Category Archives: Movie Reviews

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.

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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.


Okay, in for a penny… Thoughts on Sharon/Steve

My thoughts probably aren’t worth much. My annoyance with comic book story lines and writing is well-known, I know what I read off of wiki half the time, and I am notorious for being moderately forgiving where the MCU writing is concerned. But considering the stink Atwell has managed to raise and having a strong opinion here, I thought it would be worth posting (also it takes my mind off the fact it is the month of doctor visits around here).

Let it be known, I love Peggy Carter. She is a powerful, authoritative woman in a WWII setting who doesn’t sacrifice her femininity to be taken seriously, and in fact frequently uses it to her advantage. In the MCU timeline, she and Steve never got their chance due to tragic circumstances, and when reunited in the present, she was on her death bed and senile. Between then, she was one of the leading figure heads of what would become SHIELD, and a loving wife to another man who (I assume) she came to love as much as she loved Steve. Civil War finally lets this woman have true peace.

Now, Winter Soldier established that Steve has been part of Peggy’s life. He visits, he holds her hand, he lets her know that he ended up being okay. But she is incapable of remembering it for more than a few hours. I would argue that in the years between the ending of Avengers and Civil War, Steve’s feelings for Peggy have shifted. He still loves her. He always will love her. But let’s be clear, Peggy was in a lot of ways Steve’s first love. While a piece of him is always going to be hers, I think the rest of those feelings shifted towards platonic, and just as dear to him. He was trying to find his place in this new world, for what is likely going to be a long life short of getting put on ice again, and now he’s fighting to keep it.

Enter Sharon Carter. SHIELD agent, code name Agent 13, and able to keep up with Steve as he is now, with some of the morals of his time period.

Let’s be clear, Steve and Sharon are in no way related. This whole situation is not incestuous, no matter what Atwell says. If anything, this is dating a sister and discovering that while the two of you have different goals or situations, you match up better with her younger sister for a better relationship. You can still be friends with the older sister (see my rant above about Steve loving Peggy just as deeply, if now more platonic), but be in a relationship with the younger, in this case Sharon.

Do I think the kiss was awkward? Yes. I think it was written purposefully to be awkward. We established from the very first Captain America that Steve is awkward with women in personal settings, and since he hasn’t had any chance to practice that I’m aware of, despite Natasha’s attempts to the contrary, there’s no reason for that to have changed. In fact, he and Sharon have been flirting with this line between professional and personal relationships since she was undercover and keeping an eye on him since post-Avengers, if not sooner depending on when he moved into that particular apartment.

People love to bring up the funeral that just happened. That Peggy hasn’t even been in the ground for more than a day. Let me point something else out to you. The fact the funeral was that prepared, that everyone (including Steve) was waiting for that text, that message, on that short of notice suggests to me that Peggy has been holding on to the edge for a long time now. Funerals do not happen that quickly otherwise. Arrangements were already made, they were just waiting for her to need them. Steve and Sharon’s grief, respectfully, wasn’t strong enough for me to believe this was sudden news. It was hard, don’t get me wrong. But I think they had been grieving for much longer, letting go of Peggy by inches and this was just the final farewell.

And here’s more context. Steve has just broken international law, and is clearly intending on breaking more. All part of being the man that Peggy loved, being true to that image. Sharon has encouraged him to do this, to be true to himself, and knows just as well as he does what is likely going to happen to him when the dust settles. And finally, finally they cross a line they’ve been awkwardly flirting with for years. Why? Because they know there is a chance they likely won’t have another opportunity. Both are people who can’t live with that sort of regret.

Do I think Sharon and Steve are in a relationship currently? No. She still works for the people who, by virtue of the law, want him captured and thrown in jail. Neither of them are the type to try and make a relationship work in that sort of situation. This was an action. This was them finally going, “I have feelings. I want to act on them when the timing is better, if we both still have them.” It was awkward as hell, the timing was awful, and both have issues to wrangle if it’s going to ever work.

Sounds like a real-life relationship to me.

So for all those who feel like this is a betrayal of Peggy, who think she would be turning in her grave, I’m going to remind you of something. Peggy would want Steve to be himself, and to be happy. Just like she was, in the end, with her husband and her family.


Review: Captain America – Civil War

I had issues with Age of Ultron (a lot of people did), and while some of my issues are very specific to my love of Hawkeye, some just dealt with the lack of characterization, the lack of acknowledgement of the previous films, and some serious suffering of dialogue in very of snarky quips. Civil War was by nature set up to be the next big team-up movie in the MCU, and was the first chance for it to salvage its reputation.

And boy, did it deliver.

Set (sort of) at the same time as Ant-Man, Civil War details the signing of an agreement between over a hundred nations in the world to bring the Avengers in check, turning them from a private organization into something controlled by a UN panel. The problem? Not all of the Avengers agree with the decision. The ink isn’t even dry when the first conflict arises where the Avengers are needed, and a choice is made that draws the line between Captain America, Iron Man, and those who side with them. But nothing is black and white, not when personal motives are involved.

OMG, this movie. Where do I even start? Okay, characters, because they are why you go see this movie. We had a wonderful catch-up with where some of the characters are emotionally after films, such as Tony (and his relationships with his parents and with Pepper, his guilt, etc.) and Wanda (where she’s at with her powers, the loss of her brother and home, her feelings for the Vision), that went unaddressed for a while. The women finally weren’t shafted into the role of love interest and little else. I think my favorite line is one of Wanda’s (let’s be honest, she and another character I’m about to get into stole the show). “I can’t do anything about their fear. I can only control my own.” I’m paraphrasing, but that line, ugh, my heart. The women got to kick ass, take names, make their own decisions, and stayed true to their own characters, even with faint nods to Natasha’s botched attempt at a relationship with Banner.

Also, we have the best Spiderman now, we do not need another. I thought his costume was a little too bright in tone compared to the others, a little too simple in terms of just being cloth but supposedly Tony has had an eye on this kid for a while, but otherwise I was very impressed with him. I especially loved the touch of Tony using Steve’s words to get Peter to his side, that was brilliant. (According to my friend  Brandon, this was a symbol of Tony realizing he needed a Steve on his team, a point I agree with.) We didn’t get some long, drawn out explanation of his powers, which was great since God knows, we’ve had the origin of Spiderman shoved down our throats enough. And Aunt May looked like an actual aunt, not a grandmother. I loved how someone tried to shut him down as far as chattering in a fight. Meanwhile, Hawkeye is going, “Hi. We haven’t met yet. I’m Clint.” As to parallel that this kid is on the right track, ignore the crusty military types. Just…wow.

(Also, THANK YOU FOR GIVING ME REAL CLINT! I HAVE MISSED HIM SO!)

There was so much clever writing in this movie, I can’t even explain. Like, without giving away the big plot twists, let’s just focus on a few little things. That moment when Bucky struggles to get Steve to understand that yes, HYDRA was controlling him but he still did these horrible things, telling Tony that he remembers all the people he killed, I had the epiphany that he is meant to represent what these accords will do the Avengers over time. I mean, we all know that they would be blocked from doing many of the time sensitive things they need to do or would be severely hampered (since most of the MCU movies take place in about three days, give or take). But he represents the jobs where they were sent in and they didn’t need to be there, the political power-plays, and the damage that they would do to them psychologically and emotionally.

Tony also came to represent how personal investment ruined the ability to rationally approach a problem, something commonly explored in this movie where so many people have suffered over the years, both at the hands of HYDRA and other villains…and just by the efforts of the Avengers to stop them. His own festering guilt drives him to make one set of decisions, his desire to protect the people he considers family drives him to make another that contradict the first…and then in the end, when an attack hits him personally, all the rational reasons he had fly out the window. But I think Tony grew in this movie, more than he has in any of his solo movies outside of the first, and that excites me…even if I wish he wasn’t doing a fourth Iron Man film (sorry, those just haven’t jived well with me lately). Vision suffered from a similar problem, since his emotional investment with Wanda bit him in the butt in a way he wasn’t expecting, but I feel like Tony really had the big moments of it.

A throw-away brilliance is the return of Russo. For those who may have forgotten (I did), the Secretary of State in Civil War is the same dude who released Red Hulk on Manhattan back when Edward Norton was Bruce Banner. That should terrify you. In addition, Black  Panther did have a good story arc to help introduce him well leading up to his own film. This is coming from a person who hated this character going into the movie, wasn’t going to go see his film, was hoping he didn’t ruin the movie for me. I have never gotten a good opinion of him. But this movie helped change my mind considerably. I liked him, I’ll go see his movie. They did a good job.

If I had to nitpick something, it would have to be the camera work and one element of the story. The camera got better as the film went on (or I adjusted to it, not sure which), but shaky camera syndrome was bad early on, particularly in fights. It made it hard to track what was happening, though that could be because I know some stage combat myself and track out of habit where a blow is going in case a sword goes flying when it isn’t supposed to. The other is a massive SPOILER, so avert your eyes if you haven’t seen it yet. The death of the Wakonda king at the UN conference didn’t affect me like it was supposed to. I thought the man was a self-righteous ass, so  him dying, even with the obvious grief of his son, didn’t make me go, “Awww, poor babies,” it made me go, “Whelp.” But then, I have daddy issues, so you gotta actually work to get me invested in your character before you kill them.

Overall, this is a fantastic ride. While it’s getting to where its hard to follow the MCU without previously seeing any of the other movies, Civil War does enough recapping that you might be okay if you come in with some general knowledge rather than specific viewings in your memory. And I highly recommend it.


Review: Crimson Peak

…Yes, you can pick your jaws up off the floor, I’m reviewing something that’s still in theaters. Mostly because I really wanted to talk about this movie, but didn’t want to see it again, so I needed to review it now. (Also, this means I dig less into my limited horror movie resources for next Halloween, yay!)

Edith Cushing wishes to become a writer, a difficult thing indeed in the days of Edwardian New York. The oddball of her social set, she never expected attention from men, and in fact seemed to scorn all things feminine and romantic, at least in terms of her writing. This all changes with the arrival of Sir Thomas Sharpe and his sister Lucille, who are seeking investment from Edith’s father and his company to save his family’s lands. In a whirlwind romance, Edith finds herself as the new Lady of a harsh land. Except the ghost of her mother delivered a warning, and there are secrets in the hall of the decrepit house. Deadly ones.

Ugh, where to attack this one… Okay, let’s start with characters. The Sharpes were great. Thomas was this perfect level of warmth and strength, but there was brittleness there, and it made him very endearing. On the other side, Lucille produces this image that is supposed to be similar to Thomas, warm and strong, but she is in fact cold and it shows sometimes. Her strength, however, is very real and terrifying. The actress managed it well, so that when Lucille did show emotion, it was done so powerfully that it made me jump in my seat. I also liked Edith’s father, for the bit we saw him in, and showing an actual capable father (if a slightly underhanded one, but I’ll give him a pass). I golf clapped when he confronted Thomas in the study.

Where the characters fell apart were Edith and the doctor/childhood friend character. I don’t know why they picked up this girl from Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, and I honestly tried to give her a second chance, but she is so flat! I mean, there would be an occasionally flash of something good, and then…flat. Which didn’t fit with how spunky Edith was supposed to be judging from dialogue and other character’s reactions to her and just… Ugh. Bad casting decision. As for the doctor character, he was set up to be Edith’s rescuer, and that sort of irks me. I mean, they tried to fix that in the end, but honestly, I wish he hadn’t been involved at all. He was just an added complication to an already clunky plot.

And yes, the plot was a little clunky. The romance was built up great, and had a great ending, but it fell apart in the middle. I think skipping the boat trip was a bad idea. I think we needed to see at least a little of it, to help transition. But a lot of the plot problems actually come to issues with the world building. I mean, we’re supposed to be scared of these ghosts. Except they were shock-scares and gore, not actual fear because they established with the first ghost that even creepy ghosts can have good intentions. If the mother ghost was just supposed to be a warning about the future (and how she knows the future is a plot hole that irks me), then she needed to be not creepy so we would see a difference in the ghosts at Crimson Peak…except they were good intentioned too, so really, the ghosts were shot in the foot early on. They were shown too much, instead of just showing them sort of influencing the world around them at first and hiding the monsters until the end. Another minor plot issue is the clay itself. Is England really that much wetter? I’ve fallen on red clay earth (yay, Oklahoma and horses), and let me tell you, it’s hard! That part really made no sense to me.

I did feel like the sheer amount of back story and mystery were handled well, to a point. I knew something was going on by the walk in the park, though I wasn’t sure of specifics until later. But it was hinted at beautifully and woven into the story well as random little snippets that the audience saw, but Edith didn’t. I did find the actual recordings to be overkill. By that point, the audience knew what was going on, it was pretty obvious what all else was going on that with her smarts, Edith should have figured it out without having someone tell her. I mean, fine, keep the trunk thing if it is that important, but can we just stick with the pictures and whatnot being in it? And I refuse to believe that Lucille would have missed the canisters for that long anyway…

Overall, it’s a good watch. It’s less paranormal scary and more gory (sort of like the Underworld movies, now that I think of it), and you definitely can’t poke at the plot too hard before it falls apart. But the acting of the Sharpes makes it worth going to see, so if you can grit your teeth past Mia, you’ll feel like you definitely got what you paid for.


Review: Sweeney Todd (Film: 2007)

…I felt like I had to qualify which version of this I was reviewing. For those who are still confused, yes, this is the version with Johnny Depp.

Fifteen years ago, Benjamin Barker was falsely accused and convicted of a crime by a corrupt Judge Turpin and sentenced to life in a penal colony. However, his ship capsizes at sea and he is rescued by Anthony Hope and brought aboard another ship that eventually returns to England. There, Barker takes on the alias of Sweeney Todd and discovers that the judge who condemned him also left his life in ruins to satisfy his own lust. With the help of Mrs. Lovett, his neighbor from before the conviction, he declares that he will have his revenge against not only the judge, but all the people of London. But things are not as they seem, and the greatest tragedy of all is set to take the stage…

I’m not going to pick on the plot too much on this one. It was actually really solid and historically grounded, and is also somewhat based on an urban legend, so… Free pass. I will offer a little interpretation I have, which is the true villain is not Turpin or Todd… But Mrs. Lovett. I feel like she is real the center of everything that goes wrong. I don’t have proof of her being behind what happens to Lucy Barker, but I have the feeling of it. She’s definitely why Todd ends up as twisted as he is, with her being the one to suggest cannibalism, plus the ending reveal (which I won’t spoil). And what happened to her husband? I don’t know, but it’s convenient that he isn’t around anymore.

Now to the actual actors. I gotta say, Todd was great. Johnny Depp had a certain croon when he was being, for lack of a better explanation, the man Benjamin Barker was, and then a deeply gravely growl when he was being Sweeney Todd. The counter balance was just amazing. Okay, I was making Harry Potter cracks over the casting discussions for Turpin and his croney, the Beadle, because… Snape and Pettigrew. I can’t help it. Toby also seemed to grow (too much, I mean) between his first scene as the barber’s apprentice to shop boy. The only one I really had issue with otherwise was Carter as Mrs. Lovett. Sometimes, her way of being slow and creepy was just fine. But others, I felt like she missed that Mrs. Lovett was being a used carsalesman, one that sometimes talks too much. This was particularly obvious in “Worst Pies in London,” where she’s supposed to be talking Todd up…except she’s so slow in her movements, it completely contradicts the pacing of the actual song. I mean, Pirelli annoyed me for similar reasons, since he really should have been hamming it up and instead he was so tight and small in his movements, but his part is minor. Lovett isn’t, and that was disappointing.

From the horror standpoint, despite Burton wanting it to be a gore fest, it just doesn’t get there. Now, depending on the director in a stage production, your gore factor will wildly vary, but I expected a film version to be outright gruesome. Instead, similar to Sleepy Hollow, Burton used a rather comically shade of red for the blood, one that was extremely unrealistic (this spoken as someone with a skin condition that’s led me to some rather gruesome moments). It’s also got the consistency of milk, which is nothing like what you actually look for. So yes, it turns the stomach, but not for the ick, it’s blood factor, just the ewww, that looks gross one.

Musicals are not what people usually associate with Halloween. But I think you should make an exception for Sweeney Todd. It won’t completely give you nightmares, and the story really is quite sad, so don’t spoil yourself with Wikipedia summaries until you see it! The movie cuts some sillier scenes from the musical, so your grim and dark Halloween mood won’t be broken up by them, and instead it just lets you focus on the horrible, tragic circumstances of these characters. (It also does miracles for Johanna’s character, but that’s my opinion.)


Review: Teen Witch

Hey look, I managed something after all. (By some miracle.) And in a fit of Halloween Nostalgia, I watched an old movie that at some point crossed my path when I was a child. While not your normal Halloween horror movie, I thought it would be a tame way to start the month off.

Teen Witch follows Louise Miller, a freshmen just starting in high school and struggling like we all did. But there is something special about Louise. On her sixteenth birthday, she comes into her powers as a reincarnation from the Salem witches. At first, she uses her powers for petty things–getting her little brother to behave and getting revenge on upperclassmen and teachers. But when she uses her powers to become the most popular girl in school, things start taking a turn for the worst, and Louise has to make a decision. Keep her powers, or earn things the hard way and have them mean so much more.

Okay, this is very much an 80’s movie. I make no apologies for that. But seriously, this used to air on ABC Family and Disney?! Excuse me, I’m going to go laugh hysterically in a corner for a while. It gets a bit racy for them nowadays, in somewhat mortifying ways. (There’s a poor home ec teacher trying to teach sex ed, it’s awful.) The plot is full of trope, but I don’t really expect much more from it. The pacing though was lacking, though, which was disappointing. You can have tropes and be fairly predictable, but you have to keep things constantly going. They tried, but overall the feeling of the movie dragged. Big time. It’s very much a movie you jump around according to what scene you want to watch next. There’s also some description issues since some of the films call Louise a descendant from a Salem witch, when she’s a reincarnation within the same family–what’s referred to as a throw-back.

Character wise, I did not buy into the main character very much. Poor little rich girl who isn’t popular in school. Um, I’m sorry, what? Like, this is who we are really giving amazing, basically mind-raping powers to? Really? Talk about misuse of power, man… And her adviser in all things magical, Selena, wasn’t much better. I guess they really needed to work on making these characters relateable. I mean, if the main character hadn’t been from what was very obviously an affluent family, it would have given her at least a little bit of depth. But as it was, she just came across as extremely shallow and self-centered. I guess this was some of the point and her needing to learn what really matters, but yeah, needs some help in the character department.

There was a lack of world building in general. I mean, they really relied on this idea of a) the Salem witches were actual witches, and b) a bunch of mystical components without actually explaining them. For example, how deeply is the amulet linked to Louise’s powers? Does she have powers without it, or does it have to find her before her sixteenth birthday? Why was Louise reincarnated within her family? Selena mentions the last of her powers being in this bag, so can they make their powers into tangible objects (which might answer the amulet question)? And then they just tossed random phrases around to serve as the magic words… I just wish they had done more to establish what was going on and how it worked.

I’ll be completely honest… It’s not the greatest of movies. I watch for the musical segments. And while it isn’t your traditional scary movie, it really is more of a Fridge Horror situation. I mean, she basically takes free will away from all those around her. But if you want something vaguely mystical to watch this Halloween because you are a horror wimp (and welcome to the club), see if you can get a copy of Teen Witch and enjoy the campiness.


Review: How to Train Your Dragon 2

Okay, I had a piece of strawberry shortcake to recover from the feels. I can write this review now.

How to Train Your Dragon 2 picks up a few years after the original film. The people of Berk have welcomed dragons into their lives, mostly with the help of Hiccup… who is now struggling to figure out who he is, especially as his father is in a big rush to shove him into the role of chieftain. He escapes by exploring the world around Berk, which is now much more open to them because of the dragons. In the process, he stumbles into a conflict between two opposing sides: Drago, who is attempting to conquer the world with an army of dragons and has past history with the people of Berk…and his mother, who has spent the last twenty years traveling the world, rescuing dragon species from Drago and giving them a safe place. The role of the peacemaker is familiar for Hiccup, but he’s about to discover that he has more growing to do to become who he is supposed to be.

As far as sequel movies go, this is how you do it. It expanded upon the world, yet didn’t contradict itself. We saw several of the dragon species that were mentioned in the first movie, but we didn’t get a chance to see, as well as ones that Berk had no knowledge of. We met the counterpart species for the Queen from the first movie (the Alphas), and considering their sizes and powers, it makes a lot of sense for them to be off on their own. The answer of why we’ve only seen Toothless for a Night Fury is answered, while at the same time the species itself sees some growth. My only concern with world building and even larger plot is I don’t know what else they can do, and I know there’s a third film in the works.

The plot was very typical coming of age story, just with dragons and a missing parent reunion and stuff I mentioned in world building. It still hits you right in the emotions (obviously), since I was laughing and then crying. I did like that our three primary female characters weren’t considered lesser to the men. In fact, Astrid is at almost equal levels with Hiccup in some ways, just more down to earth and steady to help counter balance his flightiness. (Okay, yes, we do the captured female-rescued-by-male thing. She reverses it first, so I forgive it.) And there is a moment where Valka says, word for word, something that Stoic had previously told Hiccup, showing how similar they are and of equal if just very different standing.

I had two nitpicky details. I didn’t like Ruffnut and the trio of male’s subplot. At first and in trailers, it was really funny. But it just weighed kinda heavy. I mean, it did turn funny when Ruff got rejected by all the males period after the royal brat she was. But her behavior just made me cringe once I had long enough to think about it. Because manipulating men to her advantage was okay? No, just no. I’d have been more comfortable if she kept up with her shoving them away and being like, “Dudes, NO!” rather than use them to win races and such.

My other nitpick was Valka herself. I mean, I love her. But she didn’t entirely jive with what we knew about her from the first movie. It was implied she was exactly like the other women around the village, who are female models of the males and the exact opposite of Hiccup and some of the scrawnier teenagers. Wider and taller. But instead, she is sort of the same build as Hiccup, Astrid, and the twins are growing into (which is the minority on Berk). I can’t decide if they just don’t think a heavy female protagonist won’t fly or if it was to explain why Hiccup is so scrawny. So consider me a little irked, speaking as someone who has pretty much always been tall and thick. I’m also not sure how I feel about her being this voice who tried to stop the Vikings back during the war with the dragons. It also wasn’t quite right with what we established in the first film–I feel like if this was some trait of his wife’s, Stoic would have reacted differently and at least mentioned her. And the helmet made of her breastplate (ew) wouldn’t be a thing, I don’t think.

But that’s me being extremely nitpicky. Overall, the film was full of laughs and tears, excitement and wonder. It’s also completely different from the books, but I can see flashes of the influence (I think the twins are meant as a tribute to the original series, honestly). It is definitely high on my recommended film list,and I hope Dreamworks does just as well with the third and ends this series on a high note.


Review: Disney’s Descendants

Well, I tweeted while watching it, I figure I might as well review it, right?

Descendants is the story of the children of our favorite princes, princesses, villains, and sidekicks, looking for their own adventures. It all begins when Ben, the son of King Adam and Queen Belle of Beauty and the Beast fame, decides that the children of villains deserve a chance, rather than being imprisoned on an island behind an anti-magic barrier with their parents. He suggests a small group to begin with: Carlos, the son of Cruella DeVille from 101 Dalmations, Jay, the son of Jafar from Aladdin, Evie, the daughter of the Evil Queen from Snow White…and Mal, the daughter of Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty. It’s the last who especially sets everyone on edge–and for good reason. Maleficent plans to use this idea of Ben’s as a chance to get the Fairy Godmother’s magic wand and free her and the other villains. But what if Mal starts to have second thoughts about whether or not she’s actually evil?

As far as Disney movies go, it’s pretty formulaic even by their standards. I mean, I was shocked thirty minutes in when the kids almost achieved their goal, but then one of the kids bungles things and so we have to have so many attempts at getting the stupid thing. The plot suffered because there were just so many characters going on, and none of them really had subplots going in the same direction. So the main plot had to try and herd them all together…which just made things even more of a mess and it felt like we didn’t really get to touch on some of them, especially Carlos who I felt got shafted a bit. Jay and Evie sort of manged to survive with some character depth, but a lot of the attention went to Mal because…Mal’s plot was also the main plot, she just had some internal conflict going on in addition.

That said, I did love most of the characters. They did a good job with the villain kids, showing them slowly coming to the good side by softening their look. (I’m holding on to hope that the end was just them being formal and they are going to stay fairly punk in their more everyday outfits.) As characters, I loved how reversed Evie and Jay were from their parents. Evie actually likes cooking and cleaning and sewing, which seems contradictory to her mother, and whereas Jafar was all about the intellect, Jay is very physical. Carlos also had a little of that, reminding me more of Horace and Jasper than Cruella. Mal was very much her mother’s daughter, which actually was a bonus because it fit with where they were going with their character. Aubrey at times fell too hard into the mean girl role, I would have liked to see more depths, while Ben actually shocked the bejeebus out of me at the end with his surprising changes (though he’s Belle’s kid, how I missed that he would be smart, I don’t know.) Again, there was just a lack of focus that made it hard to get as much out of them as I would have liked.

World building and back stories wise, we got given a bit of an info dump at the beginning, and then we were just sort of tossed in. Which…didn’t exactly work. Most of the Disney films are actually set in different time periods and countries, and most of them are even historical. I couldn’t get how the heck Carlos could be in the same universe as Ben, for example. Really, despite it being in the song that they remixed, they seemed to have forgotten that the set Beauty and the Beast in France, not some random magical kingdom they made up. I just wish we had gotten less names thrown around and more focus on the history of the characters and how this crazy world came to exist. Hell, that could have been added motivation for Mal’s eventual heel-face-turn!

Now, because this is live action, I have to pick on the acting and costumes a little bit. I normally give Disney channel movies a bit of credit. I mean, I was raised during the golden age of Disney TV movies actually being good, but I know it’s a bit more hit or miss now. But I actually thought a lot of the actors were at least decent, with some potential for more. The exception…was the guy they got for Ben. The title male character, and he was stiff and flat a lot of the time, especially in dance scenes (not good for a musical). He had his moments, but overall, I expect better if you are going to make him the co-lead. While some of the nods to the parents were neat, the colors were sometimes overly bright. They could have muted them and made their point just as clear. I also don’t get why Maleficent had black lips when one of her big signatures is her bright red lipstick. The crown for the coronation also looked awful and fake, which is cringe worthy.

Despite all of this, the visual effects were awesome, and I have to give a shout out to Maleficent’s actress, since she was great. And as everyone saw in the tweets, yes, she was the original Glinda from Wicked and she is also from my home state. I am proud. I also loved Belle and her little whacks at Adam whenever he said something she didn’t like, it made me snicker. Which is good, since Adam is still a bit of a jerk (yay, characters being consistent) and needs his leash tugged occasionally. Obviously I loved the female villain-bred heroes, since Evie and Mal sort of just stole my heart, and I loved the evil little smirks and power walks they had, especially how Evie’s plot boiled down to, you don’t have to be an airhead to catch a guy….heck, you don’t even need the guy. And still I was on the Ben and Mal train through all of this!

Okay, I have to wrap this up. As far as an obvious answer to the Ever After High franchise goes, Disney did…okay. They could have fleshed things out more, and they obviously forgot their own canon in places. But (and this is a big but), this first movies appears to be, in Disney fashion, a franchise building block, much like a first book in a longer running series. As far as that goes… They did good. I will definitely be seeing what’s going on in the sequel, and while the books look to be too juvenile for me to even glance at (curses), I hope they will do great things with the animated shorts coming out.