my top twelve favorite non-Disney/Pixar animated movies

Usually when I talk about animated movies on this blog, I focus on those made by Disney’s and Pixar’s animation studios.  There’s definitely a reason for that – both Disney and Pixar have produced some of the greatest animated films ever made – but other companies have also come out with some excellent ones, several of which I love.  Some of them are not as well know as they should be, so I want to share them with you.

(In no particular order.)

// The Little Prince (2015) //

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I hardly understood a thing about the book and that goes for this film as well.  The themes are understated and subtle, so much so that I’m sure they went over the heads of little kids everywhere.  A hauntingly beautiful film with an almost dreamlike quality to it at times and a beautiful score (the ‘Trapped Stars’ scene makes me cry simply because of how moving the soundtrack is). And Jeff Bridges turns in an exemplary voice performance as the Aviator.

//  How to Train Your Dragon (2010) //

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My brother, Noah, insists that the second movie is better than this one, but I can’t decide.  HTTYD1 started it all and Hiccup and Toothless’ friendship is more at the forefront here and the ‘Forbidden Friendship’ scene and the bit where Hiccup takes Astrid dragon riding…those scenes cannot be beat in terms of beauty and emotion.  There’s nothing in the second film to equal them.

// How to Train Your Dragon 2 (2014) //

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I read somewhere that the composer for HTTYD2 said he wanted to show that the musical themes from the first film had matured in the five years that had passed (well, four years in The Real World) and I think that idea goes beyond the soundtrack.  The characters have matured, of course, and HTTYD2 is a more serious, sometimes darker film in general (compared to the first one).  I dig it.

// Anastasia (1997) //

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The only issue I have with ‘Anastasia’ is the film’s villain, Rasputin.  He’s creepy, demonic, and just plain annoying, as there’s plenty of drama and tension in the movie without his occasional presence.  But other than his unfortunate inclusion, ‘Anastasia’ brims with life and love, not unlike the film’s heroine, and the songs are splendid (to say the least).  I haven’t yet given the Broadway soundtrack a try, but that’s on my to-do list.  The film is lush and beautiful and utterly charming.

// The Adventures of Tintin (2011) //

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This is a very obscure animated film, right up there with ‘The Little Prince’ in terms of how many people know about it, and I think that’s a shame.  The animation is stunning, the voice acting is good, the humor is great (honestly, I love quoting the best lines), and John Williams’ score is so much fun. ❤

// The Prince of Egypt (1998) //

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While some people might say that this movie took too many liberties with the book of Exodus, I’d have to disagree and say that it merely took creative license in fleshing out a lot of events that were either never mentioned or quickly brushed over in the biblical account.  Again, the songs are gold.  I especially find ‘The Plagues’ both effective and emotional.  Moses is given good characterization, as is pretty much everyone else.  And ‘Prince of Egypt’s portrayal of God (in the burning bush scene) is the most respectful and powerful I’ve seen in any movie, ever.

// The Croods (2013) //

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This is one of the very, very few movies that makes my brother, Noah, cry (or at least tear up).  It’s on par with Pixar when it comes to emotionalness, in my opinio, because just thinking about it can give me a lump in my throat (similar to ‘Saving Mr. Banks’).  Not that ‘The Croods’ is particularly sad or anything – it’s actually very funny for the most part and the characters are great and the animation is gorgeous (that scene in the treetops, though!  Eep trying to catch the last bit of sunlight!  Grug riding the sun!).  But there’s those two scenes (SPOILERS AHEAD), first where Grug sends them all off into the ‘mysterious beyond’ and then when he draws on the cave wall, and it gives me ALL. THE. FEELS.

// The LEGO Movie (2014) //

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I have seen this movie a billion times, but I still love it.  I think it’s genius, the way they take all the cliches and instead of turning them around, they actually embrace them for real and make them almost new again.  Plus, you can’t beat the voice cast.

// The LEGO Batman Movie (2017) //

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‘The LEGO Batman Movie’ touched my heart, surprisingly, and set me on the path that would end with BatBale and Chris Nolan awesomeness, so I have a lot to thank it for.  Sure, it’s not as deep as ‘The LEGO Movie’ (and everyone says “‘The LEGO Movie’ was deep?”…yes, yes, it was) but it has a certain flavor to it and actually made me like Robin (*looks up at LEGO minifigure of Robin I have on my super-special shelf of favorites*), which is a Superman-worthy feat in and of itself.  So, yes.  I love it.  I just hope ‘The LEGO Ninjago Movie’ will be as good.

// Megamind (2010) //

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Heroes are great, but villains truly do get all the good lines.  My favorite thing about ‘Megamind’ (besides, of course, the quotablity of it) is the storyline.  There are good, admirable characters throughout, but the plot holds my attention more than the people (for once).  It’s rather brilliant, the story. (More spoilers…)  How Megamind is a total villain at first and then he gradually turns into the hero as Hal/Titan becomes more and more evil and twisted.  It’s cool and the character changes are very believable.

// Epic (2013) //

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To tell the truth, I don’t love this one as much as I used to (because I’ve seen it way too many times and it doesn’t hold up under a dozen viewings) but I couldn’t leave it out.  It’s a very eco-friendly film, but the characters are so good that I don’t much mind.  MK, Nod, Ronin, Queen Tara, Mandrake…great characters all. (And Colin Farrell’s Irish accent is, y’know, *heart eyes*.)

 // Kung Fu Panda (2008) //

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Perhaps ‘Kung Fu Panda’ wouldn’t have made the list a year ago.  I still don’t like Po.  But after watching all three films (and being pleasantly surprised with the quality of the third one) the KFP franchise is one of my favorites.  Not terribly high on the list, but there anyway.  Shifu is a big part of that; I think of him as the emotional core of the first film (not so much the other two, but he’s still awesome in both) and his story is the one that interests me the most.  Not Po, but him and Tai Lung.  Also, even if you hate the movie, the music is still WOW. (Always a big thing with me no matter what film I’m watching.)

Anyway…

Do you spot any favorites on this list?  What are some of your favorite non-Disney/Pixar animated movies?

Eva

my favorite hitchcock heroes, heroines, and villains

This post is part of my Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon 2017.  Check out the other posts in this blogathon here.

Alfred Hitchcock was a master filmmaker – that’s something no one can deny.  His skills as a director merged with great scripts, great actors, and great music to make some of the best films ever.  While there are lots and lots of things I could chose to talk about today, I decided to list a few of my favorite Hitchcock characters.  All of my favorite books and movies have one thing in common – awesome characters – and Hitchcock’s movies are no exception.

Let’s get started!

Favorite Hitchcock Heroes

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-Gilbert Redman (The Lady Vanishes): There are many, many good things about The Lady Vanishes (I can still hum that special tune), but Gilbert is one of the best.  He’s handsome and funny and helpful and brave – everything a good hero should be.

-T.R. Devlin (Notorious): Cary Grant is one of my least favorite actors, but Notorious is one of only two movies where I do more than tolerate him; I actually kinda love him. (The other film is Room for One More.)  Sure, he’s a jerkface for most of the movie, but I think it might be partly because he finds himself falling in love with Alicia, and he thinks nothing good can come of it.  And when he rescues her… *heart-eyes*

-Mitch Brenner (The Birds): Hitchcock favored his villains over his heroes, so it was actually a bit hard for me to come up with a third hero.  I finally settled on Mitch because he’s very capable and level-headed during so much of the terror and *cough* Rod Taylor’s pretty handsome.

Favorite Hitchcock Heroines

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-Iris Henderson (The Lady Vanishes): Hurrah for strong female characters!  Iris is an awesome heroine in her search for Miss Froy and in her general demeanor and strength of character.  One of my favorite female protagonists in classic film.

-Alicia Huberman (Notorious): Alicia is such a brave woman and I admire her, despite her checkered past.  I mean, she even goes so far as to marry Alex Sebastian to gather more information about his evil plots.  Ingrid Bergman is a luminous presence onscreen, and I’ll be talking more about her performance as Alicia later on this month for the Ingrid Bergman blogathon.

-Lisa Fremont (Rear Window): First, Grace Kelly.  Secondly, Edith Head’s gorgeous costumes.  And thirdly (and most importantly), Lisa is the BOSS.  She goes out and does a lot of the fieldwork for Jeff, even going so far as to enter the bad guy’s apartment in the search for the truth.  She’s a wonderful character.

Favorite Hitchcock Villains (here be spoilers)

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-Dr. Murchison (Spellbound): I know Leo G. Carroll best as the kindly Mr. Waverly from The Man From UNCLE TV show, so it’s always a half surprise for me to see him playing such a villainous character.  But Carroll pulls it off and Dr. Murchison is one of the most sinister villains (I think) in the Hitchcock canon.

-Phillip Vandamm (North by Northwest): It’s James Mason, people.  You can’t beat that.  Again, I’m more familiar with his role as a good guy in Journey to the Centre of the Earth, but he makes for a suave, polished, utterly dangerous villain in North by Northwest.  He’s one of my favorite things about the film.

-Bruno Antony (Strangers on a Train): Bruno is a fascinating villain and I think, in some ways, he’s the the prototype for ca-raaaaazy villains like Jim Moriarty or the Joker, even.  He’s just…wow.  Really insane and intense and sort of weird.  Still, he’s a fun baddie to watch.

Who are some of your favorite characters from Hitchcock’s films?

Eva

eight of my favorite westerns

Y’all know (or should) that westerns are my favorite genre, so this post was long overdue.

~The Magnificent Seven (1960) – Are you surprised?  My favorite movie, my favorite western, and it’s perfection in almost every way.  And the score is worth a listen or two, even if you’ve never watched the film.

~3:10 to Yuma (1957) – A tense, gripping western with a great cast and a great ending.  Love it!

~The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966) – Sitting through over three hours of three guys fighting over some treasure might not be everyone’s idea of epic, but it’s mine.  You’ve heard the theme song a million times…now it’s time to watch the movie that goes with it. #thatshowdownthough

~High Noon (1952) – Gary Cooper’s performance alone makes High Noon a film you need to see, whether you enjoy westerns or not.  Come to think of it, several of the movies on this list live up to the ‘great movies, not just great westerns’ thing.

~Rio Bravo (1959) – My newest favorite.  Dude is easily my favorite character, but almost all them are likable, in one way or another.  And the music!  The songs that Dude and Colorado (and Stumpy) sing, of course, but also that eerie Mexican tune that was played at the Alamo… *shivers*  I dig it.

~True Grit (2010) – Haven’t seen this one in a while because my family misplaced our DVD.  But Jeff Bridges is the BOSS.  Not to mention Hailee Steinfeld.  Overall, the film is a carefully crafted masterpiece from beginning to end, and I love the soundtrack so much that I now own the CD (very rare for me).

~Hidalgo (2004) -A western set (mostly) in Arabia.  It’s a unique concept and one that this film pulls off exceptionally well.  Hidalgo is a rich, vivid experience, with an addictive ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ feel to it.  “Let ‘er buck!”

~The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962) -I’ve praised this movie before in my review, so I’ll leave you with a link.

Do you spot any favorite westerns on this list?  What are some of your favorite westerns?

Eva

movie review: the sea hawk

This post is part of the Swashathon hosted by Movies Silently.

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I inherited my love of swashbucklers from my grandfather, who is a huge fan of the genre in general – and of Errol Flynn’s films in particular.  While I don’t care for Errol Flynn much, old-fashioned swashbucklers are a big favorite of mine.  The glamorous action, feats of derring-do, music, romance, and gorgeous costumes all come together beautifully to create a kind of film that can still entertain today. (I know there are swashbucklers made today.  But the old ones were the best, in my opinion.)

On to the review!

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As Spain prepares an armada to invade England, British privateer Geoffrey Thorpe (Errol Flynn) embarks on a mission to loot Spanish ships. When he captures the vessel carrying ambassador Don Jose Alvarez de Cordoba (Claude Rains), the dashing captain falls for his niece, the beautiful Dona Maria (Brenda Marshall), who settles comfortably in England. Dedicated to protecting British interests, Thorpe heads out to sea on a dangerous expedition that may determine the country’s fate.

‘The Sea Hawk’ is easily my favorite Errol Flynn movie…and my favorite swashbuckler.

Stuff I love about it (because lists are easier than an in-depth review):

~The music – Nominated for a best score Oscar, and it definitely deserved that nomination.

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~The romance between Geoffrey and Maria.  Yes, it’s a little clichéd and predictable, but so sweet.  I like how she starts out by hating/despising him but then softens.  Actually, Maria carries most of the romantic subplot by herself, as Geoffrey doesn’t have much time to think about his lady love in the jungle and the galleys.  It’s enough to bring a lump to your throat, the way Maria mourns for him. (That scene where she’s too late to warn him?  GAH.)

~How the jungle scenes are sepia-toned instead of black & white.  I dig it.

~All the other Sea Hawks.  You don’t see much of them, but they’re cool guys.

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~I LOVE THE QUEEN’S FINAL SPEECH SO MUCH.  You have to remember, that in 1940, England was at war with Germany (and had been for a year already), so I’m fairly certain that Queen Elizabeth I’s speech at the end was a good bit of patriotism that any British citizen would have found more than applicable to their current circumstances.

We have tried by all means in our power to avert this war.  We’ve no quarrel with the people of Spain or of any other country.  But when the ruthless ambition of a man threatens to engulf the world, it becomes the solemn obligation of all free men to affirm that the earth belongs not to any one man, but to all men.  And that freedom is the deed and title to the soil on which we exist.

Honestly, the only thing I would change about this movie is to have Basil Rathbone instead of Harry Daniell play Lord Wolfingham .  Basil Rathbone would’ve provided a chilling presence in the English court instead of a rather wimpy one.  Though, I suppose no-one would’ve been surprised at Wolfingham’s duplicity, then.

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The swordfights are awesome, as usual.  I’ve read the Michael Curtiz didn’t put safety tips on the ends of the blades because he wanted the actors’ reactions to be real.  Dangerous, but it made for some great scenes.

‘The Sea Hawk’ is a glowing, adventurous, swoony film, the very epitome of a swashbuckler.  Highly recommended to all fans of the genre.

Eva

“I don’t feel anything emotionally except rage.”

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My introduction to the Dark Knight was through The Lego Movie, where he is anything but dark (even though he only works in black…and sometimes very dark grey).  Emmet and Wyldstyle and Vitruvius took up almost all of my attention in that flick – Batman was good for a few laughs, but not much more.

Then, two things happened:

1) Adam West died, which (briefly) brought the attention of the entire internet, myself included, to Batman.

2) My brother bought The LEGO Batman Movie.

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Because of the feels I felt while watching The LEGO Movie, I was kinda expecting/hoping that TLBM would move me emotionally, amidst all the jokes and sight gags, and it totally did.  Yes, it was one of the funniest movies I’ve ever watched (still makes me laugh out loud – literally), but there were also hints that, in a more serious movie, Batman would be really, really epic/heartbreaking.  And I’d wanted to watch the BatBale films for a while.

THEN my brother bought Batman Begins. (He buys everything these days.)  And I watched it.  And loved it.  And loved Batman. (He’s now my second favorite super-hero – after Captain America.)  Before Batman Begins, I’d only seen Christian Bale in Newsies and Little Women, and I really dug seeing him in such a dramatic role.  It’s not like I have a serious crush on him, or anything, but I was really impressed.

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My siblings and I decided to skip The Dark Knight (at least for now) because the Joker is freaky.  Really freaky. 

I bought The Dark Knight Rises at Giant Tiger a couple days later.  And, well, I didn’t like it as much as Batman Begins because, y’know, Batman is hardly in it at all.  Neither is Bruce Wayne, for that matter.  Anne Hathaway was great, as usual, with her portrayal of Catwoman.  I’ve really enjoyed Anne Hathaway in everything I’ve seen her in, and TDKR continued that tradition.

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Anyway, what this post is trying to say is that, while Batman may have his flaws (just like his movies), exploring this facet of the DC-verse has been amazing so far. (Also, I’ve discovered that I have a weird fascination with Scarecrow, but I absolutely promise that it’s nothing like my crush on Ben Wade.  I AM NOT CRUSHING ON HIM.)

Let’s fangirl in the comments!

Eva

the 2017 reel infatuation blogathon: glenn ford as ben wade in ‘3:10 to yuma’ (1957)

(A list of the other posts in this blogathon can be found here.)

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‘3:10 to Yuma’ (original, not re-make) was the first Glenn Ford movie I ever watched (besides ‘Is Paris Burning?’, which I watched before I knew who he was).  I can’t be sure, it being so long ago and all, but I believe my attention was more on Van Heflin, who I’d seen and liked in a couple other films (‘Shane’, for one).  It wasn’t until I read Hamlette’s in–depth analysis of ‘3:10 to Yuma’ that I found myself drawn to Glenn Ford’s Ben Wade.  But I didn’t re-watch the film until after I’d seen Blackboard Jungle and fallen head-over-heels for Richard Dadier.  (My crush on him probably had something – though not everything – to do with my liking for Ben Wade, come to think of it.)

Anyway, I watched ‘3:10 to Yuma’ again and thus began my one and only crush on a bad guy, a villain, an outlaw. (Unless you’re counting Robin Hood or Bucky, which I don’t.)  I mean, I’ve had an interest in several villains before (mostly Disney ones, ’cause they can be pretty epic in that twisted for evil way) but I always found it weird and vaguely disturbing when girls would swoon over Loki or Richard Armitage’s Sir Guy.  They’re murderers!  They do evil, nasty things!  (And to be honest, it’s a very fine line, crushing on Ben Wade, because he is a murderer and he did do evil things.  So I try not to be too obsessed.)

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The biggest obstacle to my wholeheartedly crushing on Ben is something that happens in the first few minutes of the film.  Ben and his gang hold up a stagecoach and proceed to steal the money from it.  In the middle of all this, the driver of the stage grabs one of Ben’s men and holds him hostage.  And Ben proceeds to coolly shoot both the driver and his own man, just like that.  I believe the screenwriter(s) did this to establish Ben’s reputation early on in a relatively short movie so that we, the audience, understand why the mere mention of Ben Wade elicits such a strong, fearful response in the ranchers and townspeople.  And we definitely do understand.

Personally, I think that Prince is a way more cruel, cold, and calculating than Ben, but the whole scenario with the driver/Ben’s man getting shot is still quite violent and disturbing.  In some ways, though, I think it’s incongruous to Ben’s charming demeanor throughout so much of the rest of the film.

And Ben is charming.  He really is.  First with Emmy, the saloon girl, and then with Mrs. Evans.  It’s pretty hard not to at least grin during the scene where he eats dinner with the Evans family. (Especially when Dan’s sons go off about how Dan could shoot Ben if he wanted to.  Or the whole thing with saying grace.)  And when he talks with Mrs. Evans, I think that on some level he might be trying to make her feel more at ease around him, trying to let her know that he poses no threat to her family.

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Then, of course, there’s what he says to her after supper…

“I’m obliged for your hospitality.  I appreciate it, and your husband too.  I hope I can send him back to you all right.”

I know it may be silly to think this, but… <33333

That isn’t an idle hope/wish/promise of Ben’s, in my opinion.  Ben means what he says (always, I think).  Even though my brother, Ezra, thinks he’s psychotic, the way he keeps picking away at Dan in the hotel room, talking and talking and talking and trying to bribe him and bringing up Dan’s family, I tend to take an entirely different view of things (surprise, surprise).

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I don’t know when it happened (feel free to share your thoughts about the following in the comments), but I have a theory that eventually, at some point, Ben went from hounding Dan simply because he wanted to escape, to hounding Dan so that Dan could walk out of that hotel room alive (by taking Ben’s bribe).  Like I said, I don’t know when Ben switched his thinking on all that (and I’m guessing it wouldn’t be clear in his mind either), but I believe there was a switch.  And that’s what really counts.

This post wouldn’t be complete without at least some mention of the ending of this film, so… (SPOILERS GALORE)

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Dan and Ben make their way to the train station against all odds, with Ben’s gang shadowing their every move.  It’s a tense, fast-paced scene with plenty of nail-biting moments.  But they get to the station, which is the important thing.  And as the train pulls up, swathing Dan and Ben and the gang in clouds of steam/smoke, Prince yells at Ben to duck so he can get a good shot at Dan.  Only Ben doesn’t.  And at the last minute he and Dan jump on the train and, just like that, they’re gone. (Well, not just like that…the gang runs after them and Dan shoots Prince.  But anyway.)

The last couple minutes of the film are powerful stuff.  The theme song, the glorious rain, the smile on everyone’s faces, and the possibility that maybe, just maybe, Ben can finally turn his life around for good. (Or at least for better.  Because even though redemption is definitely not a theme in ‘3:10 to Yuma’, I could easily see a fanfiction sequel written with just that in mind.)

And, after all, Ben Wade has escaped from Yuma before.

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Eva

mini movie reviews {#3}

I’m not going to be able to do a ‘what I’ve been reading/watching’ for these last three months – #life – so here’s some more mini movie reviews.  I’ll probably do one for books tomorrow or the day after.

The Santa Clause (1994) – Okay for a one-time watch, but not much more.  However, Tim Allen is awesome, both in this movie and in Real Life.

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Free Birds (2013) – I found Free Bird’s portrayal of the Pilgrims to be offensive and ignorant.  Besides the voice acting, there’s little to love in this movie.

The Scarlet Pimpernel (1982) – An old favorite.  Swoon over the music/costumes/romance/Sir Percy himself.  I love how the stories of The Scarlet Pimpernel and El Dorado are combined.

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From Time to Time (2009) – MAN.  This had such great potential!  But all those British actors were wasted on a boring plot.

Enchanted (2007) – The songs in here are brilliantly beautiful.  Plus, Robert.  Just…Robert.  Amy Adams is a sparkling presence, as usual, and the whole thing fits together like, well, how the glass slipper fit Cinderella’s foot.

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The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement (2004) – And speaking of princesses, this film was a delightful romp.  Not A+ quality entertainment, but plenty enjoyable nonetheless.

Rio Bravo (1959) – Dean Martin. ❤  That’s all.

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Dangerous Crossing (1953) – A typical film noir.  Sort of a ‘The Lady Vanishes’ plot; intriguing without being too predictable.

How the West Was Won (1962) – The best thing about HTWWW, besides all the familiar faces, is the whole Epic Family Saga.  Definitely one of my favorite genres (if it is a genre) and I thought it was done quite well here.

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Tangled: Before Ever After (2017) – No, no, no, no, NO.  What have you done with my beloved characters?!

The LEGO Batman Movie (2017) – Um…wow.  This one really blew me away.  All the villains, for one.  And the FEELS.  Serious feels. (This is the only Batman movie I’ve watched, by the way.  EDIT: Besides his semi-major role in The LEGO Movie.)  Robin was nowhere near as bad as I thought he’d be.  And there was a Tom Cruise cameo (sort of) which made the whole thing even better.

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What movies have you been watching lately?

Eva