The Reel Less Traveled

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For the Kids

With the weather warming, winter doldrums are becoming a distant, unpleasant memory. With sun warming the land, children are . . .  restless. During daylight hours, this may not be that much of a concern, but what about when the sun goes down? This being a movie column, I’m pretty sure you’ve anticipated the point – and you’d be right. On June 14, the City of Orinda is going to begin this year’s Movies in the Park program. Now, to anyone who has not already attended one of these events, I can safely tell you that even though I treat the theater going experience with a high degree of reverence (No Talking During the Movie!), there is something nearly as magical in watching a movie beneath the stars. The park in Orinda, surrounded by trees, with much room and with readily available “conveniences,” is particularly good for this. The overall atmosphere promotes just going out and having a good time. And it doesn’t hurt that the movies chosen are quite good too. In this case, we’re talking about the live action version of Beauty and the Beast (2017). Doubtless many of you have already seen the 1991 animated version, and I can assure you that the memories you have of that landmark film will not at all be diminished by this one. In all fairness, I have to admit that there are certain things that the animated version holds above this one, just as this Beast has highlights that far outshine the 1991 version – not the least of which is Emma Watson’s performance as Belle. Keeping true to the spirit of her other most famous role (Hermione from the Harry Potter films), she plays Belle with determination, more inconvenienced by her travails than fearful of them. Likewise, the musical numbers are better defined here (Be Our Guest is a dazzling treat!) and are made all the better for the supporting cast (Ian McKellen and Emma Thompson, to name a few). All in all, a wonderful time is guaranteed. It will start showing around dusk on June 14 at the park near the Orinda Library. On that very same day, at around that very same time, though, the Orinda Theatre will be showing its usual Free Movie Night movie, Space Jam (1996). In many ways, this was supposed to be a sort of follow-up to Who Framed Roger Rabbit, which was released in 1988 and, indeed, one can clearly see that many of the techniques used in that film were improved upon here. It also has become something of a cult favorite, not solely because of the nostalgia factor, or even the sports factor, but mostly because the website used to promote the film is still fully active (check it out if you don’t believe me)! Revolving around a paper thin, silly plot, involving basketball, of all things, the film features sports superstars Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Charles Barkley and, on the non-basketball side, Bill Murray, not to mention very nearly every Warner Brothers’ cartoon character you can think of – with a couple of new ones (Helloooooo, Lola). It will screen on June 14 at 6:30 p.m. at the Orinda Theatre, and admission is absolutely free. Good luck in deciding which one to go to. I don’t envy you at all in making this tough choice. Going back to the park again, on June 28, you’ll be able to see Gru and his Minions under the stars as Despicable Me 3 shows. I’ve written about this film before so I’ll try not to repeat myself. I will say that the whole Despicable Me series is filled with ready wit, marvelous visuals and top voice talent. Illumination Studios, while no Pixar, has carved out a distinctive place when it comes to the best in CG entertainment – and really, who can resist Minions. It will show in the great outdoors (Orinda Park) on June 28 at dusk. As summer starts, “Remember the Rheem” and stay in the dark for that’s where the reel magic lies.

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