Monthly Archives: March 2013

Somebody to Love: Happy Feet at the Drive-In

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At a local middle school, Full Moon Drive In has started showing movies in a dirt parking lot on a huge inflatable screen.  A food truck provides Italian dinners, and another has typical movie snacks.  You can watch from your car or in chairs up front.  We sat in the cool night air and watched a great movie!

In Happy Feet (PG 2006), Emperor Penguins find their soul mates through song.  One little penguin, Mumble, who cannot sing expresses his joy through tap dancing.  He simply cannot keep his happy feet still, but how will he fit into a society that frowns on dancing?

Happy Feet Trailer  (that’s Hugh Jackman as the dad!)

The fun is how the songs are mixed together and, in some cases, revamped to the story. Here is the mama penguin Norma Jean (Nicole Kidman) being courted:

“Somebody to Love” is a great song written by Freddie Mercury for the rock group Queen. It’s a soulful song questioning a life without love.  See how Gloria (Brittany Murphy) sings it to Mumble (Elijah Wood), who just can’t sing, but tap dances instead.

From frozen Antarctica to a fairytale, “Somebody to Love” has also been used in Ella Enchanted (PG 2004).  Ella (Anne Hathaway) must obey everything she is told to do, and ends up reluctantly singing at a restaurant for giants.

Now watch and listen to the original “Somebody to Love,” performed by Queen in 1976.  These guys are not just rockers, but can hold their own against any choir!  Listen to how precisely the three backup singers work (one of them is even Freddie Mercury himself).

Movies are fun because they creatively play with great songs!  Do you have any favorite music that has been used in movies?

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Memphis Belle the Airplane and Memphis Belle the Movie – All in the Same Weekend!

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Can you tell which one is the movie poster from 1990, and which one is us at our local airfield?

The movie is the story of 10 American airmen in WWII making their last bombing mission over Nazi Germany.  If they come back alive, they’ll have made 25 successful bombing runs and can go home to the USA.  Between enemy fighter planes and anti-aircraft trying to knock these B-17’s out of the sky, the risk was high.

We watched the movie, then crawled around in the airplane, which made us appreciate even more the cramped and terrifying conditions the airmen of WWII endured in order to help win the war.

The movie succeeds in portraying many aspects of an American airfield in England:  The boredom, the camaraderie, the pranks, the local girls who dance with the men, the caring colonel who has to send the boys out into danger, the need for publicity to keep up morale and sell war bonds, the fear, the large crew who keep the planes running and personnel fed, the new guy.

10 men fly on the Memphis Belle, and how can a movie make us keep track of them all, especially when they spend much of the time with their hair and faces covered in headgear and breathing apparatus? Director Michael Caton-Jones does this by taking time to develop the characters before they ever sit in the airplane.  Here they are, from my memory (you can look up the actors on IMDb to see if I remembered correctly):

  1. The pilot who is bossy and wants to run his family furniture store
  2. The co-pilot who just wants to be a gunner instead of a side-kick
  3. The piano-playing singer from New Orleans
  4. The terrified navigator
  5. The red-headed poet
  6. The red-headed other guy
  7. The gunner who wants to open a chain of hamburger restaurants
  8. The bombardier who lied about being a doctor
  9. The ladies man
  10. The superstitious guy

Exciting movie, fun to watch, and makes us appreciate our military past and present!

Image To us, the ball turret underneath, in which a gunner can rotate to shoot at incoming enemy planes, looks just like R2D2.

This short film from the History Channel explains more than I can about this amazing plane:

http://www.history.com/videos/boeing-b-17-flying-fortress-bomber

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Have You Heard the Wilhelm Scream? I Bet You Have!

Here is a scream sound effect that has been used in hundreds of movies – really!  It was named the Wilhelm Scream after a character in 1953 western The Charge at Feather River, when a soldier named Pvt. Wilhelm (Ralph Brooke) gets shot in the leg by an arrow.  First used in 1951 for the film Distant Drums, actor-singer Sheb Wooley is considered to be the most likely voice actor for the scream.

It’s a favorite of sci-fi, westerns, horror, animated films, and even video games.

How many of these movies can you name?

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Teenagers in ‘Oz’ – a Special Guest Review

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After a long day of high school midterm exams, school practices and team games, my daughter and her boyfriend watched Oz the Great and Powerful.  Here is their review:

What do you like about the movie?  It has adventure, mystery, excitement, and plot complications that prove to make it an overall enjoyable experience.  It has a nice twist to the pre-Dorothy story.

What could be improved?  The movie could have more allusions to the future story of The Wizard of Oz.  It could have mentioned the Tin Man, because they reference the Lion and the Scarecrow, but not the Tin Man.

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Who else would like Oz the Great and Powerful?  Most kids would like it; although some parts are scary, the overall story is not frightening. Basically everyone could see it, because it has a bit of everything.  It’s good for most children ages 6-12, teens, and adults who saw the original Wizard of Oz when they were younger and want to see some new, scarier flying monkeys.

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Thanks for the guest review!  To quote Glinda the Good Witch, “You’re capable of more than you know!”

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Les Miserables in Japanese

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We are Les Mis fans (actually, my husband merely tolerates it), and when we found out that we would be in Japan for it’s opening day, we made sure to work it into our sightseeing schedule!

That’s us in the corner studying a Tokyo subway map.

There were huge billboards in the subways and on the street and in buses, but we couldn’t tell if the Japanese were fans.

This Academy Award deserving film was shown in English with Japanese subtitles, which did not distract at all, especially since we could have sung the whole thing ourselves.  We loved it, and maybe even cried a little!

The Japan movie experience is different than in the US:

1.  Concessions:  Popcorn comes with several powder flavor choices.  We just pointed to the one that seemed closest to ‘butter’.  There were some pastry-seafood options, but we chose a hot dog, which is served with a ketchup-mustard combination sauce pack.  All food and drinks are placed in a plastic tray; much easier to handle than a paper box!

2.  Seats:  Our ticket was for an assigned seat.  The theater was only about 1/3 full, and everyone was spaced evenly.

3.  Price:  One ticket was 1800 yen, or about $18 US!

4.  Etiquette:  When the movie was over, no one applauded.  No one stood up and left.  In fact, the lights stayed out while all the credits rolled.  The whole audience sat in silence, politely watching the screen, until the entire credits were done.

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The best part – we saw Les Mis four days before any of our friends back in the States!

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Surprise! Dwayne Johnson Doesn’t Hit Anyone in this Movie

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My husband likes movies with chase scenes, so we caught Snitch, the latest Dwayne Johnson movie.

An 18-year-old boy (Rafi Gavron) is entrapped and convicted of a drug offense, which leads to a mandatory 10 year sentence.  To get it reduced to 2 years, he must trap someone else, which he refuses to do, even though prison is a dangerous place for him to be.  His father (Dwayne Johnson) negotiates with the DA (Susan Sarandon) to go undercover himself, in exchange for his son’s early release.

Yet in this movie, Dwayne Johnson is the successful business owner of a construction company.  Not a cop, not a football player, not a military expert.  He never shows any tattoos or even his muscled arms.  The toughest he ever looks is in the movie poster!  He jumps when a gun is pulled on him by a drug lord, gets beaten up by 5 little street corner drug dealers, and can’t even reload a rifle when laying in his smashed-up semi.  Not the Dwayne Johnson we know and love!

In fact, Dwayne Johnson was in two of the trailers before the movie: G. I.: Joe Retaliation (Army machine gunner) and Fast & Furious 6 (dangerous federal agent).  It took some time to re-set our expectations to his Snitch character.

But it was worth it to reset, because you can see some quality acting on his part.  He is a divorced dad, torn between the old family he left and the new family he is growing.  In scenes with his ex-wife (Melina Kanakaredes), you can see his annoyance, and even blame, just under the surface, even as he awkwardly comforts her.

The sub-story is also great to watch.  To get close to the drug lord, he manipulates an employee (Jon Bernthal) with a prison past.  This poor man is just trying to straighten out his life for his wife and son, yet gets forced back in by his desperate boss.

The moral of the story is that mandatory sentences are too restricting to small-time criminals.

The moral of the story is never open a package that your friend sends you if you know it contains illegal drugs.  Just don’t!

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Big Star in Small Film

Elizabeth Banks has been very busy lately! Hunger Games, Pitch Perfect, 30 Rock, People Like Us…Yet she took the time to make a little movie telling about the symptoms of a heart attack. And it’s good – you can tell a quality actress by how she shares the screen with kids and cats and sandwiches and symptoms.

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March 5, 2013 · 2:47 pm