Christmas Films #2

Yeah, it’s already December 12th and I’ve watched two Christmas movies. I don’t really want to watch more of them, especially because Netflix has amazingly bad options here in Finland right now. Like really bad. They used to have better selection. Now it’s just sad. But here goes nothing…

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A CHRISTMAS PRINCE (2017)

Directed by Alex Zamm
Written by Karen Schaler & Nathan Atkins
Starring Rose McIver, Ben Lamb & Honor Kneafsey

Synopsis (IMDb): “When a reporter goes undercover as a tutor to get the inside scoop on a playboy prince, she gets tangled in some royal intrigue and ends up finding love – but will she be able to keep up her lie?”

A Christmas Prince is made to Netflix. So it is also so-called TV movie. And it feels like one from tip to toe but it is still well done. It is cheesy, intentionally, but at the same time it manages to level with it. It is kind of hard to explain but this movie is made tongue in cheek and it has found its balance. Weird, huh? But somehow it manages to do it.

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Usually I’m a huge hater of made for TV films. I loathe them. My mum makes me watch them if I’m home for Christmas that happens quite rarely these days. For some reason she thinks that Walking Dead, Sons of Anarchy or Game of Thrones are not suitable for Christmas. So she forces everyone to watch these horrid TV movies. Talking about torture… Anyhow, A Christmas Prince is surprisingly tolerable TV movie even when it has all the clichés or maybe because of that. It has cheesy music, beautiful studio-made scenery, royals, kissing in the snow and other “fun” snow activities, horses, betrayal, the script from “how to write a story 101 by Aristotle” and even snow in New York. Oh, and a rebellious journalist lady. EVERYTHING you can imagine. But it’s ok.

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Despite the fact that A Christmas Prince is total bullsh*t, it actually is watchable. Didn’t even feel bad, on the contrary, it made it laugh with it and at it. The script could be worse and the actors, they could be a lot worse. I actually though they make quite nice job with the story like that. Honor Kneafsey is not as annoying as kids in these kinds of films usually are, Ben Lamb as the Prince is genuinely charming while under utterly ugly make-up and I think Rose McIver can balance it between being cute and funny. I just realised that she’s in the main role in iZombie and has done some nice telly including Once Upon a Time and Masters of Sex. She’s good.

In conclusion, if you want to watch corny Christmas movie, this one is not the bad choice. I liked it.

Stars: *** (out of 5)

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A WISH FOR CHRISTMAS (2016)

Directed by Christie Will Wolf
Written by Helen Frost & Don McLeod
Starring Lacey Chabert & Paul Greene

Synopsis: “Sara Thomas is the type of woman who prefers to sit on the sidelines at work, but when her big idea for a Christmas initiative is stolen, she makes a wish to Santa that she’ll finally have the courage to stand up for herself. Santa grants her wish, but only gives her 48 hours. As the clock ticks, Sara will discover how to channel the Christmas magic and speak her mind all on her own.”

A Wish for Christmas is made for Hallmark. And it’s the kind of that makes you want to kill yourself. But I actually finished watching it regardless of this all the time mounting nausea. I kind of felt somehow weirdly good after finishing it but I’m not sure if it was because I managed to do something like it or because it had something. No, it must be the first. Because no one should watch this one. Just don’t.

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The script is dreadful. Well, at the beginning I thought for about 15 minutes that it might actually work but no, it didn’t. And the more time goes by, the more horrible it gets. Actors are not good. No. Hmm, I didn’t hate all of them though, so sometimes watching were tolerable. Oh, and what is the worst; that dolly shot when that really, really important, magical thing happens to our main character. Everytime there’s a dolly shot with that same music. Just to make it sure that you understand what is happening right now.

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I gave this one more half a star because I do feel bad for Lacey Chabert, I used to like her in Party of Five. And Mean Girls too. But really; DO NOT watch this. Except if you’ve been naughty and you need to punish yourself.

Stars *½

 

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2 Times HBO

Last week’s Monday I had a HBO day, apparently. I started my morning with the last episode of Game of Thrones of course but as I’ve subscribed HBO Nordic just because GoT and I just paid one more month, I decided to take advantage of it and watch something else too as it is full of helluva good series. I started with

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BIG LITTLE LIES (2017)

Starring Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Shailene Woodley, Alexander Skarsgård, Adam Scott, Laura Dern, Zoë Kravitz, James Tupper & Jeffrey Nordling

Directed by Jean-Marc Vallée

Written by David E. Kelly and Liane Moriarty

Synopsis (IMDb): “The apparently perfect lives of three mothers of first graders unravel to the point of murder.”

When I started writing this post I put on the soundtrack of the series. It’s really, really good and nails the tone of Big Little Lies perfectly. Perfectly. It’s this easy, breezy Californian vibe there but when you really listen to it, you can hear the undertone. And that is the way Big Little Lies is told. All is good before you dig deeper.

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Big Little Lies is the celebration of mature female talent. Thankfully there are still roles for women over 40. And all these women in this series deliver big time. BLL is nominated for 10 Primetime Emmys and five of them are for acting (and one for casting) and I think everyone is deserved. Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon are competing against each other in Lead actresses’ category as are Shailene Woodley and Laura Dern in Supporting. The only man nominated is Alexander Skarsgård for playing the husband of Kidman’s character. Men are supporting characters in this story but all of them are needed to carry the story. All women here are remarkable but then again, the characters are well-written. I actually think I’ve would have liked to read the novel first as I appreciate how the story is told and how you get to know more about everyone little by little. Get to understand them. Dern has the flashiest role, maybe even the most thin-layered but hot_reese_witherspoon_beautifulnonetheless it’s pleasure to watch her play. Woodley’s character is the quiet, tough one and she nails it too. Although I thought she could have taken more out of it. So, in my mind Dern wins the supporting role in BLL. The lead is celebration of two amazingly talented individuals. But as I think, Kidman has been playing this kind of role quite often (or then I just think I see her crying on screen a lot. And I mean A LOT.), it’s Witherspoon’s game. She’s awesome. At the beginning of the series you hate her character but in the end you can’t but love her. She’s flesh and blood, she’s real. And she acts every little detail out of her. I just love how Reese Witherspoon gets better and better when she gets older. She’s always been good but she’s slightly becoming one of the best.

BLL is also nominated for writing and like I’ve already mentioned, it’s well-told. I actually watched it in a one go. Perfect for binge as it is only seven episodes. It is also nominated for directing and cinematography and also both of those are deserved. Jean-Marc Vallée is here as good as he was with his Oscar winning Dallas Buyers Club and the cinematography is beautiful, it captures the atmosphere of all of it superbly. Everything is in order here. Even though I’ve used a word “perfect” here, it is not perfect but it’s close enough. I recommend.

Rating: ****½ (out of 5)

P.S. This soundtrack is REALLY good!

 

 

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THE NIGHT OF (2016)

Starring Riz Ahmed, John Turturro, Bill Camp, Sofia Black-D’Elia & Michael Kenneth Williams

Created by Steve Zaillian & Richard Price

Synposis (IMDb): “After a night of partying with a female stranger, a man wakes up to find her stabbed to death and is charged with her murder.”

As if Big Little Lies wasn’t good enough, I started watching another series that I’ve only heard raves and had had on my watchlist for ages (a few months that is). And again, I was not disappointed. HBO’s monthly fee is surely justified. Though I’m not sure how they could top themselves anymore? (Btw, take a good look on that poster, it’s amazing, isn’t it?)

The Night of is also nominated for 10 Emmys and was nominated for three Golden Globes and bunch of other awards and it has also won some. And again, it deserves all the praise (I feel like I’m repeating myself, but you know, HBO earns it, they just make such a great television these days).

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There are three nominations at Emmys for actors them being Riz Ahmed in the main role, John Turturro who has been also put in the Lead category although I think his role is still supporting one even though it’s a big role. Bill Camp and Michael Kenneth Williams are placed in Supporting. Camp, Williams and Turturro are excellent, of course. Especially the latter is able to flex his muscles (figuratively) in a meaty role but then again, he has always been excellent and has been cast to the roles like this before. The rizahmed_hotNight of is Riz Ahmed’s show. He’s unbelievable. There are only eight (although some of them are 1,5 hours long) episodes but the transformation that he goes through during the series is… I don’t know, I’m lost of words. Stunning. Incredible. Even shocking. I truly hope he’ll get his Emmy. He should. Just look at the last episode and then go back to the first one and see the transformation. Not just the physical stuff but especially his eyes. How one does that? I have no idea. What an acting. I’m a fan.

Looking at those Emmy nominations I keep reading “outstanding” and in this case it’s exactly the right word to describe this one. It is outstanding. I watched it too in one go. Even though it was the second of the day and time was sometime 2am I couldn’t stop. No way. Way too good for that. And I absolutely loved it that I had no idea what’s going to happen next. But not in the shocking way of Game of Thrones but in this real way, like how life happens. One just has to adapt to survive. And one has to learn to live with one’s decisions and consequences that those cause. Everything here is top-notch; writing, directing, cinematography, music (!) and especially acting. It is one terrific story told perfectly. Watch it.

Rating: ***** (out of 5)

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13 Reason Why Review

The series, not the book.

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13 REASONS WHY (2017)

Creator: Bryan Yorkey

Based on the book by: Jay Asher

Starring: Dylan Minnette, Katherine Langford, Christian Navarro, Alisha Boe, Brandon Flynn, Justin Prentice, Miles Heizer, Ross Butler, Devin Druid, Amy Hargreaves, Derek Luke & Kate Walsh

Synopsis (IMDb): “Follows teenager Clay Jensen, in his quest to uncover the story behind his classmate and crush, Hannah, and her decision to end her life.”

SPOILER-FREE as always.

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I binged Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why in one sitting, so obviously it is not bad. I’m not exactly in a target group as I’m not a teenager or even close but then again, I still enjoy watching silly teen dramas. Then again, 13 Reasons is not silly. At all. It’s quite sad and not the easiest to watch. There are even warnings before some of the episodes. But still it gets you hooked. Or at least it got me and quite many of my friends.

I haven’t read the novel that the series is based on and I’m glad I didn’t because I liked the way the story unfold episode by episode. I really wanted to know what happens next. I read that the book is kind of a thriller but the series is not. At least I didn’t see it that way. It’s pure drama with very sad background story. Well, it is about suicide after all.

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The story itself is cleverly made, I liked the way that each episode is one of the reasons “why” and tells a story from one point of view. But when the story goes forward, a viewer will get another point of view. Nothing is black and white. Everyone of the characters evolve on the way, almost all of them are more than one dimensional, they’re flesh and blood. These days it seems to be rare that kids or teenagers in TV are very real, they are more like something that none of us “normal” people are, like princesses or princes of Upper East Side (Gossip Girl) or way too beautiful and fashionable like in Pretty Little Liars. But in 13 Reasons teens are normal with normal faces or bodies or clothes. They come from different backgrounds with different problems. They are jocks, outcasts or something between. They’re real. And that’s what I liked this series the best besides the structure of storytelling.

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All actors are top-notch. Some characters could be a little bit more developed but everyone on board makes the best out of it what’s given. There are some tacky dialogue but not that much that it bothers. The story itself is for me a bit strange as I’m very optimist person, so it’s hard for me to relate that deep problems that takes you to kill yourself or even just be depressed. But even though it was hard for me to relate, episodes were so well done that it wasn’t that hard to see “why”.

The biggest problem for me was that I really didn’t like Hannah who is the driving force behind the whole story. She’s really annoying. But at the same time when I just wanted to throw something at her, I admired that the second protagonist of the story is someone that you don’t really like. It made it probably a bit more real. And as I wrote these kids are what I see as normal, so basically all of them are a bit sh*t like teenagers around the world tend to be.

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As I don’t want to spoil anything as it’s important to view episode by episode to see the big picture, I wonder how they will continue in the second season. It has to be the another story basically. But I’ll be watching. These kids are worth of your time.

Starring: **** (out of 5)

The Best Picture Reviews: Arrival & Manchester by the Sea

2017oscarsYes, I’ve been absent again for a while but let’s get back to that later. It’s the Oscars week and I’m so behind. Here are my thoughts on the first two best picture nominees that I saw. And what are their chances on Sunday evening.

arrivalposterARRIVAL (2016)

Directed by Denis Villeneuve
Written by Eric Heisserer
Starring Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner & Forest Whitaker

Denis Villeneuve’s last two films I liked a lot. His style is extraordinary and in Arrival it is on its full potential. Arrival is astonishing. I absolutely loved it! It will probably be at least in top-3 of my films of 2017 or if not, this will be helluva year. I think Arrival deserves every praise it gets and then some more.

First of all, Villeneuve obviously is the master here, it’s his vision that shines through. Also the screenplay is spellbinding. I was totally hooked. At some point I had grabbed the seat on front of me (in cinema) and was sitting right on the edge of my own seat without realising that I was doing that, I was so absorbed into the film. And that’s what I talk about when I say it is Villeneuve’s vision. Unbelievable. And to support that there’s beautiful production design, simple but effective.

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Cinematography. Well, of course. If you’ve seen the film, you know how suitable eerie it looks. And editing obviously clearly makes the pace, perfectly. Sometimes dwelling in feeling, sometimes throwing the viewer in the middle of a mess. And again here we can see how cleverly the script is written. The film never lets you off the hook. And it makes you think. And feel. And perhaps, if you think and feel hard enough, understand. It is actually hard to write about it as it is that kind of a film you need to use all your senses and no words would do honour for it.

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What still makes me angry, is that Jóhann Jóhannsson wasn’t eligible for the score because it’s stunning! He is quickly becoming one of my favourite composers if not the one. In Arrival music and sounds are so, so important. And that’s why I really feel that it should win for the sound editing at least and also for mixing.

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It bums me out that Amy Adams wasn’t recognised as she is as good as ever. She’s my favourite actress and I don’t think she’s ever bad and surely she wasn’t here. But thankfully it’s been a very good year for female leads as there were too many to choose from. Adams is the player here, everyone else is just there to make the story go further. Except the aliens. They’re important. And I never complain when I see Mr. Renner on screen.

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So, to sum it up. I would love to see Arrival to win for cinematography, maybe editing, both sounds and as I appreciated its simplicity, also production design. And tie with directing. I think. I still haven’t seen all the nominees (yeah, I know, so late!!!), so it’s hard to say yet plus there was one that I also loved, so…But still, perfection.

Rating: ***** (out of 5)

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MANCHESTER BY THE SEA (2016)

Directed by Kenneth Lonergan
Written by Kenneth Lonergan
Starring Casey Affleck, Lucas Hedges, Michelle Williams & Kyle Chandler

So, I saw these two films in a row and in this order. That might have affected somehow how I viewed Manchester by the Sea. I can’t really say if I’d liked it more if I hadn’t watched Arrival just before it. Or maybe I wouldn’t have liked it as much as I did because I was already in the mood to watch great movies. I don’t know but I know I did like Manchester quite a lot. It was a good cinema day.

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Manchester by the Sea is nominated for six Oscars and will most probably win for the leading role for an actor as Casey Affleck is impressive. It is his show as much it is director-writer Lonergan’s. Affleck is mesmerizing. He does so little but tells so much. All those suppressed feelings are there for the viewer to see and feel. Manchester by the Sea is heartbreakingly sad story of ordinary people. People who are like anyone of us. Besides Affleck, Hedges and especially Williams have earned their nominations. That scene in the movie poster is perhaps the most moving scene in the film and it’s such a showcase for Affleck and Williams; they’re so authentic, so raw, so full of emotion. If Arrival is a story of human kind, Manchester by the Sea is a story of humans.

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Besides acting, Manchester is nominated for the original screenplay, directing and the best picture. It could win for all and I wouldn’t really mind. But I think it will win for the screenplay and it definitely should. I adored it. I loved the way the story was told the way that it just began, like when meeting a new person. And then you get to know them, little by little. You start to understand why they do something, why they say something, why they like or don’t like something. Manchester is like that. At first you are like “who the f is this guy and why he is there” but then, a little by little, you start to understand and sympathize. Life is life and you just have to live it. Also, big points for the ending.

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This has nothing to do with the film but she’s beautiful. From January Elle magazine.

One thing that I didn’t really like was the music, it’s too hard. It annoyed me. But otherwise, beautiful film and sad story about life that I think I will definitely see again. And I’ll be mad if Lonergan won’t win for the screenplay and Affleck for the lead actor, they are THAT good.

Rating: ****½

P.S. 2017 is already better movie year for me (as I’ve seen all nominees this year) than the last year was. Yay for that!

The Best of the Best – Films of 2016

Gosh, I’ve been away again for ages. There’s a reason for that but I’ll get back to that later. Now it’s time for the traditional best of the best in the end of the year. Mine is so sad, though. As I live here in the middle of nowhere (that’s Finnish Lapland to you who don’t know), I haven’t been to cinemas for over two months and haven’t seen the latest, like Rogue One for example. Or Arrival. Or Nocturnal Animals. As said, my list is sad but here it is anyway. And yes, I know that some of these came out in the States in 2015 but not in Europe or at least in those countries that I go to.

10)

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The Lobster

9)

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Steve Jobs

8) 

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The Revenant

7)

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Son of Saul

6)

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The Invitation

5)

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Doctor Strange

4)

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Captain America: Civil War

3)

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The Big Short

2)

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Deadpool

1)

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Spotlight

Not a very good year as the number one is the only one with total 5/5 (or 10/10 at IMDb) and I’ve given 9/10 only five films this year. Sad. Let’s hope the next year will be better. And in February I’ll have a chance to see all those films I’ve missed during the last couple of months.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

 

Doctor Strange Review

doctor_strange_posterI should go back to my Oscar predictions but let’s take a look to another Marvel Cinematic Universe movie first.

DOCTOR STRANGE (2016)

Directed by Scott Derrickson

Written by Jon Spaihts, Scott Derrickson, C. Robert Cargill & based on Marvel comics by Steve Ditko

Starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Tilda Swinton, Rachel McAdams,  Chiwetel Ejiofor, Mads Mikkelsen & Benedict Wong

Synopsis: A former neurosurgeon embarks on a journey of healing only to be drawn into the world of the mystic arts. (IMDb)

I didn’t know anything about Doctor Strange beforehand. I’m not a fan of comics, I find them kind of silly. I used to find comic films silly as well but Marvel changed it. Since The Avengers I always have high hopes for MCU film and sometimes I’m a bit disappointed (meaning I give a film 8 out of 10 at IMDb) but usually I’m not and Doctor Strange is not exception. It’s a solid film with great visuals, interesting story and well, with that cast, obviously strong performances.

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I kept thinking during Strange that it is quite an achievement from film industry to make these huge blockbusters with actors who have been recently nominated for Oscars or some have even won some like Tilda Swinton in this case. No wonder characters in these kind of films are not bland anymore like they used to be. There is much more depth to them even if scripts are weak. The script of Doctor Strange is probably the simplest thing in it. And for some reason, villains in recent comic movies have been on the weaker side too. And Doctor Strange is no exception. But at least its villains are not black or white. What brings me to the point of Doctor Strange being accused of “white washing”. What? There’s Ejiofor, there’s Wong and there’s a woman as an Ancient One. And internationality more than most of the films.

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The best element in Strange is the pace. I was never bored. The story starts right away, you get the feeling who we’re dealing with Dr. Strange and Cumberbatch draws the character perfectly. We see how he deals with others, what kind of a person he is. And we don’t really like him but we get to know him and see him grow and we definitely start to care about him. I also liked a lot of McAdams’ character even though she’s quite on the side. And there are some very, very nice one-liners. As always when it comes to MCU movies.

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In general Doctor Strange is great! It might lose some of its magic (ha haa) when watching it again (and again which I will probably do) and on the first time, I loved it. Is it perfect? No, but it’s entertaining as hell. I recommend. Half of the star in rating is given because I got overly excited because of the first end-credits scene, it sure was the best one so far!

Rating: ****½ (out of 5)

The Best of the Best – Disney Company Films

To celebrate 93rd birthday of The Walt Disney Company I wanted to list my favourite films produced by the company. Walt Disney is one of my biggest heroes. He was the man who made fairytales to become live. My all time favourite quote is his

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and I always try to keep that in mind when it feels I can’t. We all can. 🙂

There might be some films missing but I blame IMDb if not my fave Disneys are on the list, as these were the ones the search of ever reliable IMDb gave me. There are some minor SPOILERS in videos.

10)

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Ratatouille (2007)

9)

Enchanted (2007)

8)

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Freaky Friday (2003)

7)

Beauty and the Beast (1991)

6)

Mary Poppins (1964)

5)

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Frozen (2013)

4)

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Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)

3) (This breaks your heart. The best montage ever.)

Up (2009)

2)

The Lion King (1994)

1)

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Wall-E (2008)

Lovely, lovely films! It’s great that there are still people who make you feel good with creating this kind of films.

And there’s more to come like live-versions of Beauty and the Beast, Tim Burton’s Dumbo or Cruella with Emma Stone starring. Even the trailer for the fifth Pirates of the Caribbean looked promising. Mary Poppins also returns and Lasse Hällström is going to direct Keira Knightley and Helen Mirren in The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, that should be interesting. And yes, the live version of  The Lion King sounds scary idea.