Movie Review: Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium

“Your life is an occasion, rise to it.”

One of my favorite movies as a child was Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory starring Gene Wilder. I was fascinated by the colorful factory and by the thought of being Charlie and being able to inherit the factory. As I’ve grown older my love for this movie has stayed with me and I now love it for the heart shown in the ending and also for the quick-fire, witty dialogue delivered by Gene Wilder and all of his subtle humor. To me, this movie has all of the ingredients of a film that should be loved by children and adults for years and years to come.

I couldn’t help thinking about Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory as I sat in the theater watching Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium. Initially, I wasn’t very interested in seeing this movie. The thought of Dustin Hoffman trying to be a light and bubbly toymaker didn’t do a whole lot for me. But as soon as he appeared on the screen I realized that he wasn’t playing Dustin Hoffman as a light and bubbly toymaker, he was playing Ed Wynn as a light and bubbly toymaker—and that made all the difference. Most people will probably remember Ed Wynn as the eccentric Uncle Albert in Disney’s Mary Poppins, or as the voice of the Mad Hatter in Disney’s Alice in Wonderland.

Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium is about Molly Mahoney, Played by Natalie Portman, who is at a crossroads of her life because after years of working as the manager of a magical toy store, she’s feeling at a loss for finding the magic inside herself. As a child prodigy pianist, she’s frustrated that she can’t find the inspiration to create her own musical masterpieces. So she decides to leave the toys store to pursue her music just as Mr. Magorium announces that after over 200 years of life, he’s ready to depart and will be leaving the Wonder Emporium to Molly.

What follows is a wonderful story about finding wonder inside yourself, living life with no regrets, and finding fun in everything you do. Of course, that’s what I got out of the movie, I’m sure there may be different lessons for you.

When I first saw this movie advertised, I assumed it was based on a classic children’s book that I had only vaguely heard of like so many family movies are these days. I was very surprised when I saw that this movie was written and directed by Zach Helm only, and wasn’t based on anything. Helm has a modest list of credits on which include writing Stranger Than Fiction, starring Will Ferrell—a rather unusual movie that I really enjoyed. It’s nice to see such a creative and imaginative writer and director and I’ll be sure to watch for anything else with Zach Helm in the credits.

Whether it’s because I was thoroughly enjoying the movie or if it was actually flawed I’m not sure, but when it came time for Mr. Magorium and the Wonder Emporium to end, I wasn’t ready. Sometimes movies end too quickly after the climax and I regret that more time wasn’t taking to wrap things up. That’s really the only complaint I have with this film. There were many things that I was hoping to see wrapped up that weren’t. All I can hope is that this is a story that will have a next chapter.

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TV Review: Journeyman

Topping off the hero sandwich that makes up just about the most perfect night of television is Journeyman on NBC, Mondays at 10:00 (PST). At first, one might think that this is a re-imagining of the NBC show from years back, Quantum Leap. I’ll admit, it has it’s similarities, but the major and most important difference is that our hero Dan Vassar, played by Kevin McKidd, is attempting to have a normal life with a wife and kid as he uncontrollably jumps away on time-traveling trips.

It’s the uncontrollable nature of his traveling that makes for some of the most interesting drama on the show. In the first episode he was able to provide some proof to his wife Katie, played by Gretchen Egolf, that his time-traveling tales are true, but that still doesn’t make it easy when he jumps away on one of his trips in the middle of an airplane ride, or on the way to one of his wife’s black tie functions.

The more Dan travels back into the past, the more determined he’s becoming to try to help people. As we saw in last night’s episode, “Emily,” he was feeling committed to helping the title character, but he also felt a need to see some justice done to one of her tormenters. As he did so, his ex-fiancee/co-time-traveler, Livia, played by Moon Bloodgood, warns him not to stray too far off track, because sometimes that can lead to disaster.

(SPOILER) Dan feels vindicated when he learns that his actions had brought justice to the man who had abused, but then he quickly realizes that by making sure the bad guy got caught, he had changed the timeline and in doing so took away an event that was helping his disbelieving brother believe Dan’s time-traveling stories.

From the previews of next week’s episode, “Blowback,” we also see that the man that Dan was instrumental in locking up in prison is out and has tracked down Dan and his family. It looks to be an exciting installment in this show that keeps getting better every week.

My only complaint about Journeyman is the fact that it was relatively easy for him to prove to his wife that his time-traveling problem was real, but he rarely, if ever makes any attempt to prove what he’s saying is true to his brother, Jack, played by Reed Diamond. While it makes for an interesting plot device to have this conflict between the two brothers, sometimes it seems a bit too obvious that if he just made a little effort, he could have his brother on his side, which would provide a valuable asset.

All in all, in this age of excellent television, Journeyman ranks up there with the best of the new shows this season and is definitely worth checking out!

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Movie Review: Spider-man 3

>“This suit, where’d this come from? The power, feels good… But you lose yourself to it… “

When I was in high school, Spider-man was the comic series that I read the most. I loved how Peter Parker was just this awkward young guy who just happened to have this super secret identity—in a sense it gave me hope to face my own awkwardness. When the movie franchise started a few years ago I was thrilled with the result. The director of all of the Spider-man films, Sam Raimi, has been able to give the movies the right balance of humor and stylized film making that has made it possible for a guy clad in blue and red tights not to look ridiculous.

Now that we’re on the third installment, the series is becoming quite comfortable with it’s characters and storytelling. As I was watching, it struck me how much like a continuing series on television this franchise was becoming, and in light of shows like Lost and Heroes, I think a TV show about an established super hero would do very well. So it was with that thought it mind that I started evaluating Spider-man 3.

As part of a continuing series, I thought this “episode” fit in very well. We’re continuing the personal relation ship drama that Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) is having with Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst) and Harry Osborn (James Franco). We’re seeing characters show up that are important in the comic books like Dr. Curt Connors (Dylan Baker) who eventually becomes The Lizard and Gwen Stacy (Bryce Dallas Howard) who fills her comic book role of being a love interest in a romantic triangle with Peter and Mary Jane.

There were problems, however, when I began thinking of this movie as a stand-alone story. My biggest problem with it was a storyline involving Harry Osborn following in his dad’s footsteps as The New Goblin. I’ll try not to give away too much, but let me just say there’s a short-lived change of heart that does nothing more than take up time in the story because by the time the climax to the movie happens, they had ended up at the same stage the began at.

The other problem that I had with this installment is the fact that there were 3 villains in this movie. I thought we’d learned years ago in Batman Returns that when you try to cram too many villains into a 2 hour movie, someone besides the hero gets the shaft—the audience. As a childhood fan of the Spider-man series, I was really excited to see the Venom villain realized on film and I felt a bit disappointed at how lightly that character was handled.

Will all of this being said, I don’t want anyone to think that I didn’t like this movie—there are many things to love about this film! It has a great message. In addition to the standard themes of “with great power comes great responsibility” and putting the needs and safety of others above your own personal satisfaction, there’s an additional message to this movie that we all of the potential for good or evil in our lives, and it’s up to us to choose.

All in all, I would recommend this movie. It might not be the best of the series, but it definitely fits in well will the overall story of the trilogy and I for one hope that this is a series that’s nowhere near finished running its course.

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