Movie Review: The Incredibles 2

Incredibles 2

Yet another animated sequel that fails to live up to the original.


Let me tell you a little secret: I’m really not a huge fan of sequels, especially for animated kids movies. Even Pixar sequels let me down. In my opinion, the only ones to get it completely right were the Toy Story sequels, which are even better than the original movie. But from the train wreck that was Cars 2 to the off-the-wall prequel Monster’s University to the honestly-kinda-boring-and-annoying Finding Dory, the best I’ve really been able to say about Pixar’s other sequels is that they’re not terrible. Maybe I’m nostalgic, or maybe I’m thinking to hard about films that are made and marketed for kids, but it really doesn’t seem like Pixar’s sequels have been living up to the quality of the original films.

I love The Incredibles. Even though it is now fourteen years old, it still holds up as a beautiful piece of animation, writing, and entertainment. It really didn’t need a sequel (and neither did Finding Nemo, for that matter. Or Cars. Or Monsters Inc.) It stood perfectly well on its own. It never felt forced to be funny or forced to be dramatic and intense. Even though it dealt with some dark ideas (there’s one particular scene where Elasta Girl tells her kids that these villains they’re dealing with aren’t like the ones on Saturday morning cartoons: they will shoot to kill) it’s still a kid’s movie, and a good kid’s movie. It never becomes goofy or dumbed down because ‘maybe the kids won’t get it’.

Unfortunately, a lot of the things the original Incredibles did right are done totally wrong by the sequel. I expected it to be set at least several years after the events of the first film, but it’s actually an immediate sequel that starts off about five minutes after the end of the first movie. This doesn’t automatically mean it’s bad, but it seemed like a very odd choice. There are so many stories that could be told with these awesome characters. Honestly, we didn’t need to see the outcome of the battle with the Underminer. While it wasn’t stated explicitly at the end of the first movie, it was definitely implied that the Incredibles were up to the task of defeating him, and it was a kind of boring way to start off a kind of boring movie.

While there are definitely laugh out loud moments in The Incredibles 2, that’s pretty much all there is. There was none of the seriousness or heart of the first film, just joke after joke after joke, to the point that it felt more like a Dreamworks sequel than a Pixar film. A lot of the conflict between characters was formulaic, to the point that I could predict which characters were going to have some kind of falling out with each other. The big reveal of the main villain is also very heavily foreshadowed and easy to predict. Figuring out who the villain is isn’t always a bad thing, but in this case the fact that I’d figured it out seemed more due to lazy writing than to any intelligence on my part. The whole thing felt disjointed, and character growth, while present, was stunted and choppy at best, and lazily written at worst.

The Incredibles 2 definitely failed to live up to its predecessor. While it’s not a bad movie, and all of the animation, voice work, and music is extremely well done, it lacks heart and fails to deliver any kind of emotional punch; just a few empty laughs with our old favorite characters, and a whole lot of formulaic, unnecessary conflict.


Final Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

“I’m kinda over sequels at this point.”


Thanks for reading my review of The Incredibles 2! Have you seen the film yet? Did you like it, or did you think it was another unnecessary Pixar sequel? Let’s chat in the comments!

See you again soon.

🙂

Movie Review: Avengers Infinity War

avengers-infinity-war-imax-poster

 

The biggest Marvel film ever is finally here…


With ten years of experience and 19 films under it’s belt, Marvel Studios seems too big to fail. And while you might expect the quality of these high-powered action flicks to go down as they pump out more and more of them each year (and rake in the cash with every new release), the superhero juggernaut  has yet to stumble. Each new film seems bigger and better than the last, and their quality (both of production and of story) has gone up, if anything.

We knew this was coming: the crossover to end all crossovers. All the heroes in one big movie, facing off against a single villain with the power to snuff out half the life in the universe with a snap of his fingers.

Quite frankly, this movie could have been an enormous mess. There are about 40 speaking roles in this two-and-a-half-hour film, and if you don’t think that sounds like a lot, trust me, it is. Trying to work all these characters into a cohesive plot encompassing their motivations, past actions, and new revelations and plot twists is certainly a daunting task. Add in the fact that you’ve got rabid fans breathing down your neck, picking every trailer and press release to shreds and theorizing about everything, and it’s got to be quite a feat to formulate a unique and compelling film with plot twists to surprise even the most die-hard theorists.

Now, I’m not saying that Marvel was able to do that, at least not entirely. Just about everything has been done before in the comics at some point, so it would have been ridiculously difficult to come up with a totally new storyline for these characters. However, what the writers of Infinity War have done is to take a lot of storylines from the comics, weave them together, and then take the liberty to play fast and loose with fans’ expectations, the order of events, and with who they’ve killed off. I’m not going to totally spoil it here, but let’s just say that within the first five minutes of the film, two fan-favorite characters are already dead, and I actually really respect this choice. You want the stakes to be sky high in a film like this.

Thanos, the all-powerful main villain of the Marvel franchise, has been quite depowered from his godlike status in the comics. While he is more than a match for any one hero on their own, working together they are able to keep him at bay, at least for a little while. While Thanos grows more powerful throughout the course of the film, I don’t think that he is overpowered. There’s a really good give and take, a continual question of whether or not our heroes will be able to defeat him, and the stakes do feel very real. I didn’t think that anything in the film was played out just to make it longer, if that makes sense. Every fight happens for a reason. Every character dies for a reason. There are no superfluous moments bogging down what is already a massive storyline.

Another interesting thing about this film is that it’s Thanos who really steals the show. While you could try to pick a main character out of our legion of superheroes, Infinity War is really Thanos’s movie. I’ve heard people have called him a relateable character, but I don’t think that’s the correct term. He is sympathetic, even while he is terribly twisted and evil. He may be the most well-rounded villain Marvel has ever brought to the screen. It would have been very easy to make him a simple cardboard-cutout baddie for our heroes to battle against, but his depth of character and sympathetic nature are a huge factor in what made this film so good.

We never actually get all of the superheroes together in one big scene, which is fine, because that would have been completely overwhelming. Everyone gets kind of split into groups going after different objectives, and you’d think that might get confusing, but the each storyline balances very well with all the others, and it never feels like we’re getting too much of one group and not enough of the others. While most of the action scenes in Infinity War are absolutely cut the shreds (a complaint that I have with most Marvel films), the action, humor, and emotional moments of the film are perfectly balanced. It is neither overly humorous (like Thor: Ragnarok) nor overly dark and dismal.

I guess you could complain that in order to understand Infinity War you have to have seen all 18 of the previous films, but the story is so rich and so intricately and masterfully woven together throughout this franchise that, in my mind, it’s worth it. Unfortunately, at this point I haven’t seen either of the Guardians of the Galaxy films, so I did feel like I was missing out a bit on all the character dynamics and story from that group. But that’s totally on me, and not the film’s fault at all. If you are going to see Infinity War, I would definitely recommend watching (or re-watching) the other films first, just so you don’t miss out on any of the brilliance of the biggest (best?) Marvel film yet.

Now we’ve just got to wait for Part 2…


Final rating: 5 out of 5 stars!

“To infinity, and beyond!”


Content note: As with most Marvel films, there is quite a bit of fantasy/sci-fi action violence in this film, as well as some bad language, and a bit of crude humor. I would definitely recommend caution for younger children.


I hope you enjoyed my review of Avengers: Infinity War! Have you gotten to see the movie yet? Did they kill off your favorite character? (The pain is real…) Let’s chat in the comments!

See you again soon.

🙂

Netflix Review: A Series of Unfortunate Events (Season 2)

Series of Unfortunate Events Season 2

Things are about to get much, much worse… In a good way???


Before I say anything else, I should probably tell you that Netflix’s A Series of Unfortunate Events may be one of the most faithful (and well done) book-to-film adaptations I have ever seen. The casting, the characters and costumes and settings… so much of this series seems to match perfectly with what I saw in my mind as I read the books. Netflix is doing an amazing job, and I really respect them for that.

Although it has been a while since I read the books, from what I remember the show seems to stick pretty close to them. I do like that the creators of this show decided to flesh out VFD a lot more than it was in the books. I am very intrigued to see how everything works out in the end, and especially how they handle the final installment of the series, which I personally thought was a bit of a let down.

However, the nature of the books which have been adapted means that this show continues to get darker and darker with each episode, as more and more terrible things happen to the Baudelaire orphans, more clueless or downright awful guardians take custody of them, and Count Olaf hatches yet more schemes to steal their fortune. The Baudilaires themselves are also faced with increasingly difficult moral choices as they descend further into the winding mystery around VFD and try to just keep themselves alive and safe… or as safe as they can be in vile villages, horrible hospitals, and carnivorous carnivals. The visual tone of the show gets darker and darker along with the story, with each episode’s color scheme a little drabber than the last, and each new, terrifying location a little more grimy and dingy.

This show seems to be a lot darker than the books, but maybe that’s just because the acting is so strong, the visuals so awful and compelling, the dark humor so on point, that it really just drives home the atmosphere that the books were originally getting at. While I did find it a little creepy, and slightly disturbing in parts, I was very impressed with this season, and I’m excited to see how Netflix will handle the third one, and finale of this series of unfortunate events.


Final rating: 5 out of 5 stars

“Can things get even worse for the Baudilaires? Oh, yes the can.”


Content note: This show is rated PG. However, this season does introduce Esme Squalor, Count Olaf’s evil girlfriend, who wears ridiculous, supposedly fashionable —and often rather revealing— clothing, and also sometimes makes remarks which could be taken as innuendo, or not, depending on how you look at it. These off-color remarks were one rather annoying addition to the show that I noticed, as I don’t remember anything of the kind in the books. There were also references to same-sex couples included in the dialogue a few times (The Quagmire triplets refer to their guardian and ‘her wife’, at one point a character mentions his two moms, etc.), another thing I don’t remember seeing  in the books. This show, especially the current season, is also quite dark, and a little depressing, so I would recommend caution for younger children, even if they’ve already read the books.


I hope you enjoyed my review of A Series of Unfortunate Events, Season 2! Have you read the books and/or seen the show? Do you prefer one over the other? What do you think about the show’s inclusion of more stuff about VFD? Let’s chat in the comments!

See you again soon.

🙂

Movie Review: The Greatest Showman

The Greatest Showman

A stunning musical spectacle that definitely lives up to the hype.


For the past several months, people all over the internet have been raving about this feel-good musical based on the story of P. T. Barnum and his creation of the Barnum and Bailey Circus. Even some of those who haven’t seen the film have been listening to (and loving) the soundtrack. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to see this musical in theaters (I didn’t even know about it until it exploded online and a lot of my friends started talking about it) but I gave it a watch when it came out on Amazon, and I have a few thoughts to share.

There are so many things that The Greatest Showman gets absolutely right. The acting and singing are phenomenal, and the entire film is a feast for the eyes, with elaborate dance numbers, gorgeous costumes, and bright, saturated colors that feel so refreshing after the muted, grayish tones of the more ‘serious’ films I’ve seen so much of recently. The story is not completely historically accurate (and in fact I’ve read elsewhere that the film sort of glosses over the “darker side” of P. T. Barnum in order to tell a happier, more uplifting story). But the purpose of the film is not as a biography, but rather as a celebration of misfits and risk-takers, as proclaimed by the musical’s exultant anthem “This Is Me”.

This song is sung in the film by the so-called ‘freaks’ who preform in the circus shows, people shunned and despised by ‘regular’ society who have found a home for themselves in the circus. It’s a powerful song, and a powerful message, and it is well delivered by the movie.

Some people might be a little thrown off by the very modern-sounding music, especially in a musical set in the 1800s, but I actually really enjoyed the songs, and I think they worked well in the film. The music part of musicals are all about expressing character’s feelings through song and dance, and prim, proper classical-style music wouldn’t have allowed for the soaring choruses and thundering rhythms that just fit this film’s emotional beats so well.

Perhaps the one complaint I have about this film is that in a few places  the dialogue seems stilted, unnatural, perhaps it’s even a bit cheesy on some occasion. This problem doesn’t effect the entire film. It is mostly concentrated right at the beginning, and after those first ten minutes or so the writing evens out and becomes more natural.

All in all, I greatly enjoyed The Greatest Showman. The visuals and music are absolutely stunning, and the story has a warmth and heart to it that seems to be missing from many recent movies. I can totally see why all of Twitter’s been obsessed with this film for the past few months!


Final Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

“They don’t call it the Greatest Show on Earth for nothing!


Content note: I am glad to say that I didn’t notice any bad language in this film. There is an lightly implied romantic affair between Barnum and Jenny Lind (Lind kisses Barnum on stage  in front of reporters to start a rumor that they are having an affair, which is not actually true) and personally I think a few of the female performers’ costumes are a tad revealing, but, depending on your personal views, this could certainly be seen as a family-friendly film.


Thanks so much for reading my review of The Greatest Showman! Have you seen the film yet? Did you like it? What’s your favorite song? (I’m torn between “The Greatest Show” and “The Other Side”, personally.) Let’s chat in the comments!

🙂

TV Review: Marvel’s ‘The Gifted’ (Season 1)

The Gifted

A fresh look at an old franchise, with family values in focus.


It seems like both Marvel and DC have been doing so many spin off TV shows recently. And many of them are set withing the same universe as famous characters like Batman or the X-Men and yet… don’t contain any of those well known characters. Maybe this seems like a rip off, but I find the concept to be very interesting, and refreshing after so many movies and reboots and whatnot. What about the lesser-known characters, the minor characters, or brand new characters set in these universes. What kind of lives do they lead?

That’s the sort of show that Marvel’s The Gifted is. Well it does contain a few established mutant characters, such as Polaris and Blink, it is centered around a seemingly normal suburban family with two teenage children, who —spoiler alert— just so happen to have mutant abilities. Set in a world where the X-Men have disappeared and most humans are totally hostile towards mutants, The Gifted follows the story of this family, the Struckers, as their lives are torn apart by the discovery of their children’s powers.

For the most part, the show is very well written, and features a large cast of diverse and interesting characters. While there are quite a few major characters to keep track of, I found them all to be distinct and well written, and didn’t mix any of them up or forget who they were. There weren’t any extraneous characters; everyone was there for a reason. If there is any problem I have with the characters and writing, it’s that in the first episode or so, some of the dialogue felt poorly written and some of the acting wasn’t that great. But the writers and actors quickly warmed up to their parts, and by the end of the show I didn’t have a complaint to make about the acting or dialogue.

The Gifted has a tightly knit plot, and most of the writing is very good. While the show sometimes goes off to follow various characters or character groups, we always come back to the story of the Struckers, and none of the subplots or extra storylines seemed to drag. Everything was woven very tightly together, and well contained within the season. While the ending leaves me wanting very much to know what happens next, it wrapped up this first chapter of the story nicely, which is more than I can say for many cliffhanger endings. Once again, I do have a few very minor complaints about the writing; sometimes I found the internal conflict between various characters to be kind of annoying and not well written. It was almost as if the writers were like, “Well, it’s coming up on another big moment! We need to have internal conflict between our main characters,” and then they picked a couple of characters at random and made up a conflict about whatever Big Decision or Big Event was happening. I understand having conflicts between your main characters to make things interesting, but it just became so formulaic by the end that I found it annoying. It felt like lazy writing, as quite a few of these inter-character conflicts didn’t seem to stem from the plot at all, and were just put in for drama. I’ve noticed this formula with other shows as well, and I just don’t like it.

The show is very well produced; well shot and fairly well edited, and I personally find the sound design to be very immersive. The music is good, although some tracks are reused in multiple episodes, as with most TV shows, and I don’t really think that’s an issue. An issue I do have is that some of the editing, mostly near the ends of episodes or scenes, can be a bit choppy. The visual effects aren’t as stellar as those you’d see onscreen at a big Marvel movie, but they serve their purpose and there wasn’t any glaringly bad CGI that I remember noticing.

One of the things I like best about this show is that it puts a strong emphasis on family and family values. Even though the Strucker family faces a lot of difficult situations, and often disagree between themselves about what to do, a focus is put on their relationship as a family. Family is portrayed as a good thing, a healthy thing, which is just so refreshing.

All in all, this was a very enjoyable show which, to my surprise and delight, was kept at a mostly PG level throughout. There were one or two off-color comments, and some foul language, but definitely less than in some shows I’ve seen (or Marvel movies, for that matter). I really enjoyed The Gifted, and I will definitely be looking forward to the next season.


Final Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

“Could have been a bit better, could have been worse, but honestly it was pretty awesome.”


Thank you so, so much for reading my review of Marvel’s The Gifted! Have you watched the show yourself? Did you enjoy it? What do you think about spin off shows that focus on original or lesser-known characters? Let’s chat in the comments!

See you again soon.

🙂

Movie Review: Black Panther

Black Panther

A groundbreaking superhero romp with all the action, humor, and heart you’d expect from a Marvel film.


SPOILER WARNING: There are a few major spoilers ahead in this review, as I wanted to talk about some character arcs and plot points as in depth as possible. If you haven’t seen the film and don’t want spoilers, please go watch it before reading this review! 


I have to admit, I had my doubts about this film. When something gets this much hype, when people are calling it the best Marvel film ever made (or maybe even the best film ever made) and when it carried a 100% score on Rotten Tomatoes, if only for a little while, that’s an awful lot to live up to. But I understood the hype, and I hoped that this film would live up to most of it, because here’s the thing: Besides Angie Thomas’s fabulous novel, The Hate U Give, I cannot remember the last book I read or movie I watched that had a black protagonist, much less an almost entirely black cast. And I’m certainly not saying that it’s bad to have a white protagonist; not at all. But there are so many awesome white protagonists and not nearly enough awesome black protagonists, especially not in more mainstream media, and so I totally understand the hype for this movie, and I was hoping against hope that people weren’t exaggerating, and that Black Panther would be a genuinely good film.

Marvel took a risk with this film, because many big studios in Hollywood won’t make films with POC or female leads, as they think those films won’t make enough money at the box office. But, obviously, that risk paid off: as of this writing, Black Panther has earned over $404 million dollars worldwide, breaking multiple box office records, including becoming the highest grossing film with a predominantly black cast ever.

The numbers don’t lie. But what about the reviews? I personally try not to judge films off of popularity, or how much money they make, or other peoples opinions. And so I was very eager to see this film for myself and find out whether or not all the hype was warranted.

So let’s dive into the review.

First of all, Black Panther is visually stunning. Much of the film takes place in the fictional African country of Wakanda, and the landscapes shown in the film are gorgeous and utterly unlike anything I’ve ever seen onscreen. We all know the standard fantasy/sci-fi locations, which have all been done and done to death: the forest, the fields, the mountains, the futuristic city. But Black Panther‘s African-inspired fantasy/sci-fi world breaths new life into these tired settings, by transporting us straight into Africa itself. I’ve seen so much sci-fi and fantasy set in America or Europe, or American-like and Europe-like worlds, and it is so refreshing to see what a high-tech, futuristic African city would look like, or to watch T’Challa, the Black Panther himself, fight his rival for the right to the throne on a sheer rock ledge beneath a waterfall, while his people cheer him on.

It was endlessly cool to see an entire fictional culture inspired by Africa on the big screen. From the colors and cut of the clothes to the design of the city and the flying ships that transport T’Challa and his friends, to the technology created by T’Challa’s genius sister Shuri, everything just felt so fresh and new and exciting and, yes, groundbreaking.

In another reversal of what you so often see in mainstream media, the only white characters in the film are villainous Ulysses Klaw (played by Andy Serkis) and the bumbling General Ross (played by Martin Freeman), who acts as a foil to the main characters. I found myself laughing right along with T’Challa and co. at Ross’s total confusion in the face of this highly advanced but hidden African society.

But the film itself, the story, the characters, the ideas; are they any good? This film has been touted as such a huge leap towards diversity in storytelling, and especially in big budget films, and that is certainly the case. But does Black Panther also stand on its own merits?

I would have to say yes. Well it may not be the best film ever made, Black Panther gets a lot of things right when it comes to storytelling, plot, action, and character development. It is actually one of the few Marvel films to have a well developed villain: Erik Killmonger, an exile and heir to the Wakandan throne who returns to his country to claim his rights and remove T’Challa from power. Erik’s father had left Wakanda to live in America with his son, but when he turned out to be a traitor, he was killed, leaving Erik all alone with only the tales his father had told him of his native country. When Erik returns to claim the throne, he brings with him an agenda: he resents how Wakanda has hidden their strength for so long, and wants the country to use its wealth and military might to stop the oppression of black people all over the world, by force.

While Killmonger brings up valid points about oppression and the need for action, I appreciate that the filmmakers do show his viewpoint —that violence can and should be used to end oppression— to be wrong, and that T’Challa decides in the end to use the wealth and strength of his country to help others peacefully. Sometimes, I almost found myself cheering for Killmonger, because the filmmakers do such a good job of developing him into a well rounded, flawed-but-nevertheless-admirable human being. He’s such a well developed character, and it’s almost a shame that T’Challa isn’t quite as well developed in the film. He is still a good hero, but I wish the filmmakers had spent just a little more time on developing a better story arc for him.

The other major characters in this film —namely Shuri, T’Challa’s sister, Nakia, T’Challa’s love interest, and Okoye, the general of an all-female group of Wakandan warriors— are all brilliantly played and fantastically developed characters. I love Shuri and T’Challa’s sibling relationship; it’s super authentic and very funny, as Shuri teases and makes fun of her brother even as she’s helping him catch the thieving Klaw. Nakia also gets tons of moments in the spotlight, not just as T’Challa’s love interest (although they are adorable and very, very shipable ❤ ) but also as a magnificent warrior, and a kindhearted, caring woman who’s greatest wish is to help those less fortunate than herself.

The story itself is very coherent and well plotted, and could pretty much stand on its own even if you’ve never seen a Marvel movie, which is nice after such a long line of sequels and sequels of sequels. The visual effects and action scenes are well done, as is all of the acting, and I just really enjoyed this film. It ranks very high on my personal list of ‘best Marvel films’. It just seemed to have a bit more heart than some more recent Marvel flicks, specifically Thor: Ragnarok, which was a very funny and well made film, but somehow seemed to lack any real emotional depth. Is Black Panther somehow going to fix every racial or social problem ever, as some people seem to think? Probably not, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction.


Final Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

“Wakanda forever!”


Heyo! I hope you enjoyed my review of Black Panther. Have you seen the film yet? Did you enjoy it? What do you think of T’Challa’s character development (or lack thereof?) I’m curious! Let me know in the comments.

See you again soon!

🙂

Movie Review: Star Wars The Last Jedi

Star_Wars_The_Last_Jedi

A dramatic, tragic, exciting film taking all of Star Wars in a new direction.


If you’ve been anywhere on the internet during the past few days, you’ve probably realized that a lot of people really liked The Last Jedi, the most recent installment of the new Star Wars films, and some people really, really hated it. I went to see the film on Tuesday, expecting to be at least mildly entertained, and to probably not have any of the nostalgia-induced anger issues that a lot of older fans have been experiencing due to this movie. The Star Wars films were never a huge part of my childhood. In fact, Star Wars itself was only involved in my life through the Lego Star Wars video game that we had on our Wii. I never even saw any of the films until I was over the age of ten. I’m not super attached to the franchise, even now. Some of you may want to kill me when I say this, but I am honestly not a huge fan of the original trilogy. I went to see The Force Awakens simply because the rest of my family was going to see it, and I ended up actually really liking it, way more than I liked any of the previous films. It seemed more serious to me, more believable, deeper, more thought out, better made.

So maybe when I say that I really loved The Last Jedi, and its subversion of tropes and expected twists, the risky moves taken by the filmmakers and the new direction it seems to be taking the Star Wars franchise as a whole, its because I’m not looking at the film the same way as all the angry people.

I never grew up with Luke and Leia and Han. I don’t have any kind of nostalgia for the original films, or even for the unmentionable prequels (shudder). It doesn’t hurt me to see new filmmakers giving us new takes on old characters, or even destroying old characters to make way for the new. I loved having my expectations subverted, loved every twist and turn the film took. It didn’t make me long for the ‘good old days’ of Star Wars. It made me excited for what is to come.

If you’re upset about the film, I can understand where you’re coming from. I’ve had a few childhood favorites ruined for me as well by newer takes. But maybe we could just stop judging one another for how we feel about the film? It is a movie, after all.

But enough of that. This is supposed to be a review, so I should probably be talking about the actual movie.

If there’s one criticism I have about The Last Jedi, it’s that it feels very long. It is, in fact, just over two and a half hours, and at several points in the final act, I actually thought that the film was about to end on a cliffhanger or something. But it does a good job of telling a complete, if quite long story. Often, I find that long movies aren’t necessarily better; in fact they’re often not edited well and need to be cut down. The Last Jedi didn’t strike me that way, though. I didn’t think that there was any way it could have been cut down, unless you had moved the entire third act into the next movie and left the film on a terrible cliffhanger. The pacing feels slightly off, with the first two acts feeling like a complete film, and the final act also feeling like a complete, if much shorter, film, or even the beginning of a new movie. But the pacing within each act is very well done, especially considering the amount of characters who each have to have their screen time and story. At no point did I feel like getting up and walking out because I was bored. I wanted to find out what happened. It just sort of felt like I’d walked into one film and had an extra half of another movie tacked on to the end. Not in a bad way, if that makes sense, but it was still a bit of an odd feeling.

Another thing that felt a bit tacked on was the little political messages about weapons and war. In part of the story we encounter a bunch of rich weapons dealers, who have been selling to both sides in the war and getting wealthy off of the conflict. I don’t have a problem with the message or the issue that this seemed to be trying to expose, it was just presented in a kind of bizarre way in the film, and felt a little off for some reason. Maybe a little too political?

The story of the film, however, was quite well written and enjoyable, while also being slightly darker than most Star Wars films and material I’ve seen. The entire tone of the film seems to have shifted down a few notches, with dark or drab color palates, war worn clothing and environments, and a lot of heavy moments which honestly reminded me of the more recent Marvel films. There was, however, a fair amount of humor to lighten the mood, and while some of the jokes fell flat, it was a nice break from the seriousness of the rest of the movie. The acting was also phenomenal, especially that of John Boyega (who plays Finn) and Adam Driver (who plays Kylo Ren). Rose, a new character played by Kelly Marie Tran, was also very well played and written, and I loved her bright, chipper attitude. She seemed to be having fun in every scene she was in.

A lot of the angry fans seem to be mad about the fact that the film subverts a lot of the tropes we expect in a Star Wars film. While a large part of nostalgia is wanting new things to be mostly the same as the old, so that we can relive that old excitement and experience with a few attention holding changes, viewing the film as I do without that nostalgia, I was very excited about the subversion of tropes and unexpected twists. This film made me excited about Star Wars, something I haven’t really been, well, ever… It’s a new take for a new generation of fans and, personally, I really loved it.


Final rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

“I have never been a Star Wars fan. But I think I just became a Star Wars fan!”


Thank you for reading my review of Star Wars: The Last Jedi! I hope you enjoyed it. Have you seen the film? What do you think? Are you excited to see what happens next in the Star Wars universe? Let’s chat in the comments!

🙂

Netflix Review: Stranger Things (Seasons 1-2)

Stranger_Things_logoNetflix’s hit original series more than lives up to the hype.


If you’ve been on the internet at all within the last year or so, you’ve definitely heard of Stranger Things, a Netflix original series full of 80s nostalgia, an authentic small-town atmosphere, and complete with just enough government conspiracy theories and paranormal activity to really shake things up. I’d heard of it, of course, but I hadn’t really been interested until I saw the trailer for the second season, which came out around Halloween. I ended up binge watching the entire series after Season 2 came out, and, as you can probably tell from the little tag line at the top of this review, I loved it.

Fair warning: SPOILERS AHEAD!


Season 1: Missing kids and monster hunts.

Season 1 introduces us to three sets of characters, who all work toward similar goals throughout the story and often meet and crossover with one another: the kids, the teenagers, and the adults. The kids are Mike, Dustin, Lucas, and Will, a group of outcast middle-schoolers who love watching Star Wars and playing Dungeons and Dragons. When Will goes missing on his way home from a D&D game with his friends, his mother, Joyce, calls up the local law enforcement, lead by Chief of Police Jim Hopper, to find him. Will’s remaining friends go on the hunt for him themselves, meeting up with a strange, lost girl called Eleven, who has telekinetic powers and knows the one thing everyone else has missed; Will has become stranded in a parallel dimension called the Upside Down. He was taken by a monster called the demigorgon, which is now on the prowl in the small town of Hawkins, looking for new victims. Adults, teens and kids alike must band together to stop this monster, and uncover the sketchy goings-on at the high security government lab situated just too close to the town for comfort.

While Stranger Things is certainly a slower-paced show, the writers always find new ways to kick the suspense up another notch. I came into the show knowing several pretty big spoilers (they’re quite hard to avoid on the internet these days), but the show still surprised me and kept me on the edge of my seat at every turn. It perfectly balanced elements of psychological horror and tense, nail-biting scenes with freaky, in-your-face jumpscares.

The writers also do an expert job of weaving the different threads of the story together into a tightly-knit tapestry, and even though the cast of characters is quite large, all of them are well developed and interesting. Even though the teenagers’ section of the story wasn’t my favorite, it is only fair to say that this is just personal preference, as all the characters were fleshed out and played very well by their respective actors. Maybe I was just a bit disappointed when what I thought was the message of this portion of the story ended up falling flat. The writers seemed to have planted a subtle message about modern hook up culture (a teenage character hooks up with her boyfriend, only to regret it later on and also have her negligence basically lead to her friend’s death), but it was later subverted when she just ended up back with that same boyfriend at the end of the season. This supposed message was undermined even more in Season 2, when she hooks up with another character, apparently without any consequences or regrets at all.

But all in all, Season 1 was a fantastic intro to a fantastic show, complete with all the scares, tears, and feels you could wish for. I finished it still wanting more, and, thank goodness, there was a whole new season just waiting for me to dive in…


Season 2: A new challenger approaches…

It’s been a year since we last saw our friends in Hawkins. Season 2 starts off on Halloween of 1984, catching us up on all the small town happenings and introducing a few new characters, including a brother and sister from sunny California who instantly become the coolest, most envied kids in town, and Joyce’s new boyfriend, Bob (played by Sean Astin). Will is no longer missing, but he’s still feeling the aftereffects of his journey into the Upside Down, which include terrifying  visions of a great shadow monster that fills the whole sky. Meanwhile, a strange blight is spreading across Hawkins, attacking crops with rot and slowly transforming the landscape into the likeness of the Upside Down. Hopper, who has been hiding Eleven in a house in the woods for the past year, is called out to investigate the blight, and Eleven endeavors to escape her quarters and find her mother and her past. Hawkins must once again face the darkness from the Upside Down, and, with Eleven’s help, hopefully defeat it.

Season 2 really ramps up the threat posed by the Upside Down, broadening the scope of the show for a much more epic, cinematic experience. This time, our heroes face an intelligent evil instead of a mindless monster, an villain easily capable of destroying all of Hawkins, and maybe the entire world. I really enjoyed this broadening of horizons, and I honestly liked Season 2 even more than Season 1. It almost made the first season feel small in comparison, as characters venture outside of Hawkins and a new set of friends and threats are introduced. The writers once again managed to craft an extraordinarily tightly-woven storyline out of a massive cast of characters, and still made sure that every character had their own distinct personality and backstory. I really enjoyed how they allowed different characters to take the spotlight in Season 2; where as Season 1 was more focused on Mike, this time around it’s really Will’s story, with Steve and Dustin and a few other characters playing much bigger roles. The creators of the show are not afraid to mix things up, while still retaining all the awesome aspects of Season 1 that made the show good in the first place, and Season 2 more than lived up to all the hype. I can hardly wait to see what happens next!


Final Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

“The hype is real! And, surprisingly, quite justified this time.”


Content note: Stranger Things is rated TV-14, and not without reason. There is a lot of language, some violence and scary images, and, as I said before, a character who hooks up with two different boys. Although the show stars several young actors, it’s definitely not a kids’ show, and I would personally say it would be better for older teens.


Thanks for reading my review of Stranger Things! Do you like the show? Which do you like better: Season 1 or Season 2? What are some of your favorite characters? Let’s chat in the comments!

🙂

Movie Review: Thor Ragnarok

thor

A refreshing, humorous flick to break up a long line of darker films.


As you know, I can never resist a Marvel movie, and I’ve been pretty hyped up for this one for a while now. Loki is pretty much my favorite Marvel character, and I was excited for the film to further explore Asgard and the Nine Realms.

Make no mistake: This film is really good. The humor is on point, the visuals are stunning, and the acting and plot are enough to keep you interested even after you’ve run out of popcorn, but… I’m honestly beginning to question whether or not I’m getting a little… tired of Marvel movies. Even if that’s the case, it doesn’t mean I’ll stop watching them. These films are fantastic entertainment, and many even have hidden depths and messages to ponder and explore. But after 17 films (17 films?? Really? It honestly feels like more…) I’m wondering whether or not all the hype is really worth it. I can’t wait to see Infinity War, but I’ll also be glad when it’s over and all the loose ends are (hopefully) tied up. (Hahahahaha. Of course you know they won’t be. The MCU makes way, way too much money for it to ever really die.)

But enough chit-chat. Let’s talk about the film itself.

The first thing that really jumps out about Thor: Ragnarok is it’s humor. After a long line of serious Marvel films that dealt with some fairly real issues alongside their explosive action (Avengers: Age of UltronCaptain America: Civil War, etc.), this film feels more like a kind of slapstick, comedic fantasy romp than anything else. Filled with visually stunning landscapes, spaceships, epic battles, and hilarious one-liners, it is a very new, fresh take on Thor that I didn’t really expect. Everything from the colorful, eye-catching poster to the goofy title font to Thor’s new hairstyle bill this film as a completely different, more comedic spin on these normally serious Marvel characters, and I honestly really enjoyed it.

While the film does dole out some important story points and lore for the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe, it is nicely self-contained and adventurous enough to introduce a whole cast of new characters to play off of our old heroes; Thor, Loki, and the Hulk. The pacing is good, and the film doesn’t get bogged down in backstory, even though it introduces a massive new player, the villain Hela (fantastically played by Cate Blanchett), who of course comes with her own tragic past and motivations. Unlike the villain of the previous Thor film (whose name I can’t even remember, he was that forgettable) Hela carries a real threat and her presence had me questioning whether or not all the heroes would actually survive. I love that the writers weren’t afraid to raise the stakes by completely and irreversibly destroying Thor’s hammer, his greatest weapon, putting it out of play in the MCU forever. It felt like a very bold move, and definitely added weight to Hela’s threat against the heroes.

All in all, this film was fun, visually stunning, and a considerably lighter take on Thor and his friends that I really enjoyed. Am I going to watch it again as soon as it comes out? I don’t know. To be honest, probably not. But I can say that I can’t wait until this quest for the Infinity Stones is finally over.


Final Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

“Refreshing. Funny. But it doesn’t change the fact that we’ve sat through 17 movies at this point.”


I hope you enjoyed my review of Thor: Ragnarok! I’ll see you again soon.

🙂

Netflix Review: The Flash (Seasons 1-3)

the-flash-192898DC triumphs on the small screen.


Believe it or not, I used to hate superheroes. My dad has been a big superhero fan for ages, but whenever he would talk about the latest Captain America movie or Spiderman film, I would always roll my eyes. Finally, however, he managed to get me into Marvel with the Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes animated TV show, and from there I went on to watch the films and become the massive Marvel geek you know today.

I never thought I’d get into DC. Marvel heroes were at least slightly believable, and had developed personalities and quirks and flaws that I found extremely interesting. The DC heroes, on the other hand, looked like mere cardboard cutouts, without any personality at all.

I did watch Batman Begins (and enjoyed it thoroughly), but I thought at the time that that would be the end of my interest in DC. But then, I discovered The Flash. Or, well, my dad discovered it, and watched it, and liked it, and said I should watch it too, so I did…

First things first: his show is a geek’s dream come true! There are tons of nerdy references, a delectable ammount of science (fiction) and Cisco Ramone, who will probably forever be my geek hero.

For the sake of clarity, I will do the rest of the review season by season, so that I can say what I liked about each season, and what I didn’t enjoy so much…


Season 1: Great plot, poor acting

The plot of Season 1 is masterfully written, complete with nods to the original comics, an overarching storyline that keeps you watching, and lots of twists and turns and surprises along the way. The acting, however, was not so top notch. Except for the brilliantly acted Harrison Wells (Tom Cavanagh), who really held the show together, the acting in the first few episodes was fairly cringe-worthy at times, and a bit stiff at others. Even the show’s star, Grant Gustin, didn’t quite seem to be in his element. The acting improved drastically as the season went on, however, and this season is definitely worth watching, if only for the amazing and exciting plot.


Season 2: Great acting, iffy plot

Season 2 seemed to have the opposite problem: The acting was very good, and I felt like all the actors had begun to really know and understand and play off each other very well, but the plot was significantly weaker, nowhere near as compelling as the first season. The introduction of more time travel and parallel universes was very interesting, but the use of another speedster as the main villain felt a bit like recycling the original plot. That said, this season was still really enjoyable (i.e. don’t skip it!) and I really liked all the stuff with parallel universes.


Season 3: Great acting, great plot, great show!

In Season 3, it really felt as if The Flash has finally found it’s feet: a tense, compelling plot, great acting and character development, the introduction of some awesome new characters… it was amazing! Even though the main villain was, once again, a speedster, I felt like the way he was portrayed was fresh and different enough for the Season to hold its own. However, I’m really hoping that they find a completely different type of villain for Season 4. The cliffhanger at the end of this season is also extremely unfair and I was almost crying; that’s how good it is!


Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

“Took them a while to really find their feet, but, then again, it’s not a BBC show, so we’ll cut them some slack.”


Content note: The show is rated as TV-PG, and it was fairly clean (not a lot of swearing or immoral references), but I would still advise some caution. At one point, a character does get very drunk, and there are also characters who are dating that living together throughout the story. It really annoys me when it is assumed that as soon as people start dating they are supposed to move in together. However, there was very little else of concern. I would say probably ages 14 and up.


Thank you for reading! I hope you enjoyed my review. Have you seen The Flash? Whose your favorite character? (Mine are Cisco and Harrison Wells). Do you like DC or Marvel, or both??? Let me know in the comments!

🙂