The Sound of Music

  • Title: The Sound of  Music
  • Director:  Robert Wise
  • Date:  1965
  • Studio:  20th Century Fox
  • Genre:  Musical, Romance
  • Cast:  Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer, Angela Cartwright
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen (70mm film)
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“Fraulein, were you this much trouble at the abbey?”  – Capt Georg von Trapp
“Oh, much more, sir.” — Maria

“Activity suggests a life filled with purpose.” – Capt. von Trapp

“Maybe the flag with the black spider makes people nervous.” – Greta

The Sound of  Music is a big showy musical film, which appears to be shot at least partially on location rather than being studio-bound, like most MGM musicals.  However, it is also long, at least three hours. When the intermission card came up, I was ready for the film to be over.  Yet, despite it’s length, The Sound of Music is a good film, and one that many consider a classic.

Julie Andrews is Maria, a young noviate at a convent — it’s clear to the Mother Superior and other nuns, that, while she is likable, Maria is not quite nun material, so the Mother Superior suggests she at least attempt to make her way in the world before returning to the abbey to take her vows.  Not quite ready to put the young woman out on the street with nothing but the clothes on her back, the Mother Superior sends her to Capt. von Trapp to become governess to his seven children.

A widower, Capt. von Trapp has become increasingly cold and withdrawn since the death of his wife. This is shown with the scene where he introduces the seven children to Maria by blowing their call signs on a whistle.  Maria finds this ridiculous.  The Captain then criticizes Maria’s clothes.  When she tells him she doesn’t have any others, she gave hers away when she went into the convent, he buys her fabrics to make new dresses.  He also has new drapes put in her room in his villa (it’s a small castle).  She takes the old fabric and makes play clothes for the children.

Soon Maria becomes the best governess the children have ever had, taking them on field trips and teaching them to sing.  At first, stern Capt. von Trapp is appalled at Maria’s light-hearted way, but eventually she draws him in too.  However, he’s seeing Baroness Elsa, a cold-hearted widow.  At first, it seems like the Captain and the Baroness are a perfect couple, but eventually it’s clear that he belongs with Maria.

Eventually, Elsa breaks off her engagement with Capt von Trapp, as she realizes she’s just not capable of being a mother of seven.  Capt. von Trapp then immediately proposes to Maria, they marry and leave for their month-long honeymoon, leaving the children in the care of “Uncle Max”.  The Captain and Maria return to discover that the Captain’s beloved Austria has been annexed by Germany.  Not only that, but he is ordered to report to a naval base and become an officer in the German Navy.  Capt. von Trapp would literally rather die, and he and Maria plot their escape.

Here, Max comes to the rescue — the von Trapp Family Singers will sing in the Salzburg Folk Festival, something the Captain had been against, and their escape will be arranged after the performance.  The plot eventually works, they escape, hide in the abbey, then go first by car, then by foot through the mountains and into Switzerland.

List of  Musical Numbers

  • The Sound of  Music
  • How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?
  • When You’re 16, Going on 17
  • My Favorite Things
  • Doe a Deer / Do Re Mi
  • The Lonely Goatherd (during the children’s puppet show)
  • Edelweiss
  • So Long, Fare Well, Auf  Wiedersehen, Goodnight
  • The Sound of Music (reprise, slower version)
  • My Favorite Things (reprise)
  • I Must Have Done Something Good
  • How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria? (reprise)
  • When You’re 16, Going on 17 (reprise)
  • Doe a Deer / Do Re Mi (at the folk concert, reprise)
  • Edelweiss (at the folk concert, reprise)
  • So Long, Fare Well, Auf Wiedersehen, Goodnight  (at the folk concert, reprise)
The good things about The Sound of  Music — the full frame (though widescreen) filming of  the singing and the few dance numbers (“When You’re 16, Going on 17” and the folk dance Maria and the Captain dance together during his grand party) is very nice, though the dances aren’t as complex as either a Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers musical or many other MGM musicals.  The location filming is gorgeous — and it’s nice to see a musical that isn’t so studio-bound.  However, the film is overly long.  The second half (post the intermission card) does actually move faster, and I’m not sure what I’d cut if I was the editor (well, yes I do — I’d dump a lot of the montages between Maria and the children and show more concrete examples of how she reaches them).  Anyway, over three hours is really pushing it for a musical.
Recommendation:  See it, at least once, it is a classic
Rating: 3.8
Next Film:  Spaceballs

Shrek Forever After

  • Title:  Shrek Forever After
  • Director:  Mike Mitchell
  • Date:  2010
  • Studio:  Dreamworks
  • Genre:  Animation, Romance, Comedy, Musical
  • Cast:  Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, Antonio Banderes, Julie Andrews, John Cleese
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen Animation
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“You have three beautiful children, a wife who loves you, friends who adore you, you have everything.  Why is it that the only person who can’t see that – is you?”  — Fiona

I bought the Shrek films in a complete set, and it turns out the only one I hadn’t seen was this one, the fourth and final Shrek film.  This time around, Shrek goes through a mid-life crisis, fearing he has lost his “roar”.  He makes a deal with Rumplestilskin to have one day as an fierce ogre again in return for giving up one day of his own life.  However, Rumplestilskin takes the day Shrek was born, creating a weird alternate universe where Fiona’s parents no longer exist, Rumplestilskin rules Far Far Away with an Iron Fist and the help of a troop of evil witches, and Fiona Warrior Princess leads a band of less than successful ogre rebels.  Donkey pulls a wagon for a pair of evil witches, meanwhile Puss-in-Boots no longer wears his boots and hat, no longer fights, and has gotten very over weight.  Moreover, since Shrek was never born, after 24 hours he will cease to exist, making all the changes permanent.  It’s sort of Shrek does “It’s a Wonderful Life”.

However, I still enjoyed this film.  Overall, the first film is the best, but all four, including this one, manage to keep the characters in character and true to themselves.  Even the alternate universe Fiona, Donkey, and Puss, all ring true to themselves.

Shrek discovers that if Fiona experiences “True Love’s Kiss” her curse will be broken, and Shrek also will be freed from his contract with Rumplestilskin.  However, when Shrek finally kisses her — she hasn’t fallen in love with him.  However, never fear, the film has a happy ending, and Fiona kisses Shrek a second time, having fallen for him, she and everyone else is returned to the birthday party that Shrek had stormed out of.  The ending credit music is, “I’m a Believer”, as in the first film.  This is found by a montage of “best of” scenes from all four films.

Again, I enjoyed the film.  This time the theme is more about being grateful for what you have, rather than themes of self-acceptance,  but it’s still a well-thought out movie.

Recommendation:  See it!  May as well complete the set.
Rating:  3.8 out of  5 Stars
Next Film:  Singin’ in the Rain

Shrek the Third

  • Title:  Shrek the Third
  • Director:  Chris Miller
  • Date:  2007
  • Studio:  Dreamworks
  • Genre:  Comedy, Romance, Musical, Animation
  • Cast:  Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, Antonio Banderas, Julie Andrews, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Justin Timberlake
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen Animation
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“I know what it’s like to not feel ready for something.  Even ogres get scared, you know, once in awhile.”  — Shrek

“OK, girls, from here on out, we’re gonna’ take care of business ourselves.” — Fiona

In the third Shrek installment, Fiona’s father, the King, dies, and leaves Shrek as his heir.  But Shrek isn’t ready, and thinks the kingdom won’t accept an ogre as king — until he finds out, on the king’s deathbed, that there is another heir, Arthur.

Shrek decides to go with Donkey and Puss-in-Boots to find this lost heir.  Just before he leaves, Fiona tells him she’s pregnant.  Shrek is nervous and slightly terrified at the prospect of becoming a father.

Meanwhile, all the princesses and her mother give Fiona a baby shower.  This is thankfully interrupted by Prince Charming, who has gathered all the evil-doers in Far Far Away to attack the castle.  Charming, a frustrated actor who was failing at dinner theatre, is still trying to impress his mother, Fairy Godmother, by becoming king and taking over the kingdom.

Although Fiona, the Queen, and the princesses initially escape, they are betrayed by Rapunzel (who has made a deal with Charming to become his wife and defacto queen of Far Far Away).  Once in a dungeon room, the princesses (Snow White, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty) all announce they will wait to be rescued.  Fiona thinks they should rescue themselves, but isn’t sure how.  The Queen breaks them out of the dungeon cell — and Fiona liberates the Princesses.  I loved this scene, especially the bra burning. The Princesses, the Queen, and Fiona then attack the castle to rescue Shrek, and defeat Prince Charming.

However, during the final conflict at Charming’s show (a play starring Charming and Rapunzel in which Charming defeats Shrek and wins the Princess), Shrek and Arthur convince all the villains they should be who they want to be, and fulfill their dreams.  Charming, however, is not taken in by this – as all he wants is control of the kingdom.  Shrek and Artie manage to defeat Charming.

Instead of the big musical number to end the film, this one has a montage of Shrek and Fiona as new parents to three little ogres.

Overall, I really liked the Liberation of the Princesses part of this film (including the combat montage to “Barracuda”; the second plotline — Shrek and Donkey (with Puss-in-Boots) on yet another quest to a distant land felt like it had been done.  Charming’s rousing of the villains was interesting – but by the end of the film I actually felt kinda’ sorry for Charming.  I think the film could have done a better job of  being fair to his character — he almost became a cardboard villain so to speak.  Also, with a lost boy king named Arthur, I expected Arthurian/Holy Grail/etc type gags, but other than a psychedelic Merlin the film completely ignored that opportunity.

There also isn’t as much in the way of  sight gags and verbal wordplay as their has been in the previous two films.

Recommendation:  See it
Rating:  3.5 out of 5 Stars
Next Film:  Shrek Forever After

Shrek 2

  • Title:  Shrek 2
  • Director:  Andrew Adamson, Kelly Asbury, Conrad Vernon
  • Date:  2004
  • Studio:  Dreamworks Pictures
  • Genre:  Animation, Musical, Romance, Comedy
  • Cast:  Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, Julie Andrews, Antonio Banderas, John Cleese, Jennifer Saunders
  • Format:  Widescreen, Color Animation
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“Stop!  I have misjudged you!” — Puss-in-Boots
“Join the club — we have jackets.”  — Shrek
“On my honor, I am obliged to accompany you until I have saved your life and you have spared me mine.” — Puss-in-Boots
“I’m sorry, the position of annoying talking animal has already been taken.”  — Donkey

In the second Shrek movie, Fiona and Shrek return from their honeymoon to an invitation from Fiona’s parents to go visit them in Fiona’s home kingdom of Far Far Away.  Fiona thinks this is a great idea and is sure her parents will love Shrek.  Shrek is considerably less sure, and is convinced meeting his in-laws will be a disaster.  They make the long and boring trip to Far Far Away (depicted as Hollywood) only to have the King and Queen be shocked that Fiona has married an ogre, especially the king.  Fairy Godmother, meanwhile, a conniving woman, plots to get her son, the swarmy mama’s boy, Prince Charming married to Fiona, as the King had promised.

This round, it’s Shrek’s turn to show his insecurities, especially about his looks as an ogre.  He takes a potion which turns he and Fiona human (and Donkey into a white horse).  Fairy Godmother and the King try to get Fiona to fall for Charming, but in the end — she tells Shrek she loves him.  And she wants to be with the ogre of her dreams.

Like the first Shrek film, Shrek 2 is filled with great sight gags, inside jokes, word play, and reversals of typical Disney-style fairy tales.  It also pokes fun at the Hollywood Fairy Tale as well.  Puss-in-Boots, voiced by Antonio Banderas is a great addition to the cast.  And, like the first film, the music is great (particularly Fairy Godmother belting out a jazzy rendition of  “Holding Out for a Hero”).

Recommendation:  See it!
Rating:  4 of 5 Stars
Next Film:  Shrek The Third

Mary Poppins

  • Title:  Mary Poppins
  • Director:  Robert Stevenson
  • Date: 1964
  • Studio:  Disney
  • Genre:  Musical, Children
  • Cast:  Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke, David Tomlinson, Glynis Johns, Hermoine Baddeley, Reta Shaw, Karen Dotrice, Matthew Garber 
  • Format:  Technicolor, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC (40th Anniversary 2-disc ed)

Kindly do not attempt to cloud the issue with facts. — George Banks

“As I expected:  ‘Mary Poppins, practically perfect in every way.’ ” — Mary Poppins

“I never explain anything.”  — Mary Poppins

“You know, begging you pardon, but the one my heart goes out to is your father. There he is in that cold, heartless bank day after day, hemmed in by mounds of cold, heartless money. I don’t like to see any living thing caged up.”  — Bert
“Father? In a cage?”  — Jane
“They makes cages in all sizes and shapes, you know. Bank-shaped, some of ’em, carpets and all.” –Bert

Mary Poppins is a wonderfully inventive film made for children but that the entire family can still enjoy.  The animation looks a bit flat by today’s standards, however the film’s music and storyline still hold up.  Set in 1910, Mr. Banks is a banker with two children and a wife.  His wife is involved in the Suffragette movement (to give women the right to vote).  It’s implied the children are holy terrors — the Banks have fired six nannies in four months. However, Mary Poppins shows up and takes the children through a series of adventures, with her friend, Bert – a Cockney who makes money any way he can (as a one-man band, painting chalk drawings on the sidewalk, selling roasted chestnuts, even as a chimney sweep).  But it’s Mary’s ability to loosen up the stiff, cold, and indifferent Mr. Banks and bring him closer to his own children that is at the heart of this film.

Though largely live-action, with plenty of special effects, the entire section where Mary, Bert, and the children jump through a chalk drawing and have adventures in a park is animated.  This is classic Disney animation, and the technique of combining animation with live action was new when the film was made.  It does look a bit dated now, but the dances, music, and even excitement of things such as the horse race, or Mary and Bert being carried across the animated river by animated turtles still work.

This film is also filled with music, song, and dance  — and contains some of Disney’s best songs:  “A Spoonful of Sugar”, “Chim-Chim Cheree”, and “Supercallifragilisticexpialidocious! — all of which I knew as a child and can still sing along to and even recite.  (I still have all of “Supercallifragilisticexpialidocious!” memorized!)

Please note in the list below I am not including a single line or two of a main song repeated later.

List of Songs and Musical Numbers

  • Sister Suffragettes — Mrs. Banks
  • The Age of Men/Banks Schedule — Mr. Banks
  • The Nanny Song (a desperate advertisement) — Jane and Michael Banks
  • A Spoonful of Sugar — Mary Poppins
  • Chim Chim Cheree — Bert
  • Jolly Holiday (with Mary) — Bert, Mary
  • Supercallifragilisticexpialidocious! — Mary, Bert, Ensemble
  • Stay Awake (a lullaby) — Mary
  • I Love to Laugh — Ed Wynn
  • Feed the Birds (Tuppence a Bag) — Mary
  • Investing in the Bank / Interest — The Bankers
  • Chim Chim Cheeree — Bert
  • Step in Time — Bert, Ensemble
  • Let’s Go Fly a Kite — Mr. Banks

Again a wonderful film, especially for children.

Oh, and I should say that I am aware that the life of chimney sweeps and the children they used was not a good one, and also that Suffragettes were treated horribly, often force-fed and jailed, but that still doesn’t stop this from being a good fantasy film.  However, I do find it amusing that Disney cleaned-up the old British saying, that “it’s good luck to kiss a chimney sweep”, changing it to “good luck will rub off if I shake-hands with you.”

Recommendation:  See it!
Rating:   4 of 5 Stars
Next Film:  Master and Commander:  The Far Side of the World