Ralph Breaks the Internet: Solid B –

As a lover of the 2012 hit, Wreck-it Ralph, I was doubly concerned and excited to see its sequel. (Perhaps I was more concerned…) The only teaser that amused me was the scene where Vanellope offers to call protective services for the oblivious Disney Princesses. Other than that, every preview showed the same shameless, vibrant, product-placement environment that animation studios have been exploiting for years. I wanted Disney to do better. Despite that, director Rich Moore and Phil Johnston still delivered an enjoyable flick … even if it pales to the original. Let me explain its “good”, but not “exceptional” qualities.

wreck it ralph 1
Following the events of the first movie, Wreck-it Ralph and Vanellope are enjoying their careers and friendship. After logging in their 9 to 5 hours, the duo spends each evening talking, snacking, and creating harmless mischief. But because this is a sequel, the writers have to throw in unrest. Vanellope is bored. After achieving her racing dreams and discovering her identity as Sugar Rush Princess, there is nothing left to strive for. Her game’s racetracks have become repetitive and dull. To help, Ralph builds or “wrecks” a new track for Vanellope. Unfortunately, a child thinks the game is malfunctioning and they accidentally break off the steering wheel/game controller. While the other children quickly find a replacement part on eBay, it’s too expensive for the owner to buy. Feeling responsible, Ralph decides to travel to the internet to bring back the missing part. Accompanied by Vanellope, Ralph discovers more on his journey than how to fix something broken. But again, this isn’t a masterpiece.

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Here’s where Ralph Breaks the Internet hits the nail on the head.

 
Similar to the first film, Ralph Breaks the Internet is visually stunning and showcases typical, high-quality animation. The script (while not as funny as the first) is still clever enough to garner real belly-laughs. The returning voice cast gives another great performance. Most notably of all, Disney somehow brings charm to this sell-out environment by remaining very self-aware. Instead of treating the internet like a serious universe – the writers take great liberties in poking fun at click bait, the mindless herd effect of viral videos, and Disney itself. New side characters (Spamley and Yes) embody the satire with charm. With just enough entertainment value and social commentary, Ralph Breaks the Internet fixes the mistakes of similar films (e.g. The Emoji Movie) … but it’s still not quite a 5-star flick.

 
Upon first viewing, it seemed like the plot ran all over the place. The bottom-line message of the film caught me off guard as if someone changed the channel halfway through. Ironically enough, when I saw the film a second time, I felt like I was being beaten over the head with the “hidden” message. Perhaps I’m a child that gets distracted by jingly keys, but once I had seen the movie, the underlying message was clear within the first ten minutes. I understand that Disney movies are predictable, but the great ones aren’t so … placating in their delivery. Additionally, the conclusion lacks the emotional satisfaction of the first. This sloppiness puts this film in the category of decent Pixar sequels. Not amazing. But worth seeing.

wreck it ralph 3
All in all, it was nice to visit Ralph, Vanellope, and their digital world once again. As for their story though? I may focus on the 2012 happily ever after.

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A Sequel Worth Waiting For – Incredibles 2

Fourteen years ago (that’s right fourteen), the gifted family of The Incredibles used their abilities to capture a worldwide audience. Director Brad Bird’s creation not only captivated viewers because of the flawless animation, fight choreography, and voice acting, but it also captured an extremely familiar family dynamic. The success of The Incredibles was widespread among critics and audiences alike. The success was so prevalent, many wondered when a sequel was going to arrive. (Pixar had already capitalized on so many of their franchises.) Today, I wanted to give my belated thoughts on this long-awaited sequel and its impact on future Pixar installments.

Incredibles 1
Personally, I was not initially a die-hard fan of The Incredibles. As someone who wasn’t passionate about superhero flicks at the time, I also wasn’t old enough to appreciate Mr. Incredible’s midlife crisis or martial struggles. My reaction was lukewarm. However; when I saw the movie again as a young adult, I was blown away. The script was genius. The trials were real and nail-biting. The action sequences were on par with features produced by Marvel and DC. I was on the bandwagon and happy to be there. Along with everyone else, I waited in anticipation for Brad Bird and Pixar Animation Studios to revisit this intriguing and (surprisingly realistic) family. Yet, I respected the fact that Bird didn’t want to rush into making another chapter until there was a story worth sharing. That day has finally come.

 
The Incredibles 2 picks up directly where the first film left off. Immediately. (We see the family fighting the villain that appeared before the end credits.) After a lengthy and destructive battle, the superheroes find that despite rescuing the world from Syndrome, their abilities still aren’t welcome in mainstream society. Defeated, the family prepares to go underground again and attempt living “ordinary” lives. Shortly after, Frozone, Mr. Incredible, and Elastigirl are all contacted by a pair of tycoon siblings who want to improve the public perception of superheros. Holly Hunter’s character (Elastigirl) takes center stage as the siblings decide she is most likely to win over the public with some contrived good deeds. In a case of role reversal, Elastigirl finds herself commuting to “work” while her husband is home with the kids.  Similar to the first film, the audience is treated to thrilling battle segments and emotional battles waged on the human spirit. I don’t want to spoil the ending or plot twists, but I can give my ringing endorsement.

Incredibles 3

This film just works on multiple levels for multiple reasons. First of all, picking up where the first film ended was completely genius. Maybe this is just me, but after years of waiting, I didn’t really want to see Violet get married or Dash fill out college applications. Keeping the kids in this vulnerable, growing state made for much more effective humor and engaging family interactions. Additionally, it didn’t make sense to skip ahead in the timeline, because the first movie left far too many unanswered questions. Sure, the family decided to accept themselves and embrace their powers, but what about the rest of society? Did Jack-Jack continue developing his abilities? How did Violet’s date go? Oh, the humanity! In all seriousness though, I was relieved to be returned to (mostly) the same endearing cast we left behind in 2004. In addition to the characters remaining genuine, the tone of the film captured the original charm with a higher level of sophistication. Some of the quirky dialogue and action sequences gave me chills that I’ve only experienced watching DC blockbusters. Frankly, this movie will hit audiences hard.

 
Despite the highlights of course, no movie is flawless. Without giving away spoilers, the plot does mimic the storyline of the original a little too closely. The shocking twists aren’t that shocking. And lastly, while I appreciated the fast-paced dialogue, this was probably confusing for the film’s younger target audience. Also, the film could’ve used at least 60% of its best character. Edna Mode.

Incredibles 2
In conclusion, Incredibles 2 is the first Pixar sequel to be in the same league of the Toy Story trilogy. While this film took years to make, it crossed the threshold of “amusing” and should be regarded as a success. I’m sure no one wants to wait that long for a great sequel again, but we must all remember this one truth. Nothing great can be rushed. I can only hope that future Pixar installments will be treated with the same level of precision, artistic integrity, and passion.

5 Reasons to Adore “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”

Art imitates life. And sometimes, art imitates life so closely it’s frightening. Since the dawn of the entertainment industry, storytellers have drawn from their own life experiences to create their masterpieces. For many, humor is a safe and palpable way to discuss subjects that would otherwise be uncomfortable. Such is the case with the hit CW show, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.

For those who are unfamiliar, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend follows the narrative of Rebecca Bunch. Once a high-powered attorney in NYC, she leaves her career behind to follow an old flame to West Covina, CA. Initially unwilling to admit that she “moved there for Josh”, she eventually builds a new life. This new life includes a relatable cast of friends, lovers, and trouble that Rebecca wasn’t able to leave on the east coast. Each episode features a slew of original songs. And 98% of these songs are hopelessly catchy and spot-on with their wit.

Rachel Bloom’s genius musical show brought comfort to me during my darkest hours. When I needed the healing power of humor more than anything, Rebecca’s adventures reminded me that I wasn’t the only one to deviate from my path. Ever since the last and final season was announced, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about why I fell in love with this show and why it has had such an impact. Today, I want to discuss in detail why I will never stop raving about this show.

I Hope Josh Comes to My Party!

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend — “I Hope Josh Comes to My Party!” — Image Number: CEG103b_198.jpg — Pictured (L-R): Rachel Bloom as Rebecca and Vincent Rodriguez III as Josh — Photo: Lisa Rose/The CW — © 2015 The CW Network, LLC. All rights reserved.

  1. The Hero

Bloom’s leading lady is the driving force of the show’s success as she is achingly realistic and vulnerable. From her complicated childhood to her curvy bod, she encompasses the spirit of many 20-30 somethings. As of late, most musical shows seem to center on a lead who is extraordinarily blessed. Rebecca is anything but. She has mommy and daddy issues. She has been pushed into a career that she excels at, but loathes. She is constantly looking for acceptance and affirmation in the wrong places. I think 99% of woman have felt like a Rebecca Bunch at some point. To further add to her realism, Rebecca definitely isn’t a saint. She screws up… like a lot. As likable as she is, she is also capable of manipulation and utter selfishness. In other words, Rebecca is human. Yet no matter how much she fumbles, you can’t help but cheer her on.

  1. The Music

If Rebecca is the show’s driving force, then the music is its lifeblood. Each comedic (or surprisingly touching) song comes from the combined forces of Bloom, music producer Adam Schlesinger, and music consultant Jack Dolgen. These creative minds routinely put their heads together to compose songs featuring varying genres. Sometimes they play to hard-core musical fans by parodying smash-hits like Les Miserables. Other times, the pieces simply poke fun at a type of music and its fans. For example, season one’s punk tune, “Ping-Pong Girl” openly mocks the fact that teenagers think that the lead singer of All Time Low secretly craves domestic life and commitment. The truths revealed are quite staggering. And hilarious.

  1. The Concept

Unlike shows like Smash that focused on characters chasing their Broadway dreams, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is free of audition and call-back drama. While Rebecca’s adventures are extreme, the heart of the story still lies with a young person just struggling to find her place in the world. Like so many of us. Therefore, every musical number only exists in her head. This allows for a lot of visual creativity on the part of the choreographers, costumers, etc. Personally, I can’t imagine how stunted these numbers would be if they were confined to realistic settings. (And I can only hope that Bloom’s real imagination is this theatrical.)

Crazy 2

  1. The Storylines

While the story obviously centers on Rebecca’s obsession with a summer camp boyfriend, the show addresses many other important issues in thoughtful and respectful ways. These trials include legitimate marital struggles, anxiety and bipolar disorders, cultivating healthy parent-child relationships, and more. Even though I didn’t agree with the way each subject was presented, I still appreciated that the show gave me something to chew on. Truly, this show is so much more than Glee for grown-ups.

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  1. The Cast

Last but not least, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend wouldn’t be half as lovable if Ms. Bunch wasn’t surrounded by an endearing ensemble. Everyone from Rebecca’s eager-to-please boss to her apathetic roommate fits in perfectly with the cast of realistic supporting characters. The excellent writing (coupled with Bloom’s insistence that actors of all shapes and sizes be hired) makes for a group that isn’t just entertaining. They’re utterly believable. Again, Bloom’s vision of what she wanted the show to be, did not steer anyone wrong.

As I embark on the last season of a show that has meant so much, I can only cling to the saying that “All good things come to an end”. And frankly, I love Crazy Ex-Girlfriend too much to see it become anything less than amazing.

Thanks for this bright spot Rachel. Seriously, I salute you.

5 Things No One Tells You About Becoming a Singleton

Cashing in on a label lovingly used by the chick lit community, I am currently a singleton. An unmarried woman who is enjoying her career and plans trips with friends and takes yoga on Saturdays and has more pictures of her dog on her phone than she would care to admit. (Not that there is anything wrong with that…) Anyways, since my singleton status is new-ish, I’ve found that I’m not just becoming reacquainted with dating. I’m becoming reacquainted with what is truly means to be a single twenty-something and how this affects my entire world. Sure, I was aware that things would change when I ended my relationship. I wouldn’t have a guaranteed plus one to weddings. Mementos I once treasured would be donated or thrown out. I would now have the freedom to flirt with and smile at other single men. However, there were other changes that surprised me … somewhat. Here is my attempt at summarizing the things I have found to be true.

  1. You Will Be Teased

Remember what I said about having the freedom to flirt again? Well, if you find yourself single after a long-term relationship, your loved ones will assume that you are always flirting when interacting with other singles. This is definitely not the case. (Especially if you’re just friendly by nature.) Sure, sometimes you are flirting, but it’s annoying to constantly explain who is in your “friend zone”. Take comfort in the fact that your family and friends just want to see you happy and probably don’t realize how intrusive their questions are. You will have to laugh off some light-hearted jabs. Being teased by these loved ones isn’t the worst thing in the world though. On a positive note, this definitely means that you’re done with the “My life is over” phase of the grieving process. Can it still be an irritating? Yes.

  1. You Will Set Stronger Boundaries

Speaking of loved ones, while you may endure some jokes at your expense, you will still have to draw some firmer boundaries in your life. For the sake of your emotional health, you will have some tough conversations where you ask others for space or sensitivity towards your situation. And the boundaries don’t just apply to others. They also apply to you. Whether this is blocking your ex on every possible form of social media or unsubscribing from wedding vendor email spam, you will need to practice diligent self-care when guarding your heart and mind.

Loving Yourself

 

  1. You Will Somehow Have More And Less Patience

Ok, so how can this be? First of all, you will probably have more patience for the silly annoyances in life. Having one’s world rocked is a pretty humbling experience, so don’t be surprised if you find your road rage cooling down. On the other hand, you will have noticeably less patience for other things. Like completely self-absorbed people. When you need to lean on others, it won’t take you long to figure out who actually cares and who only loved you for being a good listener. Personally, none of these realizations were mind-blowing, but they did help me drop off some baggage. And when you’re taking care of your emotional health, you just won’t have the extra energy to spare.

 

Talking to Friend

  1. You Will Re-Invest In Yourself

If you’ve been accustomed to planning your life around someone else, you will (hopefully!) start making good use of the time to embark on new endeavors or self-improvement plans. This could be the perfect motivation to lead a healthier lifestyle or finally enroll in that painting class you’ve always wanted to try. For example – I stopped biting my nails, started drinking more water, finally learned to cook, and refocused my attention on spiritual growth. There is no checklist that a new singleton has to follow. It’s just a good idea to set some healthy goals. At the very least, it will keep you in a positive, forward-thinking state of mind.

Uplifting Singles Quote

  1. You Will Learn To Like Yourself Again

Regardless of who was more at fault, no one is at their best in a spiraling relationship. Even though I had little hesitation to end things, I was shocked when I had to admit that I had been talking to myself in a very negative voice. For quite some time. Like many, I had gradually stopped liking who I was in that relationship. It has been a relief to reclaim who I am. I obviously still have flaws to contend with, but I’ve also been blessed with the opportunity to remember that I am still a friendly, silly, and empathetic human being. You don’t realize how important an encouraging inner voice is, until it’s nearly extinguished.

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With all of this in mind, I know that I have many more realizations in my journey ahead. As with the others, I hope to take them in stride and with an increased appreciation for peace.

Spoiler Free Review – Coco

The day before Thanksgiving, Pixar released its 19th feature film, Coco. Since its highly-anticipated debut, critics and fans alike have been singing its praises more than the characters sing in the actual movie. Does this addition hold up to other Pixar smash-hits? Here are my rambling thoughts on the matter!

Family

Ok, maybe I’ll reveal one spoiler. I adored Coco. While the film utilizes many popular troupes, it is still an extremely delightful and genuine flick. Personally, I’d say that Coco is on par with other masterpieces, like Inside Out and the entire Toy Story trilogy. The director, Lee Unkrich, (who directed Toy Story 3) has brought us a movie that is far richer and more satisfying than I anticipated. Honestly, I’ll admit that after seeing the trailer, I wasn’t sure what to expect. The glowing, eternal-fiesta-at-twilight universe the animators had created was breathtaking, but I wasn’t completely drawn into the premise.

Guitar

Speaking of the plot, Coco centers on the coming-of-age journey of an adolescent boy. Miguel Rivera (voiced by the enthusiastic Anthony Gonzalez) has a deep-rooted passion for music. Unfortunately, his family has sordid past with the arts. His great-great-grandfather abandoned his family to pursue a musical career and since then, music has been banned in the Rivera home. Disgusted by his family’s close-minded views, Miguel runs away on the holiday, Día de los Muertos (The Day of the Dead). After getting his hands on the guitar of a legendary (and now deceased) musician, Miguel finds himself trapped in the spirit world. In order to return, the young hero must seek the help of his ancestors while still (somehow) holding onto his lifelong dream. Despite my initial hesitation, I can now say that this film is a wonderful mix of happiness, excitement, and emotional vulnerability.

Hector

So, what makes this somewhat-cliché adventure so fulfilling? First of all, the atmosphere the animators have created is glorious. (We can only hope that the real after-life is this colorful. Bravo to the lighting team!) Also, we get to enjoy the bouncy and lively movement of the skeletons. The choreography that went into animating these characters (who were constantly rearranging themselves), could not have been easy. Secondly, the film is scored by the talented Michael Giacchino. His spirited instrumentals, with Latin overtones, complement the vocal numbers. The cheery musical numbers are also a delight, but nothing is lovelier than Coco’s theme song, “Remember Me”. This heart-breaking piece (from the song writers of Frozen) affirms that this film is so much more than a tale of rebellion.

Coco

And this is what will propel Coco to greatness. There is so much heart poured into this story. This is a tale of wonder and the sacrifices of pursuing your ambition and the everlasting power of love. Arguably, it’s the greatest family movie Pixar has ever created. Coco deserves many, many future viewings.

As with all Pixar films, just bring a box of tissues. You’ll need them.

Five Heart-Melting Pixar/Disney Animation Shorts

While Pixar didn’t create the concept of the animated short, it certainly revived them. Back in the day (when movie-going was an all-day experience), short cartoons often accompanied movies, regardless of the picture’s theme. Somewhere along the way, short films died out and the only thing that accompanied movies, were endless streams of previews. However; John Lasseter and the animation team at Pixar diverted this trend with their Academy Award nominated film, Luxo Jr. Since its massive success, audiences of Pixar films have looked forward to enjoying the “movie before the movie”. (And in the past decade, Walt Disney Studios has jumped on the bandwagon.)

Heartbreaking. Heartwarming. Grin-inducing. These are just a couple of words that describe these mini-masterpieces. Today, I’ve collected a list of my favorite Disney/Pixar shorts that are noteworthy not only for the visuals, but for the timeless lessons they teach. I am not suggesting that these are the best films. That is a personal designation. I am proclaiming that these made me “aww” just a tiny bit more than expected.

The Blue Umbrella (2013)

Blue Umbrella

Directed by Saschka Unseld and featuring a very catchy ditty (composed by Jon Brion), The Blue Umbrella premiered before Monsters University. In this tale, a crowd of commuters is seen walking to/from work on a rainy evening. In true Pixar fashion, everything from the street gutters to the traffic lights are alive and have (not-so-literal) faces. In a gray crowd, an optimistic blue umbrella spies a feminine red umbrella. They have a “meet cute”, but eventually are separated as the humans carrying them have to walk in separate directions. Desperate to help the romantic hero, the objects around the blue umbrella try to push him back into “her” path. Unfortunately, the brave little umbrella is nearly crushed during the journey. I won’t give away the ending, but I will say that watching this short may give you the urge to reconcile with an old friend … or hug the first person you see. Either works.

Feast (2014)

Feast

Produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios, Patrick Osborne’s Feast leapt into the hearts of dog lovers everywhere. This Academy Award winner features an undeniably cute Boston terrier (Winston). After Winston is adopted by a bachelor, he falls in love with his new home. More importantly, he falls in love with the fact that his owner keeps sharing his junk food. After his owner starts dating a health-conscious waitress, Winston sees less goodies and more vegetables in his food bowl. When the couple breaks up, the puppy is overjoyed to be fed junk food once again. The problem being, Winston is only receiving treats because his heartbroken owner is stress-eating and falling into a deep depression. Eventually, Winston has to learn to put others before himself, even at the loss of his current desires. I dare you not to cry. Also, for goodness sake, NEVER feed a real dog that much “people food”!

Paperman (2012)

Paperman

Another Academy Award winner, John Kahrs’s Paperman debuted with the smash-hit, Wreck-It-Ralph. Arguably one of the most romantic shorts, this film follows the love story of an accountant named George. While waiting for a subway train, he meets a beautiful woman named Meg. A gust of wind blows a piece of paper into her face, which George retrieves to find it’s marked with a perfect lipstick kiss. Before he can say another word, Meg boards the next train and leaves him at the station. Distressed, George heads into work and is amazed to spot Meg inside the building across the street. Desperate to catch her attention, George starts throwing paper airplanes at her window, until he finally throws the kiss-marked piece of paper. When this is unsuccessful, the forces have nature have to intervene to push the would-be lovers together. Charming and a bit of a nail-biter, Paperman speaks to the hopeless romantic in everyone. Beloved for its blended 2D and 3D animation style as well, this short is truly a diamond in the Disney collection.

Lou (2017)

Lou

Dedicated to the director’s (Dave Mullins) father, Lou is a sweet tale about a schoolyard bully and a lost-and-found toy box. Recess has just ended and the shadow of a creature (made up of assorted possessions) is seen picking up forgotten items. When the children re-enter the play area, they happily reclaim their toys from the lost-and-found box. Then, a bully named J.J. enters and proceeds to steal from his classmates. The lost-and-found creature (Lou) looks on in fury. Before J.J. can make an escape, Lou snatches his backpack containing the confiscated goods. They chase each other until Lou notices the bully’s name on his clothing and shows him a teddy bear marked “J.J.”. However; Lou refuses to hand it over, until J.J. returns each stolen toy. Reluctantly, J.J. starts to hand over the goods and is eventually softened as the children warm up to him. Delighted by the joy of giving, J.J. gives away each item until there is nothing left but his beloved teddy bear. Witty and extremely creative (particularly in the design and movements of Lou), this short will have you asking, “Did I just get attached to a pile of junk?” Yes. Yes, you did.

Piper (2016)

Piper

I am biased, but I’d say that Piper is not just a masterpiece, it’s a theatrical delicacy. Alan Barillaro’s award-winning film stars a hopelessly adorable baby sandpiper. Encouraged by her mother to forage for her own food, the sandpiper has to overcome her fears to move on from life in the nest. Not only is this beautifully animated, but Piper may be the most profound metaphor for life and how we handle its transitions. Who couldn’t relate to that little bird who leapt into the great unknown only to be crushed by a wave? And who hasn’t had to buckle down and withstand those same waves? Piper is what Pixar is all about. Taking simple mediums and using them to reflect the greatest desires of our hearts. Bless you Pixar.

If you missed any of these, I’d highly suggest you YouTube each feature for a satisfying (and possibly tearful) half hour. It will be time well spent.

8 Wonderful Dramedies

Ah, the dramedy. As an avid movie lover, this is my favorite genre (with animation on its heels). This is the genre that addresses the grey areas of life. With sorrow, there is joy. Humor comes from dark places, but self-deprecating comedy makes it bearable. The dramedy genre understands and respects these concepts completely. In this blog, I want to share some of my favorite dramedy flicks. The flicks that brighten my sour moods. The flicks that remind me I am not alone in my struggles. I hope these suggestions will bring comfort to you as well.

 

Juno

Juno 

While I find this film overrated, it deserves credit for introducing many to the dramedies. This smash-hit movie features a quirky teenager, Juno (Ellen Page), who just got impregnated by her boyfriend (Michael Cera). It doesn’t take her long to decide to put the baby-to-be up for adoption, but complications still arise. Juno’s relationship becomes strained with her boyfriend and she realizes the yuppie couple adopting her child aren’t as put-together as they seem. At its heart, this film is a reminder that we should all look beyond the surface and seek unconditional love.

 

Perks of Being a Wallflower

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Based on the Pittsburgh-authored novel, Perks of Being a Wallflower is a treasure. Charlie (Logan Lerman) is a lost high school freshman until he is welcomed by a group of outcast seniors. Encouraged by the newfound relationships (while harboring a crush for his friend Samantha), Charlie learns to embrace who he is and eventually, finds courage to face his demons. Full of dry humor and painful growing moments, this movie explores the mountains and valleys of adolescence. Please keep in mind, I am not suggesting that this movie is only relevant to teenagers. After all, what could be more universal than the movie’s tagline “We accept the love we think we deserve.”?

 

Midnight in Paris

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Owen Wilson stars in this gorgeous Woody Allen tale. Successful screenwriter Gil (Wilson) finds himself on a Paris holiday with his overbearing fiancée and her parents. Unfortunately, he takes little pleasure in the vacation as he has become dissatisfied with his life. Yearning for the artistic period of the 1920s, he finds himself magically transported back to that era every time he walks the streets of Paris at midnight. While rubbing elbows with great literary figures, Gil finally has the opportunity to assess his own life’s work and purpose. Not only is this a beautiful film with fun celebrity cameos, it truly delves into the following questions – “Why am I here?” “How can I contribute?” and “If I keep glorifying the past, will I make anything of myself in the present?”

 

The Kings of Summer

 Kings of Summer

This coming-of-age flick has a unique edge over the other choices. This one really feels like someone just documented an unscripted summer vacation of 3 teenage boys. When Joe Toy (Rick Robinson) feels he can no longer live under the thumb of his extremely strict father (Nick Offerman), he decides to run away and live in the woods. He then ends up dragging along his friends. Not only does the audience get to enjoy the zany antics of these rebels, but they get to watch the hero work through heavy source material, such as the death of a loved one and fresh romantic heartache. Full of smart dialogue and realism, this movie also fulfills fantasies that most people had (at some point) while growing up. But it also reminds us that there is no shame in seeking the comfort and love of home.

 

What If

What-If-Movie-Images

Though it’s a rom-com at a glance, What If tells the love story of Hollywood’s most believable couple. This story centers on Wallace (Daniel Radcliffe), who has recently dropped out of med school and broken up with an unfaithful girlfriend. When he meets Chantry (Zoe Kazan) at a party, the two have realistic chemistry, but of course, she’s taken. And of course, Wallace pursues the friendship anyway. Not only does he fall in love, but the newfound friendship enables him to address his own brokenness. And while the drama of the love triangle hogs the spotlight, this movie also cleverly addresses the true (and sometimes ugly) aspects of intimacy. Ending on a satisfying and genuine note, What If truly makes all chick flicks appear flimsier than ever.

 

The Skeleton Twins

 o-SKELETON-TWINS-facebook

The comedic duo, Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader, star in the dark tale. Twins, Maggie and Milo, have become estranged in adulthood, but reconnect after Milo’s attempted suicide. Consequently, he then decides to stay with his sister and her new husband in their white picket fence home. Don’t be fooled though, Maggie is equally disturbed and reeling from their traumatic childhood. The painfully real moments are cushioned by the actors’ humor, which can’t help but show itself in unexpected and sometimes joyful scenes. All in all, The Skeleton Twins does a marvelous job of portraying sibling love and the grief of life never playing out quite as expected.

 

The Big Sick

 The Big Sick

This biopic flick about the life of comedian Kumail Nanjiani, is another movie that does not deserve the insulting “rom com” title. The Big Sick is based on the days when Kumail was an undiscovered talent. Falling away from the Muslim faith and resisting his parents’ wishes to marry a Pakistani girl, he meets a young woman named Emily. Although he falls very much in love, Kumail eventually begins to chafe under traditional pressure and his relationship (inevitably) falls apart. Just as he’s trying to make peace with this decision, Emily becomes terminally ill and through a series of events, he finds himself sitting at her bedside with her parents. Heartbreaking and charming, The Big Sick has every viewer wondering what they would be willing to sacrifice for their own happiness.

 

The Way Way Back

 The Way Way Back

Hilarious and insightful, The Way Way Back is the champion of this genre. When an awkward teenager, Duncan (Liam James), finds himself spending the summer in New England with his mom and her snake-like boyfriend (Steve Carell), he resigns himself to misery. Things continue to be abysmal, until he falls into a job at a waterpark and befriends the eclectic staff. Duncan’s confidence blossoms thanks to the care of a mentor (Sam Rockwell) and his first summer love (AnnaSophia Robb). (Sam Rockwell is undeniably the best character. His one liners and “devil may care” attitude is insanely charming.) Strengthened by these relationships, Duncan eventually assesses his life with stark honesty. Now while the film doesn’t have a fairytale ending per say, no one can doubt that this summer changed Duncan’s life for the better. And you will be happier for witnessing it.

 

If you have yet to check out any of these films, put them at the top of your list. All will satisfy the need to cry, the need to be encouraged, and the need to be reminded that something better is waiting for you.