Category Archives: Films

Dune “Main Theme” (1984)

With the Denis Villeneuve adaptation of Dune on the way, it only makes sense that I’d have all things “Dune” on the brain as of late, and that includes the music of the 1984 film that did its best but ultimately fell short of being a satisfying adaptation. Despite its flaws, I maintain that the 1984 adaptation of Dune is a fairly satisfying film, not least because of its musical score from Toto and Brian Eno.

One of my favorite musical moments in Dune is the main theme, which opens the story and recurs at pivotal moments. Take a moment and listen to the main theme of Dune below:

I love this theme because of how effective it is. It’s a simple enough melody but by thrumming up in the strings and brass it communicates the idea of power and growing tension, both themes that can be found throughout the story of Dune (as controlling Arrakis and the spice grants power and there’s unending tension between the Atreides/Fremen and the Harkonnens throughout the story).

It also, as I said before, recurs at pivotal moments throughout the film, and I’ll look at two of those moments as examples. The first example comes when Paul is summoning a sandworm for the Fremen. The theme begins when the massive sandworm is first seen rising up from the endless dunes. The placement of the music and visual image is pretty brilliant here, as the music rises up in conjunction with the worm, really making you feel the appearance of shai-hulud (the Fremen name for sandworms).

Notably, the main theme continues in a higher register once Paul has control of the sandworm, ending on a triumphant tone as the scene ends. This is one of my favorite scenes in the entire movie, and it’s all because of this wonderful music.

The second example I’d like to look at is at the end of the film, when Paul demonstrates his power as the Kwisatz Haderach. As Paul exerts all his power to cause rain to fall on Arrakis, the main theme recurs yet again. Now, instead of the sandworm’s power being highlighted, it’s Paul and his power that we’re being drawn to by the music. He’s doing something that no human has ever done before, he’s causing rain to fall on a desert planet that likely hasn’t seen a rainstorm in a hundred generations, if ever. It’s set up as a fairly powerful moment and I feel the music is what makes it so. Check it out below:

Now, unlike the first example with the sandworm, this example uses the music in an entirely different way. The scene with the sandworm almost vibrated with raw power. Here, at the end of the film as Paul assumes absolute power, the music assumes a higher register, even including a choir at one point to highlight the awesomeness of what Paul is doing. This is a profound moment, so the music, though the melody is the same, has to be that much different to carry the point across to the audience. This is the ultimate expression of the main theme, nothing will ever surpass this (or at least that’s the intention).

Yes, it’s true, Dune has many, MANY flaws, but the music is not one of them, as I hope these examples with the main theme show. I really believe this score is underrated and should be given more attention. I hope you enjoyed listening to some examples of Dune’s main theme.

Let me know what you think about the main theme of Dune in the comments below and have a great day!

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My Thoughts on: Land of the Pharaohs (1955)

I came across Land of the Pharaohs in a somewhat backwards fashion: I saw the ending first. Somehow, I forget the exact circumstances, I saw a clip of how Land of the Pharaohs ends, and it intrigued me so much that I was determined, someday, to see the movie in full. At last, I tracked down a copy, and I definitely have some thoughts about it. For those who might not have seen or heard of this film, Land of the Pharaohs was directed by Howard Hawks and starred Jack Hawkins, Joan Collins, Dewey Mertain, and Alexis Minotis. It is set in ancient Egypt in the time of Khufu (Hawkins), a pharaoh obsessed with building a robber-proof tomb to protect his treasure for “the second life.” To this end, he enlists the skills of Vashtar (James Robertson Justice), a slave who is also a brilliant architect, to design the tomb in what will become known to history as the Great Pyramid.

First, let’s start with one of the big positives of Land of the Pharaohs and that’s the music. Dimitri Tiomkin created a gorgeous score for this film, and for me is that one detail that makes the bulk of the film watchable. From the strange chants hinting at ancient Egyptian religion, to the joyful singing as work on the pyramid begins, Tiomkin’s score flows through every scene, rich and vibrant with strings, brass, and choral chants. The music helps to move the story along, and serves as a good distraction from the, er, slower moments in the story.

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Another positive in this story are the costumes. While not quite as vibrant as those of The Ten Commandments (another story largely set in ancient Egypt), the costume design in Land of the Pharaohs is quite fetching. You can tell there was great attention to detail when putting these designs together, and a decent attempt made at historical accuracy (some of the outfits resemble those seen in Egyptian tombs).

As for the rest….oh boy. I should make it clear that Land of the Pharaohs is a generally enjoyable film, but it does have its fair share of weak points that detract from the experience. One of the big sticking points for me comes with all the time spent watching the pyramid being built. The initial montage starts fine, but then it goes on…and on…and ON. And during this never-ending sequence, all of the major characters disappear, it’s just a scene of nameless extras. I found myself squirming towards the end, more than eager to get back to the story of Khufu, Nellifer, and all that treasure. And speaking of…Nellifer is one of the most frustrating characters I’ve ever seen in an epic film of this kind.

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I understand what they were going for with Nellifer, the devious princess from Cyprus, but her character has all the subtlety of a rock being thrown through a window. It’s painfully obvious what she’s after (gold and power), so much so that it’s a wonder Khufu and Hamar (his loyal high priest) don’t figure it out sooner. Not only that, but for all her scheming, Nellifer is shown to be rather stupid too. A good example comes towards the end of the film: Nellifer has decided that Khufu must die so she can rule Egypt while nominally serving as regent for his minor son. To do this, she sends her personal slave (one KNOWN to Khufu) to do the deed. Wouldn’t you think the smarter thing would have been to send an unknown slave so that Khufu couldn’t instantly trace the plot back to Nellifer if it went wrong? The one thing they get right about Nellifer is that she’s designed to be very unlikable, so much so that by the end of the film you’re secretly cheering when her comeuppance finally arrives in dramatic fashion.

That comeuppance comes from a plot detail that I find fascinating. From listening to the commentary, I learned that Howard Hawks was fascinated by the ongoing puzzle of how the Great Pyramid was built. A student of engineering himself, the director decided to puzzle out a theoretically feasible means that might explain how the pyramid was built so perfectly. The solution came in the form of a system that used sand to slide the remaining blocks into place (to both seal the tomb and give it a finished look). While there’s no way to know if the ancient Egyptians actually used a system like this, I’d like to think it’s plausible.

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One other detailed that bothered me: the wide shots, or should I say the lack thereof. When an epic film is shot in CinemaScope, you expect scenes packed with action and pageantry (a la The Ten Commandments and especially Ben-Hur). However, many of the scenes in Land of the Pharaohs struck me as feeling…cramped. To be sure, there is a grand parade with Khufu at the start of the film, but it doesn’t feel like the space is used properly with the format. Many of the shots feel much too close up, and I feel that CinemaScope wasn’t used to its greatest advantage.

As I said before though, despite these issues, Land of the Pharaohs is pretty enjoyable; the plot is basic, but watchable, and great satisfaction can be derived from watching the fate of Nellifer (that I won’t dare spoil because it’s something you just have to see for yourself).

Let me know what you think about Land of the Pharaohs in the comments below and have a great day!

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Announcing the 5th Annual Remembering James Horner Blogathon

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Now I know normally my Remembering James Horner Blogathon is held each June, but with everything going on with the pandemic it clean slipped my mind this spring to get the blogathon set up. So, while it is a few months late, I’m pleased to announce the 5th Annual Remembering James Horner Blogathon will be held from August 21-August 23 2020.

I established this blogathon to honor the memory of composer James Horner, who tragically died in a plane crash in 2015. Participation is simple: Choose one of Horner’s film scores and talk about why you like it or what makes it special for you. It doesn’t have to be a detailed analysis (unless you want to go that direction), you don’t even have to talk about the entire score if you don’t want to.

For examples of blogathon entries from years past, I’ve included links to recaps of the past blogathons below.

The 4th Annual Remembering James Horner Blogathon-Recap!

3rd Annual Remembering James Horner Blogathon: Full Recap

2nd Annual Remembering James Horner Blogathon Recap!

Remembering James Horner Blogathon: Recap

If you’re not sure which film to choose, here is a link to James Horner’s filmography: James Horner Filmography

You can sign up for the blogathon by filling out the sign up page below. I need the name of your blog, your blog’s URL and the name of the film you’re going to cover. Each film can only be selected twice to avoid too many duplicates. Let me know if you have any questions and I look forward to reading your posts.

(note, there will be a slight delay between when you input your responses and when they show up in the spreadsheet).

My Thoughts on: Empire of Passion (1978)

I decided to jump into an untouched corner of my Criterion collection by watching Empire of Passion, a film directed by Nagisa Ōshima that I purchased earlier this summer based solely on reading the film’s summary and being intrigued by it. This is one of the most relatively recent Japanese films in my collection, and I don’t think going in that I was completely prepared for how different Empire of Passion would look from a Japanese film that was made, say, in the early 1960s. Because it is certainly different from other period films that I’ve seen before.

To start with, Empire of Passion is set in 19th-century Japan (the story begins in 1895) and tells the story of a wife named Seki and a former Army soldier named Toyoji and how their illicit love affair slowly tears their lives apart. The lynchpin to all of this is the foul murder of Gisaburo, Seki’s husband. From then on, it’s a slow but steady decline into tragedy as the consequences of Seki and Toyoji’s actions ultimately catch up with them.

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It’s fascinating watching the start of the affair between Seki and Toyoji. Even though Toyoji is clearly taking advantage of Seki (including raping her several times in rather disturbing scenes), Seki herself doesn’t seem at all inclined to fight back or reassert control (her denials are half-hearted at best). Indeed, Seki, as far as I could make out, seemed ultimately content for the first half of the film to just let things happen to her. When Toyoji states that Gisaburo must die, Seki doesn’t even blink an eye at the suggestion. It’s unsettling, and that was probably the intention of the director.

If you’re watching Empire of Passion for the ghost story elements, be patient, it does take a while to get there. But once it gets going…oh boy, does it ever. The ghost segments are unnerving, often coming out of nowhere, and one scene (Seki takes a ghostly ride in a rickshaw) had the hair on the back of my neck standing on end. You literally feel pulled into the growing madness surrounding Seki and Toyoji as the story pushes on towards its inevitable conclusion. One of my favorite elements in this whole story is the old well, which has a much larger role in this story than I ever suspected. I liked the shots of snow and leaves falling in from the top of the well, they’re beautiful and more than a little ominous at the same time.

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There’s one moment I didn’t like at all, and that’s late in the film when Seki is unexpectedly blinded. The instant before it happens there’s a split-second take where you see pine needles pressing into Seki’s eyes (but it cuts away before any damage is done). The moment is so unsettling, and for me a little out of left field. I get that Seki is being punished for her part in the murder, but being blinded?? Also, speaking of punishment, I can’t quite wrap my head around the fact that most of these ghostly occurrences happen to Seki. She didn’t act alone, shouldn’t Toyoji be tormented just as much? The retribution seems somewhat lopsided to me.

Ultimately, I think I liked watching Empire of Passion, even if the ending did seem somewhat abrupt. I didn’t like it as much as earlier Japanese films in my collection, but I’m still glad I saw it because it’s important to watch a range of films to better understand the genre.

Let me know what you think about Empire of Passion in the comments below and have a great day!

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My Thoughts on: The Great Escape (1963)

I’ve been a fan of movies about World War II for a number of years, and The Great Escape has almost always been at the top of my list of favorites. When it was announced earlier this year that The Great Escape would be added to the Criterion Collection, picking up a copy seemed like a no-brainer. Today was the first day I sat down to watch this newly restored version of the film and I definitely have some thoughts about it.

First, some context. If you’re not familiar with this film, The Great Escape is based on the incredible true story of how Allied prisoners of war tunneled their way out of a German Luft Stalag in the latter part of World War II. The all-star cast includes Steve McQueen, Richard Attenborough, James Coburn, James Garner, and Charles Bronson, just to name a few. It’s an amazing story to sit through and watch, and it becomes even more incredible when you remember that all of this more or less happened.

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The Criterion edition of The Great Escape is certainly an improvement over the previous DVD copy that I owned (and subsequently gave away because of its issues). A glaring problem with THAT copy was that when the film was restored for widescreen, the process was botched, pulling the picture back so far that at times the edges of the sets were clearly visible and, most embarrassingly, in one seen you can clearly see crew members pushing extras along (during the July 4th sequence). I was very curious to see if Criterion had corrected these issues and I’m pleased to report they have. Everything has been restored to its proper aspect ratio, which is good because those errors in the old DVD version drove me crazy.

One thing I was slightly disappointed by was the quality of the picture itself. Considering I bought the blu-ray version of the film, part of me was expecting the image to be…crisper? This could be something to do with the quality of the master print itself (after all, a film can only be restored so far), but I am sad that the image quality wasn’t better than I remembered (I’m not too upset though, this may have been something out of Criterion’s control).

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As for the story itself, watching this film brought back all the memories of sitting down to watch this film while I was growing up. One of the things that makes The Great Escape so awesome is its perfect blend of tones. One minute you have a comedy when the three American POWs (McQueen, Garner, and Jud Taylor) “declare Independence” on the 4th of July, the very next it’s a tragedy when (on the same day), a fellow prisoner commits suicide by guard out of despair when one of the escape tunnels is discovered. It’s emotional whiplash for sure, but it’s done so effectively. Rest assured, you never forget that this is a story set in Nazi Germany, a place where terrible, TERRIBLE things happened.

I also must point out Elmer Bernstein’s fantastic score for The Great Escape. The score has actually become so iconic that many people recognize the music (or at least the film’s main theme) without actually having seen the film itself. Bernstein uses music effectively throughout the film. There’s an ominous strings motif for the prison camp itself (first heard when Ives walks up to the barbed wire barrier at the start of the film), that motif returns throughout the first part of the film, and most tellingly returns when the one escape tunnel is discovered. But I think the musical moment that sticks with me the most out of this entire film comes at the very end when the 50 prisoners are unwittingly being taken away to be shot. Bernstein accompanies the procession of trucks with a downright funereal theme that leaves no question as to what’s about to happen. It’s somewhat heavy-handed, but no doubt Bernstein wanted to avoid any false hope regarding the fates of Roger, Mac, and everyone else who was recaptured.

I highly recommend checking out The Great Escape for anyone who hasn’t seen it before, and you should definitely consider checking out the new Criterion edition.

Let me know what you think about The Great Escape in the comments below and have a great day!

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Soundtrack News: ‘No. 7 Cherry Lane’ Original Motion Picture Soundtrack Available Now

Milan Records has release the original motion picture soundtrack for No. 7 Cherry Lane, an album of music from iconic director & writer Yonfan’s new animated film composed by Yonfan himself, Yu Yat-Yiu and Chapavich Temnitikul. Set in 1967 Hong Kong, No.7 Cherry Lane originally debuted at the 76th Venice Film Festival in 2019, where it was awarded Best Screenplay, and has since toured film festivals around the world in advance of its opening in Hong Kong later this summer.

 

Described by the director as “my love letter to Hong Kong and cinema”, No.7 Cherry Lane is Yonfan’s 14th motion picture – all of which he has written, directed and produced – and his first since 2009. It is also his first animated feature.  The eclectic score of lush orchestral music was composed by artists including Yonfan himself, Yu Yat-Yiu and Chapavich Temnitikul and recorded live in Prague.

YONFAN states that his motion pictures share an underlying theme of passion. A true auteur, his films are entirely self-produced, directed, written, and distributed. Yonfan began directing features in 1984, often for his own production company Far Sun Film, and has worked in Hong Kong, Singapore, China and Japan. He has made a total of fourteen movies, set in various periods and locales, first receiving international notice at the Berlin International Film Festival with the gay-themed drama Bishonen. His subsequent film, the Chinese opera-based Peony Pavilion, was named one of the year’s ten best by Time magazine in 2002, and garnered Rie Miyazawa the Best Actress award at the Moscow International Film Festival. His previous feature, Prince of Tears, was Hong Kong’s selection to compete in the Oscar race for Best Foreign Language Film, and was selected for competition at the 2009 Venice Film Festival

The theme song “Southern Cross” was composed by Yonfan and the rapper BOYoung, fusing together a 1940s, Shanghai-style melody sung by legendary Taiwanese singer CHYI YU, with a contemporary style performed by BOYoung and ZOE YU. This bold juxtaposition represents the collision of yesterday, today and tomorrow at the heart of the movie.

No.7 Cherry Lane tells the tale of Ziming, a Hong Kong University undergraduate, entangled between his amorous feelings for a self-exiled mother, Mrs Yu from Taiwan in the White Terror period, and her beautiful daughter Meiling. He takes them to different movies and through a series of magical moments on the big screen, forbidden passions are revealed. And the era coincides with Hong Kong’s turbulent times of 1967.

NO.7 CHERRY LANE (ORIGINAL MOTION PICTURE SOUNDTRACK)

TRACKLISTING –

1.          Behind the Cherry Lane

2.          Rhythm of the Breeze

3.          Sunset Whispers

4.          Room at the Top

5.          Into the Red Chamber Featuring Wang Fang, Zhao Wenlin

6.          Night Rider

7.          A Love Story

8.          Southern Cross Featuring Chyi Yu, BOYoung, Zoe Yu, Kenneth Tsang, Zhao Wei

9.          Descending the Stairs

10.       A Dream Charade Featuring Sylvia Chang

11.       Winter Cometh

12.       Last Romance Featuring Chyi Yu

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My Thoughts on: Trolls World Tour (2020)

*warning: mild plot spoilers for Trolls World Tour follow

Well, it took a lot longer than I thought it would, but today I finally sat down and saw Trolls World Tour after picking the blu-ray up this morning. While I am disappointed that I never got to see this one in theaters, I was still looking forward to checking the story out.

Set some time after the events of the first Trolls movie, Trolls World Tour literally expands the world of the Trolls to reveal that their world is actually a LOT bigger than the first film led us to believe. It turns out Poppy’s Trolls are only one tribe of Trolls, each tribe devoted to a specific genre of music, those being Pop, Country, Techno, Funk, Classical, and Rock (with numerous sub-genres also being represented). This diversity is threatened when Queen Barb of the Hard Rock Trolls decides to unite all Troll-kind under the banner of rock by stealing a series of magical strings that will give her the power to control music (and by extension the Trolls). Naturally, Queen Poppy sets out to stop this from happening (with Branch in tow).

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Given how much I enjoyed watching the first Trolls film earlier this year, I was certain that I would love Trolls World Tour (especially once I saw Queen Barb in the previews) and I was right! This film takes everything that made Trolls fun and multiplies it by a factor of ten. I love how each of the Troll tribes are designed, each perfectly matched for their respective musical genres. Queen Barb is especially awesome (although really ALL of the Trolls are great). I really liked how the film didn’t waste much time in hinting that Barb does have thoughts and feelings beyond merely dominating the world through rock music (it was obvious to me early on that she was fighting loneliness).

There’s also a lot of cool voice cameos in this film, one of which didn’t hit me until I saw the end credits. I knew that Ozzy Osbourne was in this film (as Barb’s father, his voice is pretty hard to miss), and I also know (as a classical musician) that Gustavo Dudamel, a famous composer, was in there as well. What I did NOT know was that Anthony Ramos (one of the original Hamilton cast members) is in this film as King Trollex (seen at the opening of the film). Having recently fallen in love with Hamilton, I thought this was really cool.

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Also, I have to mention that I really enjoyed the film’s message about what it means to be a good leader (it’s important to listen to others, even if they don’t agree with you). And it’s message about the importance of diversity felt particularly relevant to me given the current situation in the world. Speaking of diversity, I like how the film ends with all of the Trolls (seemingly) living together. This looked like so much fun, I would honestly not mind if a third Trolls film was made. I’d like to see how all of the Trolls get along together.

In conclusion, if you enjoyed the first Trolls film, I’m pretty sure you’ll love Trolls World Tour as well. It was definitely a lot of fun to watch and I’m already looking forward to watching it again.

Let me know what you think about Trolls World Tour in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

My Thoughts on: Trolls (2016)

Animated Film Reviews

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My Thoughts on: Double Suicide (1969)

I’m finally getting back into the swing of watching movies again and just recently I finally sat down to watch Double Suicide, a 1969 film that caught my attention because of the obvious implications of the title, as well as my determination to get my hands on every jidaigeki film I can.

The first thing that comes to mind about Double Suicide is that it is nothing like what I expected. Throughout, there is a motif of puppeteers manipulating the action on stage, almost as if the story is a puppet play brought to life (and indeed, the story starts with puppeteers setting up a show). It’s a little strange at times, to have the masked puppeteers appear out of nowhere or sneak along behind or alongside the characters, but you get used to it after a while. It sort of reinforces the idea that the characters are not entirely in control of their actions, that they’re merely puppets telling a tragic story.

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And speaking of the story….Double Suicide has one of the saddest stories I’ve ever seen. The premise centers around a hapless paper merchant named Jihei (married with two children by the way), who is hopelessly in love with a famous courtesan named Koharu. Jihei is determined to redeem Koharu from her life as a courtesan but can’t possibly hope to raise the amount of money needed to do it. Due to his fixation, his life quickly falls apart until only one course of action is possible.

In a stroke of brilliance, Jihei’s wife Osan is played by the same actress who plays Koharu. I think it’s a great choice because to me it shows that if Jihei would only open his eyes and look at the life he has with his shop, his wife and his children, then he’d see he already has a woman like Koharu in his life (in terms of looks anyway). But while Osan is loyal to an absolute fault, it’s demonstrated several times that Osan will say whatever needs to be said to get out of her situation as a courtesan. But none of this ultimately deters Jihei, he must have Koharu…or life is not worth living.

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It’s also striking to me how honest the film is with how selfish the actions of Jihei and Koharu are. Unlike other tragic love stories, there’s no real attempt made to disguise this love affair as anything close to noble. Jihei and Koharu are unbelievably selfish for abandoning their respective duties to die together and openly state as much several times. And really Jihei is the more selfish of the pair because he’s abandoning his wife and two young children all for a courtesan he can’t possibly afford. His persistence leads to a horrifically sad moment when Osan’s father summarily dissolves her marriage and drags her home (without her children it should be noted). All of that because Jihei wants what he can’t have.

And finally, going back to the title of the story, I almost feel like it’s misleading. Double Suicide implies that the couple willingly kills themselves. But when you watch the scene play out….it’s not like that at all, it’s actually closer to a murder-suicide in my opinion. It just really struck me at the end that it didn’t seem like Koharu really wanted to die.

In the end I think everyone should watch Double Suicide at least once because of the unusual way the story is put together (with puppeteers controlling the story and popping in and out). It’s not my favorite jidaigeki film, but I did enjoy it.

Let me know what you think about Double Suicide in the comments below and have a great day!

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My Thoughts on: Hamilton (2020)

Like many, I was beyond excited for the opportunity to check out Hamilton for the first time when it came out on Disney+ yesterday. And why not? It’s been an absolute hit ever since it crashed into our lives in 2015. I knew of the musical pretty much from the start, but never really had the opportunity to check it out, not even to listen to the music….until now that is.

And holy SH*T what music!! I don’t always get into rap or hip-hop and I was briefly worried that this would deter me from getting into or enjoying Hamilton but I was so, so wrong. If anything, the story feels even more relatable when presented in this way. In brief, in case you’re not familiar, Hamilton chronicles the rise (and fall) of Alexander Hamilton in a way I guarantee you’ve ever seen before. What’s released on Disney+ is a filmed production of a show from late June 2016 and features the original Broadway cast.

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I’ve seen filmed stage productions before (Cats from the late 90s, Phantom of the Opera at Royal Albert Hall), but they pale in comparison to this performance of Hamilton (not least because Cats and Phantom are WORLDS apart from this show). As you sit and watch you feel like you’re in the best seat in the house, seeing the show from the perfect angle. There are close-ups in the appropriate places, the overall sound quality is amazing, and oh my god I cannot get over all of that amazing music!

Now, I will say that the first time I watched Hamilton (last night), it did take me about half an hour to get into the flow. As I said before, I don’t listen to a lot of rap and hip-hop so I’m not used to that kind of freestyle, free-flowing music. Once you get the hang of listening to it, however, it’s a lot of fun to listen to, even if a few details do get lost in the shuffle (when Lafayette comes back as a general I still can’t tell you what he says). I think my two favorite pieces (really I love them all) are “The Ten Dueling Commandments” and “The Room Where it Happens.” I especially like the former because it lays out everything you need to know about a duel while still keeping it interesting.

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I also love, love, LOVE the fact that Aaron Burr narrates the overall story, that reminds me so much of how Judas narrates the bulk of Jesus Christ Superstar (and according to my reading may have been done in homage to that very show). Let me tell you, when I found out that THAT was Aaron Burr my first thought was “Oh boy, THIS is going to be interesting.” And it is! Watching Burr and Hamilton interact throughout the whole show, knowing how it’s going to end….let’s just say by the time the climax finally comes the suspense will be almost overwhelming.

Lin-Manuel Miranda found this way to take the life of Alexander Hamilton, a story with all the potential to make for very dry reading/viewing and made it cool (and heartbreaking). To be sure, liberties are taken with the facts, but that’s not uncommon when history is adapted for musical theater. I think in the very broad strokes the story Miranda is trying to get across is correct, that Hamilton was this immigrant who did amazing things during his life, but who was also human and made many, MANY mistakes (my jaw dropped upon learning about the Reynolds pamphlet).

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I also have to say that I love King George III. His part is relatively small but he is FUNNY! Watching him comment on the coming war, the aftermath, and John Adams becoming the next president, all of it had me in stitches. He is one of the best parts of Hamilton and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Before I conclude, I learned something about dueling that made my brain explode. In a duel, “throwing away your shot” refers to firing so that you deliberately miss your opponent in a last ditch effort to end the affair once and for all. So when Alexander sings about not “throwing away my shot”, well….it kind of puts the ending of his story in a whole different light, doesn’t it.

In conclusion, I thoroughly loved watching Hamilton on Disney+ and I feel like everyone should sit down and watch it at least once. Given that Broadway is closed for the rest of 2020 (and possibly longer), this is your best chance to watch one of the hottest shows on Broadway (without paying an arm and a leg). I also think that, given the current political climate, this is also a really good time to watch Hamilton as well, and once you see it, you’ll understand why.

As for me, I’m perfectly happy to proclaim myself a Hamilton fan.

Let me know what you think about Hamilton on Disney+ in the comments below and have a great day!

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My Thoughts on: Wonder Woman (2017)

It only took three years but I have finally seen Wonder Woman (in my defense, I was neck-deep in my dissertation at the time the movie came out, so I wasn’t exactly in the mood to go to the movies at the time). And the first thought that came to mind is: this is AMAZING!! You see, part of the reason I avoided this film for so long is I have an instinctive dislike of origin films. Even with a character as iconic as Wonder Woman, I have this thing where I don’t like seeing how the character gets started because they have the bad habit of being awkward (I suffer heavily from second-hand embarrassment). Imagine my delight then, when I sat down to watch Wonder Woman and found…practically no awkwardness at all! We do in fact get plenty of Diana’s early years on Themyscira, but it’s all layered in so much badass action that there’s no chance for early awkwardness to develop.

The bulk of the story is set in the closing days of World War I (1918), and sees Diana leave Themyscira with Steve Trevor to confront and kill Ares (which she believes will end the war on the spot). The story goes from London, to the trenches on the Western Front, to deep behind enemy lines. Patty Jenkins does not hold back from showing you the horrors of the “the war to end all wars” and it only serves to drive Diana even more to fulfill her self-proclaimed quest to kill Ares. Diana’s naïveté regarding Ares is almost painful to watch at times (because you know it can’t be THAT easy), but it’s also endearing because it highlights how sincere the princess of the Amazons is with her intentions.

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And speaking of Ares…it’s brilliant how the god of war’s presence is teased throughout the film. For most of the story in fact, it seems patently obvious who the god of war is masquerading as (in hindsight it’s too obvious). In fact, it’s so obvious it makes the actual reveal of Ares’ identity all the more shocking (I did NOT see that coming). Jenkins does a phenomenal job of weaving into the story how Ares has been present all this time and yet is NOT (directly) responsible for all the wars and death that have been going on. Furthermore, his final confrontation with Diana is amazing to watch, it’s everything you could ever want in a clash between a god and an Amazon.

I was also blown away by the revelation of what Diana really is (something teased throughout the film). I’m a little disappointed the story didn’t go with the traditional “made from clay and brought to life” story, but really this works too.

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Steve Trevor is also the perfect complement to Diana by the way. It’s funny how at first he tries to fulfill the stereotypical “alpha male protecting the weak female” role only to very quickly realize Diana does not need ANY help in that regard. And once he realizes it, he just goes with it, which is awesome to see. I love stories that turn the male/female dynamic on its head like this film does.

As far as superhero origin films goes, Wonder Woman is one of the best films I’ve ever seen. I do regret not seeing it sooner, but I’m glad I finally got around to watching it before Wonder Woman 1984 comes out (whenever that happens to be).

There’s so much more I want to say about how amazing Wonder Woman is, but I think this gets the basic point across: Wonder Woman is one of the best films I’ve ever seen, it gives Diana an awesome origin story, and lays the foundation for many stories to come (hopefully).

Let me know what you think about Wonder Woman in the comments below and have a great day!

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