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Almost Famous

Almost Famous is 2000 comedy-drama film written and directed by Cameron Crowe. It’s partially based on Cameron Crowe’s own experiences as a teenaged writer for Rolling Stone. Seems to me that Cameron Crowe is a bit of an overachiever. So I have a confession to make. I saw this movie for the first time a week ago. Every time someone has mentioned this movie, I smiled, nodded my head, and pretended to know what everyone was talking about. A good portion of my life has been a lie. I’m sorry.

But I’ve seen it now. It’s a pretty good movie. I understand why it’s still relevant fifteen years later. Almost Famous tells the story of William Miller (played by Patrick Fugit), a high school student who gets tasked with writing an article for Rolling Stone about a band called Stillwater. Stillwater might be a fictional band, but they still rock hard. William goes on tour with the band, while forming a friendship with Penny Lane (played by Kate Hudson in her breakout role), a groupie with a heart of gold, and an uneasy alliance with the various members of Stillwater.

It’s a coming of age story. William learns about life and love, he loses his virginity, and he finds himself. It’s a period piece set in 1973 but it doesn’t feel dated. It has a great soundtrack, filled with tons of real classic rock songs and pseudo classic rock songs written for the movie. It features the best use of Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer” ever put on film. The cast includes a bunch of A-listers before they were super famous like Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Billy Crudup, Frances McDormand, Jason Lee, Zooey Deschanel, Anna Deschanel, Jimmy Fallon, and Rainn Wilson just to name a few.

The movie has a nice pace in the beginning, but it starts to drag along towards the end. It could have been thirty minutes shorter. They should have skipped most of the stuff that happens after they all sing “Tiny Dancer.” The plot fizzles out and loses momentum. It’s still good though. I would recommend that you watch it if you haven’t yet. Better late than never.

Critically Rated at 13/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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The Lion King

The Lion King is one of the best animated films of all time. It is Disney’s best Pixar-less movie. It’s about a lion named Simba, and Simba is in line to be the king of the Pride Lands. Instead his uncle murders his father and takes over the throne. Simba must avenge his father and assume the throne, but first he runs away to live with a warthog and a meerkat and eat bugs.

The story starts with Mufasa and Sarabi celebrating the birth of their baby by having a monkey dangle him from a high rock over hundreds of wild animals. The baby is Simba, and one day he will be the Lion King, but for now he’s just a curious cub. He spends his days frolicking with and getting beat up by his friend Nala. His uncle is evil and wants to be king. His name is Scar and he has a scar. The writers either ran out of African names to use or just got really lazy. Either way, Scar keeps trying to kill Simba and/or Mufasa (whichever comes first). One day, after Simba and Nala barely escape Scar’s hyena henchmen, Mufasa tells him about the circle of life, how one day he will die and Simba will become king, and a bunch of other life lessons.

Scar eventually succeeds in killing Mufasa, and he makes Simba think that it was his fault. Simba decides to run away instead of dealing with his problems. Simba almost dies but he gets saved by Timon and Pumba. Timon is a sarcastic meerkat and Pumba is a stupid, smelly warthog. They decide to take in Simba and they teach him about Hakuna Matata and how to live a carefree life.

Simba grows up with them, but he can’t forget his past. One day, his old pal Nala shows up on their turf looking for food. Simba and Nala are ecstatic to see each other again and sparks fly. Nala is surprised to learn that Simba is still alive, and Simba is surprised to learn that Scar has taken over the throne and the kingdom is suffering. Nala tells Simba to get his shit together and claim the crown that’s rightfully his. Simba still thinks that he killed his dad and doesn’t want to go back and deal with his inner demons.

But then he talks to a monkey and a cloud that looks and sounds like his dead dad and he decides to go back. Timon and Pumba decide they have to help their friend and they hitch a ride back with Nala.

Simba confronts Scar and finds out the truth about Scar killing his dad and Simba learns it wasn’t his fault. Stuff happens and Simba emerges victorious and becomes the Lion King. And then he and Nala have a baby lion and the circle of life goes on.

If you haven’t seen The Lion King in a while, it’s worth revisiting. The plot is clichéd and tired and not at all unique. But it’s the characters and the dialog and the songs that make this a classic. The opening sequence sucks you in, and you know that you’re going to experience something special in this film. There are a lot of animal puns hidden in the dialog and song lyrics. Tim Rice and Elton John’s songs are great and enhance the movie, along with Hans Zimmer’s score.

The voice cast is pretty impressive. Jonathan Taylor Thomas and Matthew Broderick play young and old Simba. James Earl Jones plays Mufasa, Rowan Atkinson (A.K.A. Mr. Bean) plays Zazu, Jeremy Irons plays Scar, Nathan Lane and Ernie Sabella play Timon and Pumba, and Cheech Marin and Whoopi Goldberg play hyenas. They originally wanted Tommy Chong to play one of the hyenas. Cheech and Chong in a Disney movie? There would have been way more jokes about the grasslands, that’s for sure. We missed out.

This is an awesome movie and it’s like a time machine that takes you back to when you used to watch it as a kid. You remember where you watched it, who you watched it with, you remember singing those damn songs, and trying not to cry when Mufasa dies.

This movie doesn’t have a great story. But it has great moments. It has great music. It has a great cast. It has great visuals. When you add those attributes up, it makes The Lion King better than what it should be. It’s now one of those movies that you have to see. If you haven’t seen The Lion King people look at you funny. No childhood is complete without seeing this movie. If you haven’t seen it by this point, you are probably going out of your way to avoid it, and that’s sad because you deserve a childhood.

Critically Rated at 16/17

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