to be a virgin after lighting the candle and resurrecting the three witches who now must complete their goal or be left for dead for real this time. Hocus Pocus is a Halloween-theme movie and it takes great pleasure in this aspect of itself. With an ensemble cast consisting of three actresses most everyone knows and a few names who would go on to do important things, this film was an instant cult classic.

Hocus Pocus 5One other standout cast member who shows up partway through the film is the undead Billy Butcherson (played by Doug Jones). As Winifred’s ex-lover, caught in a tryst with Sarah of course, his death and subsequent loyalty to Winifred play out as one would expect.

The movie takes jabs at Christianity, somewhat subtly, and it truly plays up the belief that witches are servants of the devil for all that it is worth. Because it’s a comedy, it has the ability to do so and still take itself seriously when it needs to, and while it’s a children’s film it has elements of horror that are surprising for a children’s film, as well as a Disney film.

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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.

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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!

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.

Pitch Perfect

Pitch PerfectI saw Pitch Perfect in theaters when it came out, much like I just saw the sequel in theaters, the difference of course was that I didn’t really know what the hell Pitch Perfect was going to be about so the projectile vomit in the first few minutes was a strange choice on the movie’s part. Elizabeth Banks produced and stared in this movie and she, alongside John Michael Higgins play Gail and John, two commentators who bring you to the brink of laughing in tears every time they’re on screen. But neither of them are our main character, that honor belongs to Anna Kendrick’s Beca. Considering Twilight is a billion dollar industry in and of itself I can only presume a vast majority of you know her from there but others may know her from Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. Wherever you know her from, Pitch Perfect is where Anna Kendrick truly proved herself ready for the big leagues (And I’m so damn happy I followed her career!!).

Our other leading Bella’s are Anna Camp’s Aubrey Posen (True Blood’s Sarah Newlin), Brittany Snow’s Chloe (John Tucker Must Die’s Kate), Rebel Wilson’s Fat Amy (up and comer!), and a few other one-note characters there to fill out the ranks, like Ester Dean, Alexis Knapp, Hana Mae Lee, Kelly Jakle, Shelly Regner, and Wanetah Walmsley. Other cast members include our resident love interest Jesse Swanson played by Skler Astin, his roommate Benji Applebaum playd by Ben Platt, Bumper the leader of the Treblemakers who is played by Adam DeVine, and the hot guy played by Freddie Stroma who is literally only here to be hot!

This movie, seemingly filled with caricatures of people (the one note characters) actually spends a bit of time giving them a few traits that make them memorable, funny, and lovable which is why they stand out despite clearly being one-dimensional characters. It takes a great actor to make a one-dimensional character stand out from the cardboard cutouts we call extras. One thing I believe that helped this happen, though, was the fact that this is a musical and because it is almost impossible for a voice to be a carbon copy of another voice, it adds an extra level of individuality to the characters.

This film is a musical at its core, but unlike most musicals based on plays, this one is an original film (granted it’s based on a book but how many of you actually knew that?) and only features a few original songs with the remainder being covers and mashups of music. Because music is the draw of a musical, we tend to overlook the other aspects of a musical; the characters, plot, relationships, and conflict unless it directly relates to music (I’m looking at Swan Song from Glee!). They decided against that for this film, though. While music is still the draw, and likely pulled you in faster than Channing Tatum’s abs in Magic… Okay maybe not as fast as that, but still we came for the music. Who knew we would stay for the relationships that these young women build over the course of the movie in their attempt to prove themselves capable?

You’ve probably seen it, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t see it again!