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Cyrano |2021

Summary: This is a romantic historical musical version of the same classic story made completely attainable by Steve Martin’s modern take with Roxanne (1987). Whether or not the music is part of what you enjoy about this version, that’s up to you. I don’t want to talk it down just because I found half the singing appealing and the other half… not. Dinklage isn’t awful as a singer, he’s adequate, just not vocally impressive. His strengths lie elsewhere.

Recommendation: Bennett! Now there’s a voice to like and follow. Every note is a pleasure and the lyrics are (sometimes) clever. But the passion and verve and absurd humor Dinklage can produce is amazing – that’s what you watch for, not only the sets and costumes and choreography (which are spectacular). The fast-paced dialogue is well executed even if the attempt to make it feel organic and first-time-uttered kind of flopped – viewers can detect the practice that MUST have gone into the scenes and you shouldn’t care a whit, it’s amazing. Yet there are moments that are hard to believe (or impossible to suspend one’s disbelief around), like the age difference between the two main actors. Bennett already looks younger than her actual age; Dinklage is nearly twenty years her senior. Claiming that they grew up together in the same neighborhood as kids is rather impossible.

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Aliens | 1986

Summary: The original movie Alien from 1979 was the start of a franchise that is still reworked and utilized more than 40 years later. Aliens from 1986 is the continuation and fleshing out of the story of Ellen Ripley, the lone (human) survivor from the investigative visit to LV-426 of more than 50 years ago when she wakes up upon rescue. She is discovered to be more than her job position, more than a grunt worker with a mouth. She’s been terrorized, betrayed, lost/forgotten, and, upon awakening, feels undervalued and disregarded. She’s dealing with her psychosis the best she can, especially considering everything of value and familiarity to her is gone (except Jonesy, the luckiest cat in the universe).

Recommendation: The best moments in this sequel aren’t the gunfire or crude Space-Marine humor or even the sweaty chase scenes through Alien-rosin decorated corridors, though each of these has a place in my heart. It’s Ripley’s development – she has to start caring about something other than Jonesy again, and it is painful to contemplate after all her losses. But she brings herself (screaming) to taking part in the mission to find the now-silent colonists on LV-426 because they don’t deserve what she went through – nobody does. And she proves time after time that she’s not some exclusive princess being catered to by the corporate shill. She’s the ultimate survivor and her resilience, while not stress-free, can teach others how to survive what comes next. If you have any opportunity to see the extended version or cut scenes added back in, WATCH THEM. Ripley makes so much more sense throughout her second incarnation with all the emotional info available.

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Encanto | 2021

Summary: Disney has another winner – this story starts off about family, how the odd duck doesn’t fit in (in fact, she gets in the way a lot), moves through rumors and whispers to the mysterious happenings a while back, and reveals the vulnerabilities of each character without making them feel two-dimensional. Mirabel is the least useful/magical of her tribe and doesn’t know why she’s different. Her feelings are valid and normal for the situation as her younger cousin attains his ‘gift’ from the miracle candle and she is overshadowed. She doesn’t take up action for selfish reasons – she is determined to protect her home and family from the threat of destruction even when she doesn’t have any gifts or magic powers herself.

Recommendation: It’s a great piece of entertainment – the music doesn’t stop playing inside my head and I love it still. The color palette used, the movement and action, the dancing, the cultural references and food and teasing between family members… it’s all glorious and well-done with a lovely story that you almost forget is happening in the background. Mismanagement of emotions and blame have weakened the family ties over generations. Truth, acceptance, forgiveness, and reconciliation bloom before the last song plays, leaving all the family members healthier and more open to each other. As a character study, no one is the bad guy and they all improve.

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Smithton Public Library

The Smithton Public Library District is located in southern Illinois, near St. Louis, MO. The library serves nearly 5,000 residents. We hope you visit us soon!