Title: Happy Feet
Directors: George Millar
Notable Actors: Elijah Wood, Brittany Murphy, Robin Williams, Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman
Age Group: All Ages
What It's About: Before Mumble hatched, his father dropped his egg in the snow. That's what he blames Mumble's oddities on — his inability to sing, his constant toe-tapping... it's just not penguin, and the Elders say that's why the fish are disappearing. Mumble has to prove them wrong.
Why VZG Recommends It: Happy Feet is one of those movies you see as something for kids at first, but it's definitely entertaining for adults, too. It's not even just because it takes great songs like Queen's Somebody to Love and Stevie Wonder's I Wish and puts them into the beaks of penguins, though that certainly got my blood pumping. I had a grin plastered across my face throughout the movie, and it got the honor of being one of those movies I see multiple times in theaters.
And Robin Williams? This is the Robin Williams I loved as a kid. This is the one who brought energy to the Genie in Disney's Aladdin and to Battty Koda in FernGully: The Last Rainforest. He does two voices in Happy Feet, but while his work as Lovelace is good, it's as the little Adelie Penguin Ramón that he adds just the right amount of spice to the movie. He sings My Way surprisingly well, too — mostly in Spanish.
The film has an environmentalism flavor to it, too — enough of one that Steve Irwin contributed a voice to it in a very minor role before his passing. I think he would have been proud of it.
Title: Little Miss Sunshine
Directors: Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris
Notable Actors: Abigail Breslin, Greg Kinnear, Paul Dano, Alan Arkin, Toni Collette, Steve Carell
Age Group: Older Teens and Up [language, discussions of suicide]
What It's About: Who says you can't be a beauty queen just because you've got big glasses, a little extra weight, and one of the world's most dysfunctional families?
Why VZG Recommends It: It's a feel-good movie in a way you wouldn't think a movie could be. The grandfather does heroin, the uncle is suicidal, the father can't sell a book, the brother hates everyone, and the mother can't keep everyone together. But Olive loves them all anyway, and it's hard not to love her back.
I went to see this on an off-hand recommendation from a professor. I laughed, and I absolutely loved the characters. The situations were just so desperately hopeless, made more so by the realistic malfunctions of each character. My favorite among them was Frank, played by Steve Carell, a Marcel Proust scholar who lost his job, love, and position as most prominent scholar to another. His outlook on everything is dry and intellectual, but in spite of everything he can still laugh at himself as he pushes a Volkswagen along with his sister's family. He's the backup reassurance, the reality after Olive opens everyone up with her innocence.
Not that all the characters don't have some flavor of awesome, though some have greater faults — or, at least, more grating ones.
In any case, it will make you laugh, and you'll walk away feeling good.
Title: Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pals
Author: Christopher Moore
Age Group: Older Teens and Up [sex, language]
What It's About: You thought you knew everything you needed to know about the life of Jesus Christ, didn't you? Well, you haven't heard the story from his best friend Levi -- better known as Biff -- yet.
Why VZG Recommends It: Lamb is spectacularly hilarious for those who don't take their religion too seriously (or who aren't Christians, Jews, or Muslims, possibly). While it certainly doesn't seek to slander the name of Jesus in any way, it does take some liberties with the content of the Bible. This is just an extra spice for those of us who like the spirituality and comfort that can come with religion, but think the rules are too constricting for a human world at the same time.
You can join Levi bar Alphaeus, known more commonly as "Biff" for the sound made by his mother's hand meeting his head, as he dedicatedly follows Joshua bar Joseph, the messiah, farther than he ever thought he would go. From their first meeting, at which point Joshua had a lizard hanging out of his mouth, to the end of Joshua's life, Biff is never far from his side. This character is the perfect addition to the story: Biff is foul-mouthed and sex-obsessed. His manners are lacking, and his curiousity doesn't always lead him in a good direction. He'd rather find a shortcut than do things the right way, and would rather run and save his own hide than risk himself to save others. Still, Joshua cannot help but love him, and despite all the rules regarding religion that Biff finds himself unable to follow, he cannot help but love Joshua.
Neither can help but love Maggie, or Mary of Magdala (Mary Magdalene), either. She, too, takes a part in this novel, as do many other figures those even remotely familiar with the Bible will recognize. Other religions come into play as well as the duo travels as far as China and India.
Simply said: My friends loved it, my teachers loved it, and my father loved it. Anything they can all agree on has to be good.
Hey! I'm vzg. I recommend things.
Am I an expert? No. Are my opinions worth anything? Not really. Am I forcing you to read these? Absolutely not. Do I hope you'll find something that piques your interest among my recommendations? Of course.
I will be liberally applying opinions throughout my recommendations. When possible, I will include quotes/passages from the recommendation. Most of what I recommend will be that which I have previously recommended to friends, family, and even teachers or random internet communities or acquaintances with positive feedback. You might have already heard of that which I recommend, but I will try not to recommend too many big-name things like Harry Potter or Lost (though I may make a separate list for popular recommendations later on, so you can compare your interests to help determine if they're enough like yours for my recommendations to mean anything).
I will use tags to sort the various types of recommendations. Here they are:
BOOKS, COMICS, MOVIES, TELEVISION