Media Review Roundup: Phantom of the Opera, Blackbeard’s Ghost, Amadeus, Matilda, The Big Year, Headhunters, Once Upon a Time, and the Original Knight Rider Pilot

Eight–count ’em, EIGHT–reviews for you today. I’m kind of behind the times, and I’m in between television series, more or less–which means more time for movies! A few highly recommended titles on this list. So let’s get right to it:

Phantom of the Opera–we’re talking the 25th anniversary concert here, not the film adaptation. I enjoyed it, but not nearly as much as the Les Mis version like this, and certainly not as much as the filmed stage productions of musicals like Into the Woods or Sweeney Todd. This one . . . I liked mainly for nostalgia. I’m going to say it, and I’m sticking by it–it’s not that good of a musical. The music is nice enough, but the plot? The plot is a festering pile of dog’s vomit. I know a lot of it makes more sense if you know the backstory behind the Phantom and everything, but you shouldn’t have to bring outside knowledge in with you to make something make sense. The characters are all over the place, the plot takes inexplicable turns. Very underwhelmed by that. 3 stars for nostalgia. 2 stars if I’m being honest. (Okay. Maybe 2.5)

Blackbeard’s Ghost–This one was a walk down memory lane. Many times I watch a movie I watched as a kid, only to be severely disappointed in it. Not this time. I’d say this time, I enjoyed the film even more than I did when I was little. This is classic Disney, about a guy who finds himself haunted by the title character. And the guy happens to be the new track coach at a small university with a crummy track program. Hilarity ensues. What made this even better for me was that this time, Blackbeard’s Ghost wasn’t just some funny portly fellow. It was Peter Ustinov! He really hams it up, and I loved it. No, the movie won’t win any major awards, but it’s a great classic Disney live-action, and is exactly what it should be. Three stars. (Directed by Robert Stevenson, who also did such greats as Bedknobs and Broomsticks, Mary Poppins, That Darn Cat!, The Love Bug, The Absent Minded Professor, and Darby O’Gill. Those were the good old days . . .)

Amadeus–Winner of best picture and 7 other Oscars, and yet I’d never gotten around to watching it, mainly because it’s around three hours, and that’s an awful lot of movie. But this movie is spectacular. Very well acted throughout, beautifully filmed and directed. The music is fantastic, the scene design equally so. Really, there’s nothing not to like about this film. Period piece drama at its finest–just don’t expect it to be too slavish to what actually happened to Mozart. Four stars. (Warning–the actual film is PG. The streaming version on Netflix is the Director’s Cut, which is R for a single scene you can see coming a mile away. Easily skipped if you’d like to self-edit.)

Matilda–I’d actually compare this one to Blackbeard’s Ghost. It’s a modern take on that genre, directed by Danny DeVito. Denisa and I watched it with the kids, who adored it. Based on the Roald Dahl book–what’s not to adore? It’s like the kids’ version of Carrie. 🙂 I’d seen it before, but wanted to share it with my kids now, and it went just like I thought it would. Really fun. Three stars.

The Big Year–This movie was really poorly marketed. To believe all the commercials, you’d be seeing a slapstick comedy starring Steve Martin, Jack Black, and Owen Wilson. Slapstick this ain’t. It’s more along the lines of A League of Their Own. Heartwarming Comedy, if that’s a genre. The three stars all play birding enthusiasts in a competition to see the most number of different species of bird in one year. Not sure I can totally give an objective review of it, since I went in expecting slapstick, and it took me a bit to figure out what sort of film I was watching. Still, it was fun enough. Predictable, but entertaining. Two and a half or three stars. Not on streaming.

Headhunters–A Norwegian film about a guy who’s an employment specialist by day (connects people with jobs) and an art thief by night. And everything’s going great until he steals a painting from the wrong guy. Meaning, an ex-military guy who’s extremely violent. Pretty brutal movie. Well-done, but quite disturbing. Very violent, but has quite a good plot (and one of the most dreadful hiding places in the film that I’ve ever had the misfortune of seeing.) Not for the faint of heart, but I’d give it 3 stars, probably.

Once Upon a Time–Denisa and I are actually current with this show, watching each new episode as they come out online the day after. I’d have to say it’s really finding its legs, as far as I’m concerned. Yes, the characterization still leaves me sighing now and then, but it’s turning into a Disney fairytale version of Lost, and for that . . . it does a good job. We definitely both give it a thumbs up. Check it out, if you haven’t already.

Original Knight Rider Pilot–Just for fun, we watched the original Knight Rider pilot–the one with David Hasselhoff. I adored this show when I was a kid. A talking sports car that could do awesome tricks? What’s not to like? And the show is very high on the cheese-factor, it turns out. Watching the Hoff do his thing . . . very funny. Don’t think I’ll stick with the whole series, though. 🙂 TRC might like to start watching them, and if he does, then I might watch along with him now and then.

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