Category Archives: Reviews

Review: Descendants 2

Okay, I’m late to the party, but I’m still determined to keep reviewing this movie series (I’m…ignoring the animated shorts unless forced). I was pretty hyped for this movie, especially as the actors kept saying how great it was turning out. And I see what they were talking about! I’m just…not as sure I agree?

Descendants 2 takes place months after the first film, with Mal and Ben firmly in a relationship…and very much in the public eye. When Mal suffers from anxiety over the level of pressure, there’s an inevitable fight that leads Mal to assume that she has made a mistake, returning to the Isle. Unfortunately, she and the other villain kids left some enemies behind when they turned good, and they will take any opportunity for revenge. The other VKs will have to convince Mal to return, and learn that they are both from the Isle, and from Auradon, and they can’t just abandon either side.

In a lot of ways, I can see why the cast and crew were so sure the sequel was a stronger movie. The story was much tighter this time, with a constant sense of suspense and the character reasoning was apparent to the audience. It was also not afraid to make fun of itself and the cliches of fairy tales, such as true love’s kiss. I was really excited by the show of growth in Mal’s powers, and I hope that is continued to be played with. Auradon seems determined to shove all the magic out, which is annoying, but Mal’s magic keeps asserting itself, so I’m hoping that will end.

New character wise, I feel like we’re beginning to drown in them. I’m not getting enough to be invested in all of the characters, and it forces the old characters to stay in their little story-boxes rather than having a chance to keep up the arcs that were started in the first film. In particular, while Carlos got more of a show this time and Evie got a little bit too, it was very much a focus on the new characters, Mal, and Ben. If the third film is going to introduce even more to the line-up, some cuts are going to have to be made. It took three viewings for me to catch that Lumiere was even present in the film, besides being a name drop early on, which while admittedly more of a nod than anything, is very telling to me.

Appearances, the bedrooms took a change again, which if you count the animated series for sake of argument, that means there have been three different looks to these bedrooms. Consistency apparently means nothing. (I have a feeling that because they are using this one castle that gets used for everything as their primary shooting location for the school, it’s made things extra difficult.) The costumes were great, and I like that there was a character reason for the Mal hair changes, which in trailers had me going, “WTF?” There were some cool details to the costuming, though, and unlike some of the outfits from the original film, these all seemed to be more in-line with each character. (Okay, some of it was still awful to look at, but that’s teen fashion in general sometimes.)

I think where I ended up disappointed the most was with the music. Some of it was great, things that continued the type of music from the first movie. Those, I was happy with. But much like the random Broadway music that had me going, “YOU DON’T BELONG HERE,” this time it was the hip hop. I did okay with the battle-song between the two groups, Uma’s group and the VKs…barely. Uma’s villain song on its own though just made me cringe. I guess they were trying to make use of the talents they had available, but it just didn’t work for me. Of course, my dislike of most hip hop is a well-known fact, so unless it really makes sense or is done in such a way that it works (like Hamilton, I will admit), then I would rather it stay out of my stuff.

The ending was full of sequel bait. Uma’s little repeat of the, “You didn’t think that was the end of the story, did you?” line, Dizzy getting invited to the school, Evie having a list of similar kids who deserved a second chance. This could go really well for the franchise…or rather poorly. It sort of depends on what direction they keep going with it. If they cut down the characters and stick to a little more consistency in terms of sound, I think it will continue to be the success that it has been. The characters are good, the actors are good, the story is finally where it needs to be. Hopefully, it won’t backslide in the third movie.

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Review: Underworld Blood Wars

Coming back to my werewolf/vampire staple with the latest entry into the franchise. This one felt like it finally bridged the gap between the first two and the fourth movie, giving me what I always look for as far as twists to the plot that I don’t see coming, while at the same time feeding into my expectations.

Underworld Blood Wars takes place an unspecified time after the end of Awakening. Selene is still on the run from Lycans and the vampire covens alike, as the Lycans continue to want possession of her daughter Eve, and the vampires want vengeance for the death of the previous Elders. For safety, Selene is not even aware of where her daughter is, to her own personal pain, and she even separates from David until forced to rely on his help. However, a new leader among the Lycans, Marius, is threatening even the limited safety of the remaining covens. A tentative alliance is struck…and then broken as truths come to light that may be the key to the future for the vampires.

Starting with the story, I felt like this was a good balance between the run-and-fight-when-cornered feelings and the direct battle confrontations that we’ve seen in all of the previous films. I also found that the backstabbing and flip-flop alliances returned, which always makes me happy since it gives a lot of potential for surprises depending on character (which I’ll get to). But we didn’t loose the depth of feelings that are always so subtle in these movies, which is more my cup of tea than anything. Selene still feels lost as a mother and especially without Michael, we have some closure at least with Michael to my eternal relief, David’s conflict between his duty to his bloodline and his feelings about Selene are told more in the silence and between the lines than straight out which is great. Even the reveal at the end with Eve, that she was stubborn and ignored her mother’s orders, makes me sooo happy.

I do feel like the world building is getting bloated at this point. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the delving into Amelia’s backstory in this film, because I feel like Amelia has always gotten short-changed. Even the Nordic coven itself didn’t necessarily upset me, because it just makes sense that there was one group of pacifists in a war like this on one side. It was the way they decided to give Selene a power boost in this film, this idea of “going beyond” and hibernating under the ice… It was just weird and not explained well, vague mostly to keep from having to explain how it worked. There are better ways to give the character a bit of a boost to be able to work around a stronger enemy. Similarly, it felt like the nerfed Selene when convenient for the plot, and then made her this demi-goddess when needed. Consistency is important! They are also raising the gore factor in the films higher than I am necessarily comfortable with. The series has always been high on gore and gross, but this one nearly made me gag in the theater.

Character-wise, you have two groups: the veterans from previous films, and the new ones. I’ll start with the veterans. We didn’t see much of Eve or Michael, but in the case of the latter, he also got nerfed for the sake of plot. I’m happy about the plot being resolved, but honesty demands I point it out. Selene finally seems to be finding her groove again after being frozen and finding out that she has a kid. We saw some of the in control, Death Dealer and natural leader, that we have always known her as, but when she let that mask down a little, we also saw the hurt woman that she was. David grew a little bit from angry, whiny Luke-Skywalker-type into a leader in his own right for the majority of the film. What bit of angsting there was…was completely understandable. It reflected the growth that was going on with two other characters, his father Thomas and the deceased Amelia, who had a chance to actual show bits and pieces of who they are under the cranky people they usually come across as.

New characters…oye, there were a lot, like there always are. I like that we had two types of female characters–both schemers, one is the politician and one is the spy-soldier, and then the wise warrior. Most of the female characters had massive agency in this film, and were either using male minions or working in a partnership. I like it. Meanwhile, the males sort of suffered a little from a lack of depth being shown. They were either good soldier-boys for the coven, or they were the biker-reject soldiers for the Lycans. The main two of these camps, Varga and Marius…eh. They were pretty much one note the entire way through. And Varga, I had slight issues with…if only because I’ve seen Bradley James as two characters so firmly in my head, I had a very hard time breaking him out of them (King Arthur, and he’s our fan-cast for Scorpius Malfoy).

As a note of wicked story/character glee of mine–The new Elders are a flip from the previous ones. While the first set were Marcus, Viktor, and Amelia, the new group is Selene, David, and the new character introduced, Lena. David is the youngest, and is almost the blood-tie nod, which is usually a role reserved for a female character. Lena and Selene have centuries of experience on him, and we know from the way David has acted that when push comes to shove, he’ll defer to Selene. It still feels more like a balance of equals than the last three had, but I just love that two of the three are now female badasses.

Underworld is probably always going to be a movie that tugs at my geek strings. It has all the things I love in films (okay, and some things that I don’t necessarily like, but can tolerate in the name of getting everything else). They are, supposedly, already working on more for the series, and if it follows in the vein of Blood Wars, I am going to be just as eagerly waiting for it. Just…lay off the super vague world building.


Review: Justice League-The Flashpoint Paradox

There are two animated movie versions of the Justice League making the rounds, and you can tell them apart by animation styles and who is voicing Batman. One of them has touched on an alternate reality plot line that caught my interest on YouTube, and I just had to watch it.

The Flashpoint Paradox centers around the Flash–Barry Allen–as he is hit hard with the loss of his mother on his birthday. Imagine his surprise when he finds himself in a different timeline where she lives. Not only that, but Gotham is not the city he remembers. Batman is no longer Bruce Wayne, but instead his father Thomas. It seems like it wouldn’t be half bad, except there are other ripple effects. The Amazons and Atlantis are at war. There’s no Superman, and Cyborg works for the government. It’s a mess, and Barry needs to get back to his own time to make sure this doesn’t happen there. But there’s a trick to it, and it’s going to make him realize how important his own actions in his world are.

So, if you didn’t catch it, the whole Thomas Wayne as Batman was the thing that caught my attention. It was a very different Batman, and one that was sort of weird for me to adjust to. Yet it was very fascinating to see how the change, of Bruce dying instead of his parents, led to his father taking up the same mantel that his son would have. And then to counter that, we have a very different Joker. I do wish we had gotten to see Martha Wayne as the Joker in full rather than the little scene that showed who she was going to become after losing Bruce. I’d rather have that confrontation than the little fight with Yo-Yo. But the differences between Thomas and Bruce were cool to see and surprise Barry with, and I was all tearful at the end with what happened there too between them.

I also thought the war was very poorly explained. I mean, I followed along with it, but there was a certain level of random involved too. It also seemed really contradictory to Wonder Woman’s and Arthur’s characters as we know them. I mean, half the point of the Amazons living on their island is they are no longer going to be involved in the world of Man, and suddenly they are conquering Europe? And Atlantis was supposed to be a secret, even from the Amazons, so that even further makes no sense. And as for the affair? Just…ewww. This is probably something that the comics had the time to explain well, but the movie didn’t and it was rushed as a result.

Character-wise, there was a lot to cover and very little time to do it. It left a lot of things feeling rushed, as they try to show what this world did to all the characters but struggled to keep the story going at a good pace. Thomas, Cyborg, and Flash were the ones who really got the chance to show who they were. Everyone else was cardboard flat, and we could have done less with them. It might have involved restructuring or changing the comic book story, but since there was a time issue, focus was obviously desperately needed. Or maybe even dividing the movie into two parts, though that would make selling it more difficult. Either way, something was needed. I also felt like the reason why Flash couldn’t enter the speed force was pretty obvious as far as the source of the differences, despite them trying to cover it up and explain it as something else.

There was one thing that was shown well, and that was the world-building. Even if it was bloated with characters, the differences in the time streams were both obvious and organic. Chains of events led to the differences, a rippling effect of one thing being off. I like that when they went to save Superman, he was the buff farmboy we were expecting but a scared young man who was under developed due to lack of time outside of his containment. Batman was older and it showed, as was the amusing way they went with what happened to the Wayne fortune. Again, the war was poorly explained, but the effects it had on the world were well shown, even down to Cyborg’s enhancements. I get why they wanted to show everything, because it is all very interesting to look at and see what small changes can cause.

Overall, I enjoyed this movie, and it actually helped me appreciate the Flash more. He has never been my favorite DC hero (which admittedly, I deal with Wally West more than Barry), but this helped me appreciate him a little more. It also added a new layer to my love of all things Batman, which really didn’t need the feeding.


Review: Barbie Movies

Specifically, I am talking about what are referred to as Season 2 through 4 of Barbie movies on Wikipedia (I wasn’t born when Season 1 happened).

This may seem like something ridiculous for me to be watching as an adult, but believe it or not there are a lot of us who grew up with Barbie who enjoy watching the films if only to see what they’ve gone done did now. And to be honest, the evolution itself is pretty entertaining, and I like where it is going. For direct-to-home movies, the animation is never that bad for the time periods it is being produced in, and honestly I feel like while some of the story elements are goofy, the movies show how the brand is continuing to grow and try to not only appeal to girls, but help them find their voices and confidence.

The second “season” of films show their age the most–these films started coming out in 2001, when CGI animation was still figuring itself out. It did however set the tone as different from the prior two films by being in a different style. Most of these early movies, done from 2001-2009, were based either off of fairy tales or ballets, with a few originals thrown in that matched the theming of the mystical and fantasy elements. Even if the stories themselves are familiar, the writers didn’t approach them the same way and really worked to give the Barbie character agency rather than being the end goal like most fairy tale heroines are.

Examples include Rapunzel, where rather than always staying in the castle, she finds her way in and out of the tower on her own. One of the original stories, The Magic of Pegasus, has a princess go out to rescue her sister, herself, and other princesses. If anything the boy who comes along serves the role girls usually are relegated to–the practical one who only serves to help the hero. Even the rendition of The Three Musketeers works hard to show that these girls can be feminine and powerful at the same time. (Okay, I am a sucker for war fans, what can I say?)

The third season (2010-2015) is where they started reaching out to modern stories as well, almost entirely original with some being in fairy tale settings but with modern elements. This is where they really had fun with what they could come up with. While some sort of irked me for being rather shallow, such as A Fairy Secret, I did like this idea of there being a greater world that they were playing with in some of the films and others I thought really played around with traditional roles and made them fresher. The Pearl Princess was amusing with the fact that the main character used her love of dress up to find a good job that would suit her, and the traditional dork character was a hero in his own right.

There was also more variation in Barbie’s personality depending on the movie. She had definitive flaws, skills, and overall wasn’t nearly as grating as normal. For example, Kristen from The Pink Shoes was a talented dancer…she just couldn’t stick to the choreography, a flightiness to her personality rather than there being something necessarily wrong with other people’s opinions. While the end result is Kristen still getting to be a star ballerina, it isn’t for a traditional role with traditional choreography she would have to learn, but rather an original production that she would have a voice in. Similarly, Alexa in The Secret Door is shy and lacks confidence in herself. The movie is about helping her find out that she can do what her duties require of her as a princess, without calling her wrong for feeling shy sometimes.

The new fourth season (2016-Present) hasn’t had much going on so far, but it’s showing that they are going even farther out of their comfort zone (to my approval) and into some elements that really need more girl representation. It’s a fact that when it comes to things like space adventures, spy thrillers, and even video games, that male characters are usually the hero, and the girls are either the goal or they are the damsel in distress still. Even Bond Girls aren’t considered as good at their job as the male leads. But the Barbie movies are taking what they did with season two and applying them to these genres. In particular, I loved Starlight Adventures for what it was–middle-aged power hungry man had to get smacked down by a young woman who had this thing called environmental conscientiousness and morals. One of the upcoming movies is also centered around video games, which I am all for.

If you think Barbie movies are for little girls only, you are sadly mistaken. They aren’t too bad to watch on a lark on your own, nothing worse than a Disney movie, except these have the emphasis on girl-power where it belongs. The animation is increasing in quality as they go, and the stories are amusing. Give them a shot before you completely write them off, since there are plenty to choose from.


Review: Boycotts and Barflies

…Okay, some background. I read this story when it was still a fanfic, specifically Twilight fanfic back when I thought the books were silly fluff reading for the age demographic that I still technically was in (a.k.a. before the train wreck that is the last book) and I loved it for what it was. Now that it’s original… Well, I’ll get to that. But now you know there’s history.

Bella Swan Grace Parks and her three friends are sick of endless dates with men who don’t meet their standards. Their solution? A boy boycott, for six weeks until the New Year. Well sort of, they are still allowed to flirt and go on group dates (so the bet is sort of pointless). It’s all in good fun, until Grace meets Edward Michael Andris and his friends meet hers. Surprisingly, the boys are also on a bet of their own–this time to meet “nice girls” and no longer allowed to date the girls they meet while bartending, casually referred to as barflies. Hijinks ensue as everyone remains determined to win the bet…or are they?

Okay, so romance novel: likelihood of some of this happening is non-existent. It’s merely a tool to set the two main protagonists against each other so they have conflicting goals. And between it and family interference, it actually works for…most of the book. She even had a really good idea for the bet exploding in everyone’s faces. The problem that no one caught in the fic’s transition to real publication, is that the ending just sort of…coasts. The conflict at the end where we find out not only what the boys have been up to but supposedly Grace’s two best friends just blows over in favor of a romantic night out. There’s no satisfaction with that. These girls lied to her, the boys lied to her… It shouldn’t end that easily, even if it was supposedly to help Grace realize her own worth.

Speaking of self worth, there are some good points and there are some bad points to characters in this book. On one hand, the dialogue and the banter between characters is hysterical. I’m not completely sold that the ages fit the dialogue, but I am willing to hand wave it because it is funny. And there is good chemistry between all of the characters, and delaying any actual sex scenes means it avoids the trap of being so heavy with them that it’s uncomfortable to read. I even appreciate the fact that the fact most singles can’t afford to live by themselves is acknowledged, so unlike most romance novels finding places to be together is a real challenge.

On the other hand… A lot of the issues with the Twilight characters carried over, even with the filing off of the serial numbers. The friends aren’t fleshed out enough or given enough flaws to make sense. The fact Grace is so insecure isn’t ever really explained well besides pretty fish in a small pond that got transplanted and hasn’t moved on yet. (BTW, this sort of insecurity is common in teenagers, but we tend to grow out of it in our twenties.) And maybe this is me knowing the source material like I do, but I don’t think the serial numbers were filed off enough. They tried, I give her credit for trying, but I could still see what it once was. Considering how she had set up the fic, it was hard to take it to original fiction and leave it still intact enough for her fanfiction audience while being separate enough that no one saw the original fandom unless they were looking.

The thing that I think irks me the most is the way the guys treat the girls they pick up at the bars and the way they are written. It’s painful and horrible disrespectful to women in general. It was sort of nudged at being inappropriate by the fact the girls were sort-of-sort-of-not barflies by definition and the guys were forced to re-evaluate it, but still. The term itself bothered me. As did the way these girls treated the boys they went out with. It’s one thing to find the date boring, but really, a dinner date is hard to be entertaining if you aren’t an entertainer by nature. One of the girls is admittedly shallow and won’t go on a date with someone who isn’t high on her personal taste list. Both sides were equally painful, at least from my standpoint, and really had the potential to cause a lot of hurt feelings and didn’t because the author didn’t want them to.

Much like its source material, Boycotts and Barflies ranks as a good lighthearted read that is amusing as long as you don’t look at it too closely. It suffers some from being prior fanfiction that transitioned over to original fanfiction, but it did so to hold on to its humor. The more you reread it, the more it starts to wear, so maybe save it as a once every three or four years thing.


Review: She Slays Monsters

Something a little new here, this play recently showed at the University of Oklahoma’s theater program, and it struck enough chords that I felt the need to review it. Let it be known, reviewing a play is a little trickier than reviewing a movie or a book. Each production, each show, is a little different, all depending on how they worked together. I’m going off of the way the story was shown this particular time, and how it was designed to appear to the audience. Another production might be different. We’ll see.

The story revolves around Agnes as she seeks to cope with the death of her family, including her younger sister, Tilly. She and Tilly had a difficult childhood growing up together, with neither really understanding each other. Agnes is given a second chance when she discovers a notebook Tilly wrote in: a Dungeons and Dragons module that while only half-finished, contains some hints of her sister’s life. With the help of some of her sister’s friends, she starts to piece together what she didn’t know about her sister…and what she didn’t know about herself.

As a person who plays Dungeons and Dragons… I could tell that no one in the cast or at least the production team actually played. No offense meant to them, but they were obviously relying on their consultants with the local game shop to make sure things looked right…as much as possible. While I’m willing to give some slack since DnD has changed a lot over the years, I can’t help but wonder how much of it changed due to the cast not knowing what questions to ask or the game shop to answer. Which of course in turn makes me ask how many notes the playwright put into the script. You can’t always rely on people to do the research for you, and I feel like he should have placed some more hints into what certain creatures and characters looked like.

Which somehow gets my brain to costuming. Tilly looked great, as did Agnes. What irked the shit out of me–and this was written in the script via dialogue, so I place no blame on the costuming team whatsoever and think they did great with what they had–was the way some of the other characters dressed. You get that some of this is meant to be empowering for these party members, and the people who play them, but there’s something that almost every DnD/fantasy MMO player who is also feminine-leaning will tell you: they hate having no other option but to dress their character in bondage outfits or chainmail bikinis. And I mean we hate it. It hit so many offended buttons for me, right off the bat, and sort of colored the rest of the way I saw the play. Normally, you can say that it gives the production team a break as far as finding or making armor (as an excuse). Except that I know for the fact that SCA is an international organization that is usually up for working with people in exchange for publicity, and cosplay has created all sorts of cheats, that it shouldn’t actually be an issue.

At times, a lot of beats were cringe inducing unless you kept the setting and the age of Tilly in mind. You had to remember it was the 90’s, you had to remember she was fifteen when she died, you had to remember that she lived in a small town. It was too much from a story standpoint because we were watching this play out, we didn’t have the ability to rewind or flip back a few pages to remember important facts to keep things in perspective. While some of the monsters were named after people in her life, creating interesting moments for Agnus to interact with, it just sat weird to me because the way they worked into the story didn’t make sense. I think he was relying on Tilly’s age to explain it…except I was a fifteen year old writer, and I wouldn’t have done anything that blatant. It felt like the writer was trying too hard to make the audience see the parallels between Tilly’s real life and the life inside the game.

Because the writer in question is a fight choreographer, I have to pick on that a little too. This is where it’s hard to tell what was a production choice and what was written into the actual play without having a copy of the script in my own hands. But all of the party members used melee weapons–practical for a play, not so much for a party. The only healer was Tilly, and she was limited severely (more than I think even early DnD would limit a level 20 paladin). There was no magic-centric class. And even then, everyone used swords, daggers, or a battle axe (with the occasional shield). There are a lot of interesting options available, even in the early DnD stages, that could have helped spice up the monotony of the fighting and made the party make so much more sense. Of course, better spacing of the fighting and making it less random as hell would have helped too. While that’s part of DnD, this…pushed it severely, especially for a play. (Okay, I could nitpick the actual fighting in this case, but that would be cheating and I’m spoiled with my own experience.)

Some of this was very…trite and tropey and not what I expected of this play. I may have had too high of expectations because this was (I thought) written by someone who was in the know about this aspect of geekery. But I ended up feeling a bit disappointed in the writing, in things that I have issues with as a player myself, and in how this tried to show DnD to the world. In the audience, I heard people talking about the game like it was old and dead, like no one had played Dungeons and Dragons since the 90’s and like the game hadn’t changed. And you know what? They are right in a way. No self-respecting DnD group would function like this, at least not anymore.


Review: Fast 8

Sometimes, I just want to veg out when I watch a movie. Lots of explosions, funny dialogue, great fight scenes, and I’m happy. (Ginny and I are best friends for a reason, ya’ll.) Extra bonus points? If Vin Diesel is in it. I have an embarrassing crush on his geeky butt, so if I get to watch him in any capacity, I am happy. The Fast and the Furious franchise is one of the ones where I get all of that, so of course it’s one of my favorites to watch, to the point I’ll even pay ridiculous theater ticket pricing to see it. (Of course, when I sat down to watch Fast 8: Fate of the Furious, I belatedly discovered that I somehow MISSED FAST 7, but I blame grief for Paul.)

Summary (non spoiler, but you best be warned there are some ahead): Things seemed to be looking up for Dom Toretto. He’s on his honeymoon with the girl he thought he lost, no one is after him, things are finally calm. Except they really, really aren’t. Secrets are coming out into the open, including the mysterious Cypher who has a personal stake in Dom’s happiness…or lack thereof. Dom is going to have to work against his team, the clock, and any doubts he may have about who he is in order to get out of this mess. But the rewards just might be worth it.

Okay, so one thing I love about Vin is how versitile he is, and this movie shows some of it. Dom has always been the mastermind in the group, and the big dog who isn’t afraid of joking around with his teammates. But this time, we get to see some of the doubt, and some of the anger, that Dom carries with him. This movie hints at some of the earlier comments earlier in the movie that had been left behind as the gang grew up, about living for the speed and the street racing. The concept of family has always been important to Dom, but this movie really hammers home where his priorities are. I loved seeing this different side of the character, seeing Vin really show his acting chops, and providing a solid contrast to some of the other characters.

Dwayne Johnson’s character, Hobb, got to show something beyond big and scary this movie. While they seriously hammed up his strength in some awesome ways, he’s less stiff and more amusing to watch now that he’s transitioned from being an enemy to being a babysitter on a job, to finally being part of the team. But really, the Brits were the best part of this movie and they completely stole the show. I won’t tattle on who belongs to who and what they do… But they steal the show and they are utterly priceless. I was in hysterics the entire time. I also liked a character who got introduced as I think the replacement for Brian’s character, especially since Hobbs has never been as by-the-book on legals and such as he was. Brian brought the cop-component to the team, understanding how that worked. Hobb is military and it shows. The new character seems to be bringing that cop element back to the team, provided he sticks around.

Sadly, there was a character who I didn’t approve of how they used her. Let it be known, I am NOT on team Lettie. I felt like she should have stayed dead, or taken on a sister-role when she did come back. The chemistry between her and Dom has never been there for me, especially compared to Elena who I felt fit him better, and who I loved as a character too. The route they take with her makes sense in some ways, because I can see her sacrificing her own happiness for Dom’s and the rest was just waiting for the best timing, but… I know why they killed her. It wasn’t even because it made the most sense story wise, because there was no reason to keep her alive for as long as they did only to kill her as a reaction. It was the writers trying to cut off a loose end because of people like me who hated the way they went and wanted to hold on to hope that Elena and Dom would end up back together. To the writers, Lettie and Dom is the way it is always going to be, and they wanted to be clear about it. Ugh. (BTW, George Lucas did this to shut the Luke/Leia shippers up too.)

Story and world building wise…the movie excels at ignoring the laws of physics and how things work, but it also knows how to laugh at itself about it. Tanks and orange sports cars, the ways you can blow up your engine and smoke your tires, and hacking car computers to make a zombie march… all of it is completely ridiculous, but it helps make for a fun movie as you wait for the next surprise. It keeps one-upping itself in terms of what is going to show up next, and I keep waiting for them to run out of them. (So far, they haven’t, but I haven’t heard of a Fast 9 yet either.) I do feel like the cast is getting a bit bloated. I love the characters, but it’s getting increasingly hard to focus on them in a story without relying heavily on the previous movies to know who they all are.

You don’t watch an action movie for its complex story telling or its plot twists. Most of the time, you know where the story is going and who is going to win in the end. You go for the characters, and for the sheer joy and excitement it gives you. So leave your logic at a door, and head off to see the snarky family love that is Fate of the Furious.


Review: Age of Adaline

I remember being intrigued by the trailers for this movie but never getting around to seeing it theaters. Well, I’ve rectified that, and what do you know, a romance movie that doesn’t make me want to drill my brain out!

Due to an accident when she was twenty-nine years old (the first time), Adaline has stopped aging. Her daughter now has to pass as her grandmother. Her only friend who she has been able to keep through identities is only possible because she is blind. Adaline lives in fear of being discovered, but is she truly living? She starts to question that when she meets Ellis, who reminds her of what she once had. But there are complications with being immortal, and sometimes they come to catch up with you in the most unlikely of places.

The genre for this one is a little weird to nail down. Normally when you are dealing with immortals, some level of fantasy is involved. But this time, there’s an annoying little voice over guy who goes, “Noooo, there’s science involved!” Not real science, my sort of soft science that sounds technical and doesn’t rip me out of my movie experience by making me go, “Really?” and is from far enough in the future they may manage to avoid getting called out on it…maybe. (After self-tying shoes and hover boards happened on time, I can’t exactly argue against it.) So it’s sort of straddling the line between urban fantasy and soft sci fi with a heavy reliance on the butterfly effect.

This movie is a loving ode to San Francisco. The setting just breathes life and is almost a character in and of itself. They really took the time to find all these little historical nuggets of information and to portray them in such a way that we the audience could see why they were so loved by Ellis and Adaline. Maybe I’m just a history nerd, but I love a movie that acknowledges the past and the touches it leaves behind for all of us to discover. Plus they wove it into to Adaline’s history, and her own personal struggles, that you just felt like this movie couldn’t have been set anywhere else and been the same.

The characters are quirky and I love them. Adaline never stops learning, and she is so much fun to watch her use that knowledge to beat the ever loving tar out of the boys. I love how she holds on to her routes back in time but isn’t living in the dark ages of technology either. (I made a comment to Ginny about pluses of being a vampire, you hold on to your stuff until it becomes vintage and in and then you just have to refurbish/adjust it.) And Ellis doesn’t try to change her, he doesn’t want her to be anything less than who she is. And he can stand on his own too, as proven by his date choice, and he’s just as stubborn as she is which is probably a good thing. Even William hit you close to home because he was trying to grapple with this thing he thought he had dealt with and now it’s coming back at the absolute worst possible time.

I am a known hater of most modern romance movies, but this one is a smart one. There is definite humor, but it’s smart humor, not people being gross or overly sexual or idiotic. It’s little things like Adaline making the joke that she was reading Norwegian in Braille just to screw with Ellis, or really the entire Trivial Pursuit game, that was priceless. And what this allowed you to do was really focus on the emotionally moving parts of the movie. About Adaline still trying to mother her daughter, only to get the tables flipped. About the past, and how there are several great loves in a person’s life. Just…ugh. I could gush forever about this story. Is some of it really annoyingly vague, like what Flemming is supposedly doing in her life or has done in her life, and who the men who came for Adaline at one point were working for? Yeah, but at the same time, it kept its focus on what it wanted. On conquering fears and remembering the past without being afraid of it, to truly live.

As someone who has held on to parts of her past and struggled with healing, this movie really spoke to me on a personal level. I’m not surprised how hard it was for Adaline to stop running because I’ve been there myself. And she got a happy ending, which puts this movie about a couple of others I can think about that do similar things but go all tragic at the end. If you haven’t seen Age of Adaline and you like some smart, gentle romance, I highly recommend it.


Review: Strange Magic

Random clicking on YouTube unfortunately caught my attention with a female fairy singing Kelly Clarkson’s “Stronger,” which led to much more clicking to figure out what where she was from, and then… I found myself watching a George Lucas film. Why do I do this to myself? Anywho…

Strange Magic tells the story of two kingdoms: the Fairy Kingdom and the Dark Forest. The border is marked by primroses, which are the key ingredient in love potions. However, they don’t exactly have much to do with each other after the main creator of those potions gets captured and locked away. But that’s going to change as the two fairy princesses and the goblin king get caught up in a tangle that only true love can undo.

…I’m not touching any of that to start with. I’m focusing on the good first here. The animation is pretty, if sometimes a little awkward. I think it comes down to character design when things get odd to look at. The quality is top notch, it’s just certain angles and character expressions. But then you will catch a second where it is just gorgeous to look at. I also applaud that the primroses…actually look like primroses. I’ve had to whack a few people who think a primrose looks the same as your stereotypical rose. And even if they don’t necessarily make sense, I think the two different environments are both gorgeous to look at, if for completely different reasons.

Also on my good list are the musical numbers. I am a sucker for music in films, and I find the way it was used in Strange Magic perfect. It’s a lot like films such as Happy Feet, where it is acknowledged that yes, this character is currently belting out a rock ballad, go with it. (Or in Bog King’s case, complain about it.) They picked some great ones for each situation, though I couldn’t decide if casting was done before they decided to include music, or if they just didn’t care about the quality of the singers attached. I think some of them were fine, others just obviously struggled. But there were also some hard songs in there, so I think even trained singers could have had issues with them.

Okay, now for my issues. The characters are sort of fleshed out, sort of…not. I mean, I love Marianne, and I love the idea of her and Bog… I’m not really feeling how it went down in the movie itself because world wise, it doesn’t look like the two species can work together…or does it? (More on this in the next paragraph.)  I feel like we were supposed to like the fairy king, but honestly I think I ended the movie hating him more than I hated Roland, who I know we were supposed to have strong, hateful feelings towards. Also, Sunny was a little creepy, not going to lie, in the same way that the fairy king was supposed to be this nice but not necessarily bright presence and instead there was a whole lot of passive-aggressive toxicity happening instead in what was supposed to be a girl-power type movie. Again though, I love Marianne, and Dawn at least stays true and consistent to her character until the shoe-horned ending.

Ugh, the world building confused me. I wasn’t sure what was going on with all of the other races, and if everything was supposed to be capable of being inter-species or not. Because if not, we’re going to have serious problems due to this whole need for a thing called heirs. But if so, why the big deal about the princesses ending up with non-fairies? Why are only fairies the options at the ball where Dawn is allowed to dance and whatnot? I don’t get it, and because it’s Lucas, I probably never will. Also, the Dark Forest and the Fairy Kingdom were really walking stereotype cliches and that was just painful. And made no sense as to why they were divided like that, or why there was THUNDER in the forest, but it was sunny in the fields of the fairy kingdom.

Oh, and more world building questions. Why does Sugar Plum Fairy look different from all the other fairies? Why do  primroses only grow at the border, that is a very silly rule for a plant that will grow EVERYWHERE,  speaking from personal experience. Why is the BOG King king of the Dark FOREST? Bogs and forests are not the same thing! Why do some of the goblins like Dawn’s singing but others hate it? How sexists are the fairies that Marianne is considered different/unique and yet why does Bog suddenly find her attractive when really, the differences between her and Dawn are REALLY minor as far as he would have been able to notice in the short time he’s known them? Why do all the men folk with fighting skills seem to live in their armor?

(And a stupid nitpick, why does everyone complain about Marianne’s hair being a mess when Dawn’s is soooo much worse?)

Overall, eh. This is a film that was better in clips than it was once all strung together. I’d love to rewrite it and actually fix some of the mess, but that’s going to be a lot of work and probably not something I am going to invest the time in without the promise of a return. So definitely look up the different musical bits, you’ll get the idea of the story from there without having to cringe through some of the sexist and baffling parts.


Review: The Help

This is my big guilty pleasure movie. It’s one of two that I can never turn away from whenever it comes up. I highly recommend it, and I decided to write a post about why.

The Help, based off of the book by the same name, is a movie set during the Civil Rights Era, where the South was rampant with racism, and the biggest offender was the person people would least expect: the housewife. Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan is the daughter of such a culture, but is horrified by it. Aibileen Clark is a grief-stricken maid who works to keep some semblance of a life after she lost her son, working for a woman suffering from postpartum depression who is unable to acknowledge her own daughter. Minny Jackson is an outspoken maid who has the unfortunate problem of working for the most racist woman in town, as well as suffering from an abusive husband. Skeeter ends up being the tool for several black maids to express the awful conditions of the working help in the South as conditions continue to plummet, as well as the stories of occasional kindness from their employers, by helping them publish a book telling their stories anonymously.

The characters of this movie are what make it, as well as the actresses who play them. I am well known for quoting Minny’s line about the people around her giving her heart palpitations with their actions, and she is by far my favorite character. (Though Skeeter has her moments of awesome). And through both those women’s sass, we have Aibileen as this stalwart figure of seriousness, which is really her being the one who has been impacted the hardest by the racism of the times. She’s lost her son to it, and is alone in this world as a result except for Minny’s friendship. But through the course of the story, these three women discover more about themselves through their actions and through sharing their stories with each other and the rest of the country. It allows them to grow and change their lives, though whether for the better is from a matter of perspective in some cases.

As for setting, the scenery and costumes are to die for. Of course, I love the fashion of that era, so the entire movie makes me squee. I also love the little touches that they do to help establish the setting. Things like the black and white TV during the coverage of various Civil Right movements, Skeeter bringing up Jackie Kennedy and how she has never looked more regal, the uniforms for the maids and for the waiter at the local diner. The diner period, which I am also a sucker for. It was also right there that this was so the South, from deviled eggs with paprika, the love of pie and fried chicken (we take that very seriously around here), that the accents were really sort of secondary for me. I do like that everyone had a drawl of some sort, but they also varied it some, which makes sense because it varies a little bit from person to person in my experience. (I don’t have one until I’m either being super sarcastic or super angry, for example, and mine has a definite Texas lilt to it.)

The part of the story that does sort of irk me is that the story is meant to be about the lives of these black maids, about what they had to live and go through and their way of taking some of that agency back. What irks me is that we had to have this teenage white girl (I say teenage, I’ll be kinder, she’s a recent college graduate) be their mouth piece. Yes, she gives them the advance from the books, but she’s the one who builds up her career off of it. This could just be the time of the book’s fictional writing. If Aibileen had written it, she may not have been able to publish it. We also wouldn’t have had Constantine’s story. But I think it may have made for a stronger book and given the maids even more agency over their story. It also would have given Aibileen an even stronger ending instead of the rather ambiguous one that she currently has.

Overall, this is always going to be one of my favorite movies. I love the relationships these women have with each other, the way they tell stories, the fact that even though there are some romantic subplots, it is a majority female cast that instead talks about life, about the issues of their times, about their families and their friends and their work. It isn’t another rom-com or Bond girl set-up, and at the same time it has tension and forward momentum. If you haven’t seen it yet, I highly recommend it for a Saturday or Sunday binge watch. I promise you won’t regret it.