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6 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
The End of a Journey., 23 June 2014

Those who know me also know how I tend to praise "Hannibal" a great deal. Before this episode I viewed it as one of the best shows on TV. However, the season two finale has cemented it (in my opinion) as the best show on TV PERIOD. Yes, there are great shows such as "The Walking Dead" and "Game of Thrones" (both of which I adore) however, "Hannibal" is the perfect combination of terrifying and beauty to create a show unlike anything else on TV.

In the season two finale we find ourselves at the end of a journey. A journey that began in the first episode of season one and has been building itself to this moment. Here Will is on the brink of making the definitive choice to either follow or betray Hannibal. The choice he makes will reverberate throughout the rest of the series and change everything he has ever known.

Bryan Fuller pulls no punches with this epic of a season finale. In a age of network TV shows being painfully held back from their full potential, it is refreshing to see Bryan Fuller and crew be so daring with the second season of Hannibal. The already bigger than life feel of the show is brought in full force to remind us how powerful this show can be.

Of course, it is fantastically written drama. Once again the dialog forces viewers to pay attention otherwise they will become lost in the pure sophistication of the story. Instead, if we as normal people can keep up, we become lost in a completely different way. One where we are entranced by the story while scratching our heads.

They are able to deftly blend in themes of codependency (the dangers and healthiness of it) and forgiveness into one event; culminating with these themes completely exploding on one another. Codependency ends up destroying lives more than it creates them and forgiveness still leads to retribution. We see the downfalls of both themes and just how connected they both are. Instead of shoving these themes into our faces, as viewers, we are treated with more respect than that. They trust that we can dwell on the ideas, think on them more, till finally we come to our own conclusions. Expertly done all around.

These themes also come to us through the use of imagery. And on the season finale they make fine use of how they mix both beauty and horror into one thing to make something that is beautiful yet provoking in a startling way. This can be seen especially through the use of water in the episode. Water comes with many metaphors and the metaphors here are clear and beautiful to the eye. One metaphor deals with death (the idea of drowning, being lost in darkness) and the other is about being reborn (such as Christians being baptized, being cleansed of sins; leaving behind the pain and onto something more). Both of these metaphors are beautifully shown throughout the episode with some of the most amazing imagery the show has ever done. This is truly unique to TV and it is on the level of filmmaking quality.

Of course we get some of the best performances the actors have ever done on this show. Hugh Dancy takes the final steps towards Will's inevitable choice. Will appears to know what he'll do (and he does for the most part) but when the time calls for it, he doesn't seem sure anymore. Then this is matched with Mads Mikkelsen to create some of the best work the two do together. Mads Mikkelsen brings new faces to Hannibal Lecter by showcasing him as the evil monster he truly is but also allowing him to be vulnerable. He has found a friend in Will unlike anything he ever thought possible and now he is faced with the possibility he is being betrayed. Something he does not want to deal but must in the end.

Through the use of a ticking clock type soundtrack the intensity is constantly building throughout the episode. From the very first scene to the final after-credits epilogue (which must be seen). The suspense is never-ending and when it does end, it feels like you've become numb with disbelief.

This is excellent quality television to the highest degree. I have never been so awed by a TV season finale as I have been with this one. It is terrifying, beautiful, thought-provoking, wonderfully acted, and just all together amazingly put together. "Hannibal" really raised the bar with this game-changing finale that leaves everything in the air for next season. This is, in my opinion, the best season finale to ever be done for ANY TV show as of right now. I cannot wait for season three to start so I can find the madness again.

3 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
"The Empire Strikes Back" for the "Dragon" Trilogy!, 21 June 2014

In a squeaky voice I hear Hiccup screaming to the top of his lungs "ARE YOU READY BUD?" and I end up replying in a soft whisper, "Not sure yet." The shivers of anticipation and fear trembled throughout my body. The fact is the first "How to Train Your Dragon" was so amazing (then again, that is opinion but mine stands) how can it possibly be topped?! Well I found the answer to that question and to Hiccup's question after walking out of the theater. Boy I wasn't ready for it but "How to Train Your Dragon 2" brought it big time. Needless to say, I was in awe with how fantastic this movie was.

We begin five years after the first movie ended. Hiccup and his friends are living the good life with dragons for pets being the new norm. However, this new paradise seems to disappear with the emergence of a vicious enemy who aims to create a dragon army for the sole-purpose of world domination. Then of course comes along a mysterious dragon rider causing all types of trouble (if you've seen the previews then this will not be a shock but I shall be kind just in case you have not). Hiccup ends up working with Toothless once again to bring down this enemy and in the process change everything they've ever known.

The way this film builds upon it's predecessor is by simply doing the one thing most sequels do not like doing; continuing the story in such a way that it could stand on its own as a stand-alone film. This film is not the first film, in fact it dives even deeper into the story and world the first film brought us.

A sequel, a great sequel knows how to broaden the story and mature it as it goes along. And that is exactly what they do here. We find Hiccup realizing that maybe he has been naive with certain ideals he carries, he realizes maybe it is time to grow up. Now-a-days coming of age stories are almost ubiquitous, but "Dragon 2" knows how to make it feel fresh. In the first one Hiccup was trying to find himself, he is still doing that here but it is more from a desire to find his place in a grown up world than to be accepted for who he is. The transition between the Hiccup we met in the first movie to the Hiccup of this movie is very well done and completely believable.

And just as Hiccup has grown, the story grows with him by becoming darker and more mature with it's themes. Here we deal with a new form of family discord not really seen in animated films. We find teen romance on the bloom. And the idea of diplomacy over war. This film deals with such complex issues that it can be easy to forget this is a kids film about dragons.

Which leads me to comment on the visuals of the movie. The animation is absolutely breathtaking. From the very first scene showcasing the dragons on Berk to the final epic fight sequence. This is a film of the highest caliber in regard to how animation should look. The clouds mixing with the red and orange of a setting sun, the mountains that touch the sky, and even the giant ice fortress that looks like something from a far away dream. This movie is huge on spectacle but it never forgets the heart of the story.

The characters are just as endearing as they were when we first met them. Some of them have grown up some considering the time-span but this is to be expected. Jay Baruchel is, as always, fantastic as Hiccup. This time he brings a maturity to the role while keeping him goofy and good-natured. The same can be said for the rest of the all-star voice cast. Gerard Butler, America Ferrara, Kristen Wiig, Jonah Hill, and even new cast member such as Kit Harington (Game of Thrones) are all fantastic.

Amazingly, they manage to keep all of these different factors under control when it could have so easily gone wrong. Once again this films backbone (just like the first) is the relationship between Hiccup and Toothless. This simple, yet vital, relationship could've been lost in the franticness of the plot and the wide range of characters. However, Director and Writer Dean DeBlois nimbly moves around these issues as if there was no problem at all. It is expert filmmaking to the highest degree.

"How to Train Your Dragon 2" put my fears to rest by giving us a story that is darker and more mature than the first. They expanded on the world from the first movie and gave us even more wonderful character moments. Filled with great, sly humor and breathtaking visuals. This movie is filled with spectacle but it never forgets the quiet, tear-jerking moments that made the first movie such a hit. Since both movies are so great there is room to debate for either one. Both have valid points for being better than the other but I would have to say "Dragon 2" is better than the first (as hard as it is to believe). This is "The Empire Strikes Back" for the "Dragon" Trilogy and even (as of right now) the best animated movie of the year. Kids and adults will both be walking away saying one thing "Can we go see it again?" and I'm sure you will.

1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Best Marvel Movie Since "The Avengers" and "Iron Man", 7 April 2014

Considering we are now several movies, one mega-sequel to them all, and some direct sequels into Marvel Phase 2; needless to say there was a great amount of hype attached to "Captain America: The Winter Soldier". So did it deserve the hype? Did it live up to the high bar set by movies such as "The Avengers" and "Iron Man"? The only thing I can think of is wow! This movie lived up to them both and then some.

We find Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) two years after the battle of New York from "The Avengers" and he is working with SHIELD now. While on a mission with Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) he discovers that some things are not quite right deep in the ranks of SHIELD. On the run, he must uncover the conspiracy going on within SHIELD and deal with his greatest adversary yet; the Winter Soldier.

While I enjoyed the first "Captain America" I have to say this movie went above and beyond what I was expecting. Not only do we get a deeper look at one of the greatest superheroes of our time but we get a look at the ideals that have shaped our country into what it is now, and even leaves us pondering if what we are is something good or not. This message is loud and clear especially when Steve Rogers begins questioning everything he ever stood for. One line in particular stood out to me from the movie. In a conversation with Nick Fury, Rogers states "We fought for freedom, this is fear" while discussing new weaponry being used by SHIELD, to which Fury replies "We do things for the world we live in, not the one we dream of." Most likely I messed up the wording in there somewhere but that is the gist of the conversation. This conversation really surprised me because it was showing that Marvel has no problem taking on deeper ideas when the time comes for it. I applaud them for it.

However, the ideals being used would mean nothing if it wasn't for the fantastic performances by the leading cast. Scarlett Johansson reminded us why we love Black Widow. She brought the right amount of flair, depth, and even humor to a character that proves women can be just as tough (even tougher) than men. But Chris Evans is the heart and soul of the film. His portrayal of Steve Rogers really showcased why he is the best person to be the leading man in this series. He took on Rogers patriotism, heroism, fears, and even questioning with elegance in every stride. He made us love a character even more when we already did.

This is without a doubt the best Marvel movie since "The Avengers" and "Iron Man". Instead of a regular superhero movie, we got a "Jason Bourne" type of espionage spy thriller with Captain America as the main character. Filled with intense, inspired action while also being a surprisingly intelligent film with fantastic performances; "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" soars above and beyond expectations with shocking twists that will be felt throughout the entire Marvel cinematic Universe. I am still in awe of it.

"Hannibal" (2013)
7 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
A macabre world filled with intelligent twists., 13 February 2014

I have to say I am very impressed with how the spin-off series of Hannibal Lector has turned out. While I was a little worried at first after hearing the idea to create a series based on the most famous cannibal in the history of film, the series have placed my fears to rest.

The series follows Will Graham, a profiler for the FBI, and his journey into the minds of the darkest criminals. It is his daily job to think like the psychopaths they deal with and this has left a great toll on his mind. To protect what sanity he had left, he decided to leave. However, once he is manipulated into coming back to the FBI, he must learn new ways to protect himself from the dangerous profession he is involved in. So along comes Dr. Hannibal Lector, a psychiatrist who Will becomes close to. While Will confides in Dr. Lector his deepest, darkest secrets, he has no idea that the man he is speaking to is actually one of the greatest serial killers (and cannibals) the FBI has ever searched for.

With such a dark story leading the way for this show, the fear would be that NBC just isn't free enough to do the material justice. A show such as "Hannibal" would be more suitable for cable TV channels such as AMC or FX, that would be the thought at least. However, NBC proves naysayers otherwise by showing just how fearless they can be when the time calls for it. They truly dive deep into a world that is dark and macabre in ways that even match "American Horror Story" by creating an atmosphere that is chilling and disturbing. They especially do this with terrifyingly graphic imagery. Honestly, with how far the show seems to go at times I am amazed they didn't end up having to tone things down or risk getting booted. Happily though, the show is still going strong with its wonderfully macabre world still intact.

But it is the chemistry between the two leading actors that really sells the show. Hugh Dancy and Mads Mikkelsen do fantastic work in the leads. Dancy shines as the poor Will Graham. You can really see the tragedy behind his eyes as he goes deeper and deeper into a dark world where he might never come back from. And that is what makes him very different from the team on CBS's "Criminal Minds." Throughout the series you can see him as a truly broken man and what little of him that's holding together is also crumbling. All the while it almost seems he is entirely alone through this situation. However, he does have someone and that is Dr. Lector. Mikkelsen does some truly fantastic work as Lector. He brings the charisma and cultured intelligence that is Hannibal Lector to new life on screen. Of course he comes into the picture in the shadow of the great Anthony Hopkins who made this character what he is today but Mikkelsen does a great job at making this character his own. Both of these actors do great jobs at giving fresh spins to two very well-known characters. Fantastic work by the both of them.

This is a great piece of television here. We find ourselves completely immersed into a world that is haunting on many levels and that is why this show works. The show succeeds by giving audiences an intelligent look into the mind of a man going slowly insane while giving us a look at one who has already gone insane.

1 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Funny, surprising, and absolutely charming., 9 February 2014

I think it's safe to say that most movies based off of toys never really end well. So that brings up the question: does "The Lego Movie" fall into the same sad category such as the "Transformers" series and "Battleship" or does it break that problem that has plagued toy adaptations for years? The answer is, happily, the latter.

"The Lego Movie" is about the journey of one tiny Lego figure named Emmet. In an ancient prophecy it was foreshadowed that a mighty hero would come and save the Lego Universe from a terrible villain who planned on gluing the entire universe together.

Just like the toy that inspired it, this movie was brimming with imagination from top to bottom. From the Lego city that Emmet lives in to oceans of the Lego Universe this was imaginative all the way through. And honestly, that alone is worthy of praise. Many films now are mainly just recycled ideas without any true inspiration put into them. However, this was not the case with "The Lego Movie". Watching this movie you can tell the filmmakers had an absolute blast going into such an imaginative world. The possibilities were endless and that is really what made the difference.

On top of imagination, this film is also filled with an intelligent (and even satirical) look at everyday life and a look at the role of the government (and our roles included). Just having a look at Emmet's life in the city you could tell this made fun of ordinary life, not in a mean way but an honest way. We wake up everyday and go throughout our daily lives greeting people, working at our jobs (whatever they may be), going home to relax for the next day alone or with people we care about, and getting up the next day. This sequence was exquisitely done, from the first scene of the President giving a vague, yet threatening, message to his people being undermined by the plain brainwashing of his people to the overall idea of being who we truly are. Wonderfully done.

A lot of this is due to the excellent work by its A-list voice cast. Chris Pratt did wonderful work as Emmet, with him portraying the poor naivety of the Lego piece and his transition to someone willing to think for himself. The same can be said of Elizabeth Banks (hilarious as Wyldstyle), Will Ferrell as the villain, and Will Arnett (as Batman who ironically enough became the funniest character in the movie). Thanks to the great cast these characters will definitely be remembered for a very long time.

So adults, I just want to remind you that this is a movie that you will enjoy, maybe even more than your children will. Not only is it a smart satirical look at government and everyday life but it also has a self-aware humor mixed with pop culture references that will have you rolling on the floor laughing. A prime example of this is Batman and the wonderful way they play to his cynicism. In the movies and comics we know Batman as the cynic he is but in such a colorful world there is just so much material to play off of it would've been a miscarriage of justice to ignore it. Well done Lego.

In the end, this is a wonderful way to start off animation for 2014. Already at a stronger place than animation was this time last year, "The Lego Movie" has definitely raised the bar where toy adaptations (and maybe even animated movies in general) are concerned. Wonderful storytelling mixed with great characters, beautiful visuals, plenty of humor to spare, and a great message about finding the hero in all of us; "The Lego Movie" has proved that there is life for toy adaptations after all.

3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
An Epic Love Story on the Same Level as Titanic, 30 January 2014

Every generation has that defining forbidden love story. For Shakespeare's time it was "Romeo and Juliet," a story about two teenagers from different families but from the same world. "Titanic" is from the 90's and is also about two young people falling in love except this time they're both from very different worlds. "Brokeback Mountain" is the forbidden love story of our generation and this time both lovers are from the same world, sadly, that is the problem.

The film focuses on two young cowboys in 1964, Ennis and Jack, who are working together for a summer herding sheep. During their time together they become close, so close they fall in love. Instead of living together they go their separate ways to live their own lives. They both get married, have children, and have decent jobs. However, they never forget each other and every chance they get, they get together on Brokeback Mountain to spend time together in anyway possible.

I am one to openly state that I do not like western movies. I personally feel that the characters are unrelatable and stiff in western movies. And this is not just from watching one western, I have tried watching more than one an they all feel the same. However, I was completely engrossed in "Brokeback Mountain." This was a movie filled with fascinating characters and a story that made them as relatable as any real person. We have all been to a point in our lives where we fall for the person we know we can't have. The bad boy or the good girl, vice versa, and that is how they treat the characters in this film. Both of these men love each other wholeheartedly and there is a sense of melancholy surrounding their relationship because you know it will not end well for them. Watching them made me feel like I was watching "Titanic" again and that I was looking at this generation's Jack and Rose.

Of course, this would not have been possible if it was not for the fantastic performances of the leading cast. Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal gave some of the best performances of their careers in this movie. Heath Ledger was heartbreaking as the obviously distant and maybe even hollow Ennis. A man who detached himself so much it was as if he was not even alive. That is until he was around Jack (played wonderfully by Jake Gyllenhaal), then he would light up with such a joy you would believe this man had never experienced joy like this before. And of course Jake Gyllenhaal also gave an equally powerful performance as Jack. A man who was willing to give up everything for Ennis, risk his life and future because he was madly in love with him. Yet, this also makes him equally as tragic. A man who cannot hide his feelings as well as Ennis and ends up trying to be himself while holding onto the life he has now. This movie would not have been what it was without these two amazing actors. Such fascinating characters.

In fact, I was so utterly fixated on their characters I (even though tragic love stories have taught me differently) was hoping that they would find a way to be together in the end. That they would find the happy-ending they deserved. And that is why it works. If a tragic love story does not make you hope the best for the couple in question then it is not doing it's job. Even though I've watched "Titanic" a hundred times, I root for Jack and Rose, I want them to find their happy ending because I am that invested in the main characters and their love story.

I keep going back to "Titanic" because I feel that "Brokeback Mountain" is our generations "Titanic." We have ourselves one of the most beautifully told love stories in years that makes us root for them even though we know it will not end well. That is the beauty of this film. It makes us believe in true love while showing us that sometimes it isn't enough. Sometimes people need to change for love to live on.

Also, I cannot forget the magnificent performances of the supporting cast. Michelle Williams gave a fantastic performance as the wife of Ennis. A woman who is definitely in love with Ennis but heartbroken by the truth of their relationship. The same can be said of Anne Hathaway and her riveting performance. She starts out as young woman in love with Jack but soon she realizes just how distant he really is from her. It is powerful to see her go from a young woman full of life to an older woman filled with bitterness. Both women are fascinating. And the filmmakers show us that it is not entirely anyone's fault when things fall apart. It's the fault of the fear of what's different, fear deep in a society.

This is the type of movie that will open people's eyes to the truth about love: it is universal. It doesn't matter if the relationship is heterosexual or homosexual, love is the driving force in relationships. However, it is a reminder that society is the main force that can tear relationships apart. Whether it be because of social class, feuding families, or even whether it be of the same-sex. As a society, we must learn to accept love for what it is.

I highly recommend this movie to anyone who wants to find a great romantic film to watch. "Brokeback Mountain" gives one of the most honest portrayals of a homosexual relationship to ever hit the screen. With such an honest view it made the issue all the more universal and relatable. On that note alone I commend the fantastic team behind this wonderful movie. With wonderful performances, sensitive direction, and a beautifully written script; "Brokeback Mountain" soars to it's proper place among classics such as "Titanic." Bravo.

Completely Enthralling!!, 9 January 2014

I am not one to do reviews of single episodes but this one deserves the time. Was the conclusion (?) to the William Lewis storyline everything it was promised to be? That's the question and my answer is a resounding yes.

In this episode Olivia is forced to see her attacker again, this time for his trial. Throughout the trial she must gather up the courage to face William Lewis in order to put him away for the rest of his life. However, she must do all of this while holding onto her sanity which seems to be the last thing Lewis wants to take from her before he says goodbye.

This is SVU at its finest. We get ourselves some intense courtroom drama, that has been missing for quite some time now, with a personal touch. Watching one of the best cops on TV go through her toughest battle yet. Now while it can be hard to believe that the system can be messed up to the extent that allowed Lewis to walk on several trials, I can see it happening. Justice is such a hard thing to be consistent in our judicial system. Especially when the law needs catching up to do so. However, that only made this episode even better.

But what really sold the episode were the performances of Pablo Schreiber and Mariska Hargitay. Schreiber sold the pure evil and depravity of Lewis. Throughout the entire episode he could easily make your skin crawl. I was blown away by how he so easily got into character to fool the jury, innocent victim in the situation, and then could turn back into a predator who would rip Olivia apart if he had the chance. Schreiber was amazing. However, it was Hargitay who really delivered. She gave what was probably her best performance as Olivia. A woman who is not used to being vulnerable was completely exposed in this episode. Her fears of Lewis walking, the court learning of her deception, and even the fears of seeing him in court. These things kept pushing Olivia over the edge so much she was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. But Hargitay's strength and determination really showed through Olivia. She was a woman who was not letting him take the last bit of strength she had. It was inspiring. Honestly if these two actors are not awarded some kind of acting nominations at the next Primetime Emmy Awards then there is some serious problem.

In the end, we have ourselves an absolutely enthralling episode. With fantastic writing, intense courtroom drama, and two fantastic performances (probably Hargitay's best yet) that are both Emmy worthy. This was one of the best episodes of Law and Order SVU yet and I can't wait to see what happens next.

Frozen (2013/I)
5 out of 15 people found the following review useful:
Charming Addition to the Disney Movie Canon, 6 December 2013

The questions have been far and wide concerning the highly anticipated "Frozen." Is it just an icy version of "Tangled?" Does it live up to the hype? Is it the best movie since "The Lion King?" Well the answers are in order as so: no, yes, and debatable.

"Frozen" is the story of a young princess named Anna. She has spent most her days in the seclusion of her castle for the sole purpose of keeping her safe from the terrifying secret of her sister, Elsa. Elsa has the power to create snow out of nothing. Once her secret comes out there is no stopping her power. So when Elsa runs away Anna goes off to find her along with some new allies. All in the hope of making things right again.

This is a completely different story from "Tangled" and it proves this with some very nice twists in the whole fairy-tale scheme of things. And it also does a great job of living up to the incredible amount of hype set for the movie (fantastic songs, great voice-cast, beautiful animation, and great writing). However, the statement that it is the "best movie since 'The Lion King'" is a very bold one at that. "The Lion King" is a classic film that very few films in general can match in caliber. Though I will say "Frozen" is a classic in it's own right.

The songs for the movie have a deep sense of nostalgia, going all the way back to the Disney Renaissance Era. There were several numbers where I felt transported back to classic musical numbers such as show-stopping numbers like "Be Our Guest" and triumphant, powerful songs like "Circle of Life." While watching this movie you will definitely feel the intent for this movie to become a Broadway musical. For those who live in New York, be on the look out because this should be one great time at the theatre.

Of course the movie would have fallen flat if was not for the wonderful talent of the leading cast (pretty much the entire cast are Broadway vets, hint anybody?). The wonderful innocence, naivety of Anna was portrayed so well by Kristen Bell. When she spoke there was a sweet charm about her and her singing felt more angelic, light. This was a great contrast with the powerful, belting vocals of Idina Menzel as Elsa. Her role as the conflicted queen was perfect for her (also her background with roles like this in "Wicked" made her the perfect choice). She brought a certain maturity to conflict Anna's innocence while giving us show-stopping numbers ("Let It Go" was probably one of the best songs of the year). Their chemistry was great.

The rest of the supporting cast did fantastic jobs as well. Jonathan Groff was great as Kristoff (still angry they didn't let him sing much at all). So was Santino Fontana as Hans, but it was Josh Gad as Olaf out of these three who had the best scene-stealing moments. Even though I loved seeing Anna and Kristoff banter back and forth, I felt myself smile even wider whenever Olaf was on screen. He was charming, funny, and just too adorable to ignore. Though I couldn't help but feel bad for laughing while he sang "In Summer," a song about how he'd be doing what a snowman does during summer (dark humor in a Disney movie, love it).

All-in-all, this was a great addition to the Disney movie canon. We got ourselves some original and fantastic songs, tons of memorable characters, a wonderfully written script, and some nice (much-needed) twists on the fairy-tale ideas. Even though it is hard to match up to "The Lion King" this is still a great Disney movie that the whole family will enjoy and I will not be surprised if it wins the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.

32 out of 52 people found the following review useful:
The Hills Are Still Alive, 5 December 2013

There has been much speculation, anticipation, and even trepidation since NBC announced their plans for a live event of "The Sound of Music." These questions grew when it was announced Carrie Underwood would play the role of Maria, made iconic by the great Julie Andrews. So, does the event meet expectations? I would have to say yes.

The legendary musical is loosely based off of the real life Von Trapp family during World War II. Maria had just recently become the governess for the Von Trapp family where she falls in love with the father of the children. While helping them rebuild the family they must also deal with the Nazi occupation happening all around them.

One thing I must get straight is that this is not a remake of the movie (whoever dares messing with that gem will need many prayers indeed). This is a televised event of the Broadway version. And you can tell this version has a very theatrical feel to it. All the way from the fake set of the mountains to the (admittedly) impressive Von Trapp home. While some may be too unaware to understand how a stage musical works to enjoy the setting, I personally loved how the setting was done. This gave the event a truly theatrical feeling to it that made it more authentic to an actual Broadway show than other musical shows on TV. It was very fun to see.

However, the biggest question is concerning Carrie Underwood. Did she do a good job? Yes, she did a very good job with Maria. While Carrie is new to acting, she shows she has the chops (and potential to grow) needed for an actress. Of course, since she is new I was willing to give her some breathing room. That was my opinion going in but that changed by the time it was over. She shined with the pure innocence and even naivety that is Maria. Now she will never out-shine Julie Andrews (who can!) but she knew that so instead of trying to be something she's not, she made the role her own. That is a very important thing to do (and not many actors are smart enough to realize that) especially with iconic roles such as Maria. I believe Carrie Underwood has a bright future with acting, as long as she continues noticing her weaknesses and grows from them.

Then there is the rest of the cast, which most are very experienced in the world of Broadway and acting. Stephen Moyer was fantastic as the Captain Von Trapp. He brought a certain sadness (and even unlikeable attitude) that made him the perfect contrast to the innocence and sweetness of Maria. The children were fantastic as well, all of them relatively newcomers to the world of acting. They all brought their best selves and proved how mature they were by performing live on national television. That was impressive. However, there were some supporting work from the likes of Laura Benanti (Elsa), Christian Borle (Max), and Audra McDonald (Mother Abbess). All of them did great jobs and stole the scene every time one of them were on camera (though McDonald's version of "Climb Every Mountain" stole the entire show).

All-in-all, this was a great onetime event that we will not get again. The entire cast did great jobs, wonderful performers, great direction, and wonderfully authentic Broadway feel. I really do hope live musicals become a new tradition for Holiday seasons to come.

Gravity (2013)
2 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
One of the Best Movies of the Year!, 25 November 2013

In a society where the success of media is determined by how much money is gotten from the overuse of 3D, it can be very refreshing to find a movie that has 3D but does not let it take over. This is probably one of the greatest strengths of "Gravity."

"Gravity" takes place in (you guessed it) space and it surrounds the experiences of two astronauts (Sandra Bullock and George Clooney). When disaster strikes they find themselves stranded in the middle of space and must find a way back to Earth.

Sounds like a simple idea, but that is the genius of it. There is nothing complicated about the story, doesn't try adding some deep message about politics, society, or anything like that. No, the message is skillfully present in the movie without feeling forced because the filmmakers let the story play out. I am sure there was a great temptation to make the moral of the story as obvious as the sun in the middle of the day but they didn't. That alone is worthy of praise.

Another thing worthy of praise must go straight to Alfonso Cuaron. He is without a doubt one of the best directors of our time. He masterfully created a film with spellbinding beauty mixed with awe-inspiring terror. All the while he didn't lose focus of what this story is really about, the will of the human spirit.

Yet much of the credit must go to the leading actors: George Clooney and Sandra Bullock. Both did fantastic jobs but it is Bullock who should get most of the praise. This was definitely her best performance to date. She portrayed the vulnerability, strength, and pure terror of a woman trapped in a situation where hope is gone. Such a role demands an actress in the highest of standards and Bullock proved she was deserving of the role. At this point she is a deadlock for the nomination for best leading actress and I will not be surprised if she wins. She was absolutely phenomenal.

Yet there is one aspect that this film is almost guaranteed to win at the Oscars: special effects. Watching this movie made me feel like I was truly in space and experiencing every feeling these characters were feeling. Rarely have I ever been absolutely star struck by just the visuals of a film. The last time I felt this immersed in a film was when "Avatar" came out but I didn't see that in 3D. I am one who views 3D as nothing but a gimmick. However, when I saw "Gravity" in 3D I knew there was still hope for it. This was one of those rare times where 3D added to the experience of seeing a movie and not detract from it. Absolutely gorgeous movie on every scale.

So in the end, "Gravity" takes a simple idea and shows how sometimes the simplest idea is the better way to go. This was all thanks to masterful direction, fantastic acting, beautiful visuals, and wonderful writing. A great testament to the will of the human spirit; I will not be surprised if it wins Best Picture.

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