Welcome to The Mundane Adventures of a Fangirl

I consider myself a Fangirl. What does that mean, you ask? A "fanboy" in the most common understanding is a hardcore fan of 'genre' based entertainment in particular. In my case - science-fiction and comic book based movies and television. Because I'm a chick - it's fangirl, not fanboy. There you have it! I am a big movie fan, however, not necessarily a 'film' fan. And now - I have the forum to present my opinions to the public! These will mainly be movie reviews -that will always be my opinion - repeat OPINION. Just what I think, and in no way do I present my opinion as fact. I hope you enjoy and maybe it will help you decide what to see at the movie theater this weekend!

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Movie Review: Avengers Endgame (PG13 – 181 minutes)

It has happened – we reached the twenty-second movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe!  At this point in the MCU, we are still reeling from the end of last year’s Infinity War where Thanos (the Mad Titan) collected all six of the infinity stones (space, power, time, soul, mind, and reality), inserted them into his Infinity Gauntlet, and snapped his fingers to eliminate half the living beings in the universe.  It’s his way of solving overpopulation and a lack of resources.  I guess he didn’t think about just snapping more resources into existence while he was working on this plan for his entire life.  That movie ended with the shocking disintegration of most of our heroes, and this movie picks up with the remaining heroes stunned and confused. 

Slight spoilers from here down – it’s tough to say anything else about this movie without discussing at least a little bit of plot!

The post credits scene from Captain Marvel was Danvers showing up on earth as War Machine, Banner (not Hulk), Black Widow, and Captain America had found and were using Fury’s Marvel pager.  She demands to know where Fury is, and we can assume they ask her to go get Tony.  This movie begins with a quick flashback to Hawkeye on his farm as his entire family gets dusted (Thanos’s ‘half’ can unfairly affect some folks disproportionately).  We jump to Tony and Nebula in the remains of the Milano in space, killing time while their air runs out.  Danvers rescues them, and brings them back to earth, after 21 days up there.  Tony is frustrated, guilty, and takes it all out on Cap as anger.  Rocket has noticed a power surge on a distant planet similar to the one that caused the dusting, so they head out after Thanos to get the stones and undo the snap.  The issues is that when they get to him, he has just used the stones to destroy the stones, and there is nothing left: no plan, no options, and no hope.  This is literally only the first ten to fifteen minutes of a three hour movie. 

Major spoilers from here down

From that point on, there’s a five year time jump, and the characters are attempting to move on.  Ant-Man gets pulled from the quantum realm, and from there, they plan a time heist.  I won’t say anything else - just that you really do need to see this.  Similarly to Infinity War, this movie rewards fans. If you have seen and loved the others in the MCU, you will love this.  If you go into this cold, there are parts you will enjoy, but you will mostly be confused and overwhelmed.  Each character gets some love, but the stars here are the original six Avengers. It’s a beautiful sign-off for them as they shift into semi-retirement, and let new heroes set up for the future.

Directed once again by the Russo Brothers (Joe and Anthony) and written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, the movie is exceptional. It manages to honor all the movies that came before it – especially the Avengers team-ups.  Yes, it has a definite ending, and it is perfect and satisfying – in my opinion.  Yes, I cried multiple times, but I needed a handful of tissues, not the entire box.  Mostly I was cheering with absolute joy.  The cast seems to love and appreciate this opportunity, doing their best for the fans. Every Avenger is there (apparently there’s a Howard the Duck appearance, but I missed it), but again, the six originals really get to shine.

  • Jeremy Renner as Clint “Hawkeye” Barton gets to do some emotional heavy lifting all the way through this. He starts with the dusting of his family, and then shifts into Ronin anger-killing, then has to go after the Soul Stone with a friend, and you know how that goes, because you know what it takes to get the Soul Stone.

  • Scarlet Johansson plays Natasha “Black Widow” Romanoff.  She’s keeping it together, running what’s left of the Avengers in the post-snap world.  When an opportunity arises, she doesn’t hesitate to do what needs to be done.  Black Widow has never been one of my favorite characters, but Johansson shines here, and I am definitely looking forward to her rumored stand-alone origin movie.

  • Mark Ruffalo plays Bruce Banner and the Hulk, and in this movie, they are closer than ever before.  Ruffalo is just so charming and fun, he really makes Banner relatable and genuine.  Thank goodness for his big brain when Scott comes back out of the quantum realm.

  • Chris Hemsworth plays Thor, and while I thought he was at his lowest in the last movie, he somehow goes even lower here. After Thanos told him he should have gone for the head, he is undone by guilt and a level of trauma where he seems to be blaming himself for everything that went wrong. He gets some absolutely hilarious scenes, and some even more appreciated lovely scenes as he attempts to prove his own worth to himself.

  • Chris Evans as Steve Rogers – Captain America – is once again the heart and soul of the team and the movie.  He is doing what he can post-snap, helping others attempt to move on, and checking in with his friends, trying to make sure everyone is okay.  His pep talk when they head out on mission is just so Cap, to the point that Scott and Rocket mention it.  There is a scene where he goes out alone to face Thanos, the Black Order, and their entire army without any hesitation.  It’s epically beautiful.  And yes, the scene I have wanted for a year is in this movie - *sniffle*.

  • Robert Downey Jr., who at this point is indistinguishable from Tony Stark, is exceptional in this movie.  He starts off angry, then settled and resolved, and then hopeful and determined.  His performance is fantastic, and his support of the team is epic.  His interaction with Pepper is beautiful and lovely.  And yes, I thought this movie was a fitting ‘retirement’ for his character.

Everyone does an amazing job, and the giant action battle set piece at the end is everything you want it to be.  Yes, it’s moving and sad in parts, but it is also really hilarious and fun in parts.  There are plenty of moments that elicited loud cheering from my audience – definitely see it in a full theater if possible.  For a three hour movie, I didn’t feel the length, and I can’t really think of anything I would have removed. 

12 out of 10 – yes, I know that’s not how math works. I don’t care. I really loved it.  
There’s a moment where all the female heroes lined up to help Captain Marvel, and I ugly cried in the theater.  I never thought I would ever see an entire movie screen filled with female superheroes.  It’s a bit of an acknowledgement that they dropped the ball slightly on that front in the beginning, that they are taking steps to rectify it, and a promise that the future will be fantastic.

What a close to the first few phases of the MCU - I can’t wait for what’s next.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Movie Review: Shazam! (PG13 – 132 minutes)

The character now known as Shazam debuted in 1940 as Captain Marvel in Fawcett comics.  A boy named Billy Batson is given the powers of the ‘immortal elders’: Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles, and Mercury.  He can transform himself into an adult hero by yelling the acronym of their names – Shazam!  His most notable villains included Black Adam, Dr. Sivana, and Mister Mind.  The character was incredibly popular in the 1940s, and the franchise was expanded to include the ‘Marvel Family’, other heroes with similar powers.  In 1953, DC Comics launched a copyright lawsuit, claiming that Captain Marvel was a Superman rip-off.  Fawcett sold the rights to DC in 1972, and DC integrated and reintroduced Captain Marvel, who now mainly goes by Shazam, on account of the “Captain Marvel” name being owned by Marvel comics.

In this movie, years ago, we are introduced to a young Thaddeus Sivana who is driving with his horrible Lionel Luthor-like father and older brother when he is transported by a wizard to the Rock of Eternity.  The wizard is tasked with keeping the seven deadly sins at bay, but his siblings have passed on and he is growing weak.  He is seeking a champion who is pure of heart.  Sivana is not that, and is swiftly tempted by the sins demons.  The wizard boots him out, telling him he is not good enough, causing a car crash when he reappears back in the car. 

In present day, we are introduced to Billy Batson, who lost his mother as a toddler at a carnival.  He has bounced from foster family to foster family because he continues to run away in a search for his birth mother.  Eventually, he lands in Philadelpha, and is brought into a foster group home run by Victor and Rosa Vazquez.  Here, he meets his new foster siblings, Mary Bromfield, Pedro Pena, Eugene Choi, Darla Dudley and Freddy Freeman.  The kids seem to have that power ranger tendency to only wear one color each, which comes into play later.  Freddy has a vast knowledge of superheroes and their powers.  After saving Freddy from some bullies, Billy is transported to the Rock of Eternity and meets the wizard who now really needs help as the adult Sivana has come by and taken the sins demons to gain great power and do great harm.  Billy is granted the powers by the wizard, and transforms into the adult hero Shazam. He goes back to Freddy for advice and guidance.  While training, Billy gets better, not just as a hero, but as a person, eventually realizing that his foster family is his true family and strength as he battles with Sivana.

The movie is directed by David F. Sandberg, who directed Annabelle Creation and Lights Out.  It does feel a little long in the beginning, but once it gets going, the action is great, the lessons are well-earned, and the comedy is funny.  Sandberg has managed to finally make a DC movie that maintains a single tone throughout, and while it’s darker here and there than I expected, it is consistent all the way through. It takes the lighthearted tone that was experimented with in Wonder Woman and overdone in Aquaman to completely nail it here.  The story is great, and when Billy finally realizes he is with his true family, it was touching and genuine. Also, the final big fight was absolutely exuberant.

Slight Spoilers here in the cast – you definitely should see this one, so if you haven’t yet, skip the below.
  • Zachary Levi plays Shazam and this is clearly the role he was born to play. He was great as Chuck, and fine in Thor, but here, he shines.  He does a fantastic job of portraying a kid suddenly given the opportunity of an adult hero’s body, and makes all the mistakes that would come with that change.  He also manages to portray the joy and confusion equally as believably.

  • Mark Strong plays Dr. Sivana, and he seems to be having absolutely the best time. He’s very serious about using the seven deadly sins to first get revenge on his family, and second take over the world. Standard bad guy stuff.  Side Note – he would have made an exceptional Lex Luthor, but hey, I’m happy he’s in this.

  • Asher Angel plays Billy Batson, and does a great job of portraying a kid who is struggling with the guilt of believing his birth mother thought he ran away.  His transition to acceptance of the foster family he is blessed with is subtle and lovely.

  • Djimon Hounsou plays the Wizard Shazam, who is stuck in his cave, and slowly losing control over the sins demons.  He is searching for a champion, and finally finds Billy. 

  • Jack Dylan Grazer plays Freddy Freeman, who is fast talking and crippled. He’s the perfect sidekick for Billy, keeping him entertained and pulling him out of his ongoing guilt.

  • Here’s where the spoilers kick in – During the finale, Shazam realizes that the wizard told him he and his siblings ruled, and they were all gone. He passes his powers to his foster siblings, and they each get adult super hero versions too! Adam Brody plays the adult version of Freddy in flawless casting.
  • Faithe Herman plays Darla, who is tiny, hilarious, and determined to be the best foster sister to Billy as possible.  Meagan Good plays Super Darla, who is super fast, but still young enough to now know what a ‘lair’ is. Grace Fulton plays Mary, who is worried about getting into a college on the west coast, and sad that it might mean leaving her foster family.  Michelle Borth plays Super Mary.  Ian Chen plays Eugene, who spends most of his time play video games. Ross Butler plays Super Eugene, and does a bit with his electrical powers. Jovan Armand plays Pedro, who is very quiet, but supportive of his siblings. D.J. Cotrona plays Super Pedro – this is significant because years ago, he was going to play Superman with Adam Brody as the Flash in a Justice League movie that never took off.

  • Marta Milans and Cooper Andrews play the foster parents Rosa and Victor who now unwittingly are raising an entire troupe of superheroes.

Overall, the movie is charming, fun, and action packed. It is definitely too long at two hours and twelve minutes.  There are some excessive training bits that definitely could have been cut.  There are also some genuinely scary bits, but the kids in my screening loved it, so what do I know.  The design of the sins demons is fantastic, you can basically determine which is which based on the design.  Definitely go see this, it’s very fun! 

Extra Spoiler alert here: there are two post credits sequences, so stay all the way through.  There are no cameos from any other DC heroes, despite clear space for both Superman and Aquaman.  I suppose that’s fine, but a little disappointing.  There are also no appearances by any potential villains except Mister Mind, even though the Rock is a producer of this and is already cast as Black Adam.  I believe he’s getting his stand alone Black Adam movie before he meets up with Shazam. 

8 out of 10 – I really enjoyed it!  Too long, and a little too heavy here and there, but overall, super fun.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Movie Review: Us (R – 116 minutes)

Us is the second movie from Jordan Peele, and if you saw Get Out, you know how skilled he is at elevating the horror genre to something that feels simply familiar and yes, somehow simultaneously complexly completely new. 

Us begins with a flashback to the Santa Cruz amusement park boardwalk in the late 80s, yes, the same place they shot The Lost Boys.  Young Adelaide is walking with her parents, Russel and Rayne, who seem to be arguing quite a bit. Russel wins Adelaide a T-Shirt, then heads over to the Whack a Mole game while Rayne heads to the restroom.  Adelaide wanders off and enters a hall of mirrors where she encounters a terrifying reflection.

Years later, Adelaide and her family, husband Gabe, son Jason, and daughter Zora, are heading to Santa Cruz for a family vacation.  As they get closer, Adelaide gets more and more uncomfortable – it seems she has blocked most of the traumatic fear she felt as a result of her childhood scare.  While there, one night the Wilsons notice a family at the end of their driveway. Without any spoilers here – the family breaks into the house, and as you’ve seen in the trailers, they are doppelgangers of the Wilsons.  Terror ensues.

I can’t really say much else about the movie without getting into spoilers. As with Get Out, there are a ton of tiny details that you can pick up here and there in the setup of the situations that Peele uses to foreshadow the conclusion and add layers to the discussion of the ‘meaning’ of the movie.  Unlike Get Out, the meaning in Us is far less clear and much more open to interpretation.  That is either very good, or very frustrating, depending on the type of viewer you are.  It is absolutely a study of the duality present in all of us, but does that stretch to a more social and geopolitical meaning or is it drawing parallels to the race and class divides currently present in our country?  Yes, and no.  Honestly, Peele has created a movie that is striking when you first see it, but falls apart the more questions you ask. Is it a thriller, or is it more a science fiction horror flick?  Are the Tethered (the doubles) monsters, victims, or something else entirely?

It is definitely worth seeing, and if you are going to see it – do it in a full theater so that you can react to the jump scares with everyone else!  Yes, there are some scary moments, and it’s bloody, but not too gory, if that makes sense. There are some genuinely scary moments mixed with some genuinely hilarious moments.  The cast is exceptional. The story is interesting, but the work the cast does is what elevates the material, and once you’re no longer watching them present the story, you begin asking the questions that poke holes in the plot – which speaks to their skill.

  • Lupita Nyong’o is absolutely amazing as Adelaide. She manages to bring a lovely maternal presence to the primary role and a terrifying abandonment to her doppelganger.  She carries the movie, and once she begins to figure out what is going on, she’s unleashed as a mother determined to protect her family.

  • Winston Duke is so good as Gabe and his doppelganger that you can often forget he’s also the guy playing the doppelganger.  Gabe is very much a Jordan-Peele –style dad, there for his family but wanting to match up with his friend and co-worker Josh, who just bought a new car.

  • Shahadi Wright Joseph plays Zora, and while the family is disappointed she no longer wants to run track, she’s convinced she’s making the right decision for herself.  She’s almost better as the doppelganger who is incredibly unsettling.
  • Evan Alex plays Jason, and his doppelganger is also terribly unsettling due to the skittering around like a non-human, which is always creepy as hell. He also does a great job realizing his connection to his double, and how to manipulate him. 

  • Elisabeth Moss plays Kitty and Tim Heidecker plays Josh, the friends that the Wilsons run into at the beach. They are stereotypical ‘haves’ bragging about their new boat, their new car, and her new plastic surgery.  They also live in a huge house and are comically not into one another and Josh spends his time bragging about this and that while Kitty spends her time drinking.  They pay zero attention to their kids.  Both are amazing as their doubles, and Heidecker seems to be having more fun than anyone else in the movie, but he also seems to be in a different movie from time to time.  Cali and Noelle Sheldon play their twin daughters.

  • Yahya Abdul-Mateen II plays Russel and Anna Diop plays Rayne in the flashbacks to Adelaide’s first trip to the amusement park.

Overall, the movie is expertly performed, and well-crafted, but I personally did not care for it.  I am not a horror movie fan, so the callback and homages to classic horror movies did nothing for me. I really enjoyed Get Out, and was looking forward to this.  Slight spoiler-y side-note, the rabbits you’ve seen in the trailers do get eaten alive, quickly and off-screen, but still, they were screaming and that upset me more than anything else in the movie.  I was very worried about that from the first time I saw rabbits in one of the trailers, so I used the site DoesTheDogDie.com to look up what the status of the rabbits would be in the movie, and I am very grateful to that site and will recommend it to everyone! 

I enjoyed the experience of watching Us in a theater, but I find the more I think about it, the less it holds up.  It’s a movie that just raises questions, but that might be a great thing, because it’s super fun to discuss it with friends!

5 out of 10 – just my personal and very subjective rating, you may love it, or you may hate it - it's certainly interesting and well-crafted.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Movie Review: Captain Marvel (PG13 – 124 minutes)

In Marvel Comics, Carol Danvers first appeared in March of 1968.  She first became the superhero Ms. Marvel when her DNA fused with that of Dr. Walter Lawson who was actually a Kree scientist named Mar-Vell.  Over the years, she fought for equal pay for equal work, was socially progressive, and became a symbol of the feminist movement.  Eventually she shifted off “Ms.” And went to her Air Force rank of Captain.  I am most familiar with her from the animated Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes series, in which she swiftly established her skill and power, becoming a formidable ally and member of S.W.O.R.D.

In this 21st movie in the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe), we are introduced to Vers (pronounced ‘Veers’), a Kree warrior who appeared on their planet, Hala, six years ago with no memory of who she was or what she was doing. Plagued by dreams, she spends her time training with her commander, Yon-Rogg, for various Star-Force missions in the ongoing Kree/Skrull war.  The Skrulls are a race of shapeshifters, and the Supreme Intelligence (which, of course, is the Artificial Intelligence in charge of the Kree empire) decides to send Vers off with her squad to rescue their informant before the Skrulls get ahold of him and the information he’s collected.  The mission starts off pretty well, the Star-Force heads in while the Accusers wait above, ready to bomb the planet out of existence.  They stumble into an ambush, the Skrulls grab Vers, and they begin poking around in her brain to find details about possible light-speed travel.  What they find opens up her memories about her life as an Air Force pilot on earth, sending all of them on a crash course for 1995 earth where she meets a younger Nick Fury and does some adventuring with him, Maria Rambeau (yes, she has a daughter named Monica), and Goose the ‘cat’. 

I won’t say anything further than that, because I really loved this movie and it’s worth you checking it out.  Directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, it has a great sense of adventure and fun, and is certainly a great stand-alone origin movie to the MCU.  The front half moves a little slow, as it is mostly exposition and research. However, once the action really kicks in, the movie is fast and fun, and Carol really steps into her own as the most powerful character in the MCU. Get ready Thanos.
  • Brie Larson has already done an exceptional job stepping up into the role of the next leader of the upcoming few phases of the MCU, taking over from Chris Evans the off-screen duties of visiting fans and battling Nazis on Twitter.  Social Activism is not required from the actors in the MCU, but it does speak to the quality of people they hire for these movies when their values seem to naturally align with their character’s values.  Larson is wonderful as Danvers, all cocky self-assuredness with just the right amount of doubt caused by the memory loss.  She wants to be the best, whether that’s a Star-Force fighter, or an Air Force pilot. Once she realized she’s been held back for most of the movie, the moment she sets herself free and steps into her full potential is absolutely magic and Larson plays it just perfectly.  I wanted Katee Sackoff in this role for years, but Larson has completely won me over.  We didn’t see Agent Brand in this movie, so perhaps Sackoff can step into that role.

  • Samuel L. Jackson seems to be having the time of his life playing a younger Nick Fury. He gets to hang out as Captain Marvel’s sidekick, helping her figure out her past. Also, his scenes with the cat are wonderful.

  • Ben Mendelsohn continues his run as ‘villain of the moment’ by playing Talos, the head of the Skrull unit we see in this movie. He manages to give Talos just enough layers to stay interesting and engaging, and wow, the makeup is stunning.  After seeing Skrulls for years in comics and animated shows, I never thought they would make it to the screen, because they are ridiculous looking, but he did an amazing job.

  • Jude Law plays Yon-Rogg, Vers’s trainer and commander.  He’s fairly insistent that she learn to control her emotions in order to become a great warrior.  He does a good job of being incredibly patronizing for the majority of the movie. 

  • Annette Bening plays Dr. Wendy Lawson (see what they did there?), as well as the image that Vers sees when she interacts with the Supreme Intelligence (you see whoever you most admire).  Bening gets to play a lot of fun angles in this, and really seems to be having a great time.

  • Lashana Lynch plays Maria Rambeau, and the scene where she gets to remind Carol of who she used to be brought me to tears. Everyone needs friends who always have your back and are strong when you are at your weakest, helping you recover.

  • Clark Gregg brings Agent Coulson back to the big screen in a much younger and inexperienced version. It was an absolute joy to see him.

  • Gemma Chan played Minn-Erva, another member of the Star Force who doesn’t particularly care for Vers.  Yes, it would have been cool for her to have a bit more to do.

  • Additional Star Force teammates are played by Rune Temte (Bron-Char), Algenis Perez Soto (Att-Lass) and Chuku Modu (Soh-Larr).

  • Djimon Hounsou returns as Korath the Pursuer, and we get to see him here with the Star Force, prior to starting work for Ronan and his fanatical Kree off-shoot adventures when we run into them in Guardians of the Galaxy, which is set a number of years later.
  • Speaking of which, Lee Pace returns as Ronan the Accuser, here working with the rest of the Accusers, doing questionable things. I am hoping the Captain Marvel sequel allows us to see what happened to him between this movie and Guardians.

Overall, I absolutely loved it. It’s so much fun and has some great action.  There are some powerful women in it, and it certainly has some feminist themes, but in what I would consider a supportive and subtle way.  She’s flawed, she’s human, and that’s her greatest strength.

9 out of 10 – fantastic, but the more I see it (I'm on three times already), the higher I want to give it.  The digital de-aging looks pretty good, but some of the CGI here and there was iffy.  The practical stuff was amazing, the hand to hand combat was great. Also, points for the 90s music soundtrack, and for making me feel nostalgic about Blockbuster.  I used to spend a lot of time there – pretty sure I still have my card.

Yes, there’s a mid-credits scene tying it to Avengers: Endgame – which you knew would happen because the mid-credits scene of Infinity war was Fury beeping Marvel.  We have just over a month to wait to find out what happens once she gets that page and heads back to earth.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Movie Review: Isn’t It Romantic (PG13 – 89 minutes)

As I have said many times, romantic comedies are the one genre of movie that I believe should be completely predictable and stick to their prearranged layout: couple has meet-cute, they’re happy, some sort of drama ensues, they split, then one of them has a large overly enthusiastic demonstration of passion that causes the other to return, and they live happily ever after.  Now, I’ve always wanted one of them to end with a woman being happy and single, but that’s just not part of the trope.

Isn’t It Romantic revolves around Natalie, an architect working in New York City. She’s living in a crappy apartment and struggling with presenting her ideas to the new client at her firm while dealing with her best friend who seems to be into her, an assistant who is addicted to rom-coms (which she hates), and her neighbor across the hall who gets booty calls all the time.  After spending a full day explaining to her assistant how crappy rom-coms are, and listing all the stereotypical aspects of the movies, she gets mugged, hits her head, and wakes up in a hospital in a fantasy rom-com version of her life.

She’s in a much bigger and better apartment, and the neighbor is now her beyond-gay-stereotype best friend who is always down to help out and do a makeover.  The neighborhood is now lovely and brightly colored with no trash anywhere, and at the office, she and her assistant are now rivals – because in any rom-com, if there is more than one woman working in an office, they are mortal enemies.  She is suddenly the most desirable creature around, and the new client falls for her, determined to sweep her off her feet.  At first, she attempts to fight against it, but realizing she is trapped, she decides to go with it to get to the end of the story and get home.  Two musical numbers, a surprise wedding, and plenty of drama later, she gets a happy ending by realizing she is all she needs.
I was not expecting anything from this movie, so I was pleasantly surprised!  It’s fun, it’s fast, it’s silly, and very entertaining.  The cast seems to really enjoy everything they are doing.  Director Todd Strauss-Schulson does a good job of layering in plenty of tropes, but honestly I think they could have gone even further with them.  I almost wonder what it would have been had it been directed by Adam Shankman – which would have probably meant a few more musical numbers.  The cast was fantastic:
  • Rebel Wilson stars as Natalie, and is best in roles like this – hapless, but also completely in control.  She is bound and determined to master this sudden nonsense, and her delivery and performance is hilarious.

  • Adam Devin plays Josh, her best friend, and the chemistry between he and Rebel is reason enough to see this. Also, another reason I wanted them to have several more musical numbers. They are fantastic together. I definitely needed outtakes and bloopers over the end credits, as I am sure they improv with one another a great deal.

  • Liam Hemsworth plays Blake, the new client.  He is the perfectly silly version of the ‘perfect guy’ from all the rom-coms.

  • Priyanka Chopra plays Isabella, and put her years of Bollywood experience to great effect as the ‘perfect woman’ who suddenly shows up to woo Josh, making Natalie suddenly realize she is jealous and may have feelings for Josh.

  • Betty Gilpin plays Whitney, Natalie’s assistant and friend.

  • Brandon Scott Jones plays the neighbor Donny, who really steals all the scenes he is in.

  • Jennifer Saunders has a brilliant cameo as Natalie’s mom, convincing her that rom-coms are trash, and life never works out that way.

Overall, the movie is charming, fun, silly, and plenty entertaining.  I expected nothing, and was delighted by the result. 

7 out of 10 – definitely worth a rental on a rainy afternoon.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Movie Review: How to Train Your Dragon, The Hidden World (PG - 104 minutes)

The first How to Train Your Dragon was released in 2010, and really struck a chord with me. I had not read the books, but really loved the movie.  It tells the story of Hiccup, a young Viking from Berk who is not at all like his father and their clan of dragon-hating Vikings (who all sound Scottish).  Hiccup is failing his dragon-killing courses, and accidentally stumbles across an injured Night Fury dragon while wandering one day.  While bonding with the dragon, who he names Toothless, he learns a great deal about them and starts to excel at his courses. He then uses that knowledge to get his people to change their way of thinking, and begin working with dragons.
In the second movie, the people of Berk have begun bonding with and riding the dragons.  Hiccup and Toothless are exploring and charting the world as Hiccup gets closer to his love Astrid and his father prepares to name him as successor.  He and Toothless accidentally discover a secret dragon ice cave, and battle a warlord looking to build a dragon army.  Hiccup loses his father, gets named chief, finds his mother, and defeats the warlord as Toothless becomes the Alpha of all the dragons in Berk.  Many a tear was shed at this movie as it is really heavy in most parts.

That catches you up and prepares you for the last movie in the series, The Hidden World.  Hiccup is doing his best to ‘rule’ Berk as Toothless keeps the dragons in line but the village is full of dragons and there is little to no room for anyone or anything.  This is complicated as Hiccup and his riders keep bringing back additional dragons anytime they rescue them from poachers, which is what they spend most of their time doing.

A new enemy, Grimmel, arrives on the scene, famous for having killed all the other Night Furies in existence.  His sights set on Toothless, he does some threatening and posturing, enough to make Hiccup think it’s time to set off and find the ‘Hidden World’, a place where the people of Berk can live with their dragons, free from being hunted by anyone else.  Grimmel sets loose a Light Fury, a female dragon that completely distracts Toothless, and lets him get an advantage in hunting down the people and dragons of Berk.  Hiccup and Astrid begin to realize that perhaps they were not meant to live with dragons, and everyone would be safer if they said good-bye.

That sounds like a spoiler, but it isn’t – all the trailers have been stating that is what is happening in this movie. I went in prepared with a box of tissues next to my popcorn, considering how much the last one made me cry. I will say – it’s not nearly as heavy as the second.  It is touching, and moving, but it has a really happy ending.  Director Dean De Blois continues the amazing visuals in this movie from the others in the series, and it is just absolutely stunning. The world is lush and gorgeous, and the flight scenes make you wish you had your own dragon.  I really appreciated the scenes of just Toothless and his lady friend. I am always impressed with how expressive Toothless is (he looks like my cat, which is part of why I spent so much time crying at the last movie), and the scenes without any humans were lovely, because the communication between the dragons was so clearly expressed.  Toothless and the Light Fury are so enchanting, I felt like I didn’t really need any of the other characters!

  • Jay Baruchel is back as Hiccup, older, wiser, and a much better fighter this time around. He’s still a little overwhelmed by suddenly becoming chief, but he’s doing his best to lead his people.  The performance is wonderful, gentle, and relatable.

  • America Ferrera gives Astrid her fighting spirit as well as her loyalty and dedication to Hiccup. She's a perfect match for him, keeping him focused on the issues at hand.

  • F. Murray Abraham joins the cast and makes Grimmel arrogant and near-unbeatable. He's a bit like those horrific trophy hunters that you just want to see get eaten.

  • Cate Blanchett returns as Valka, Hiccup’s mother who suddenly reappeared in the second movie. She’s in this one to provide guidance, and – for some unknown reason – an object of flirtation between two of Hiccup’s friends. That was bizarre and unnecessary.

  • Gerard Butler has some flashback scenes as Stoick, Hiccup’s father.

  • Craig Ferguson returns as Gobber – the blacksmith who functions as Hiccup’s conscious and father-figure.

  • Jonah Hill plays Snotlout, Christopher Mintz-Plasse plays Fishlegs, Kristen Wiig plays Ruffnut (who has a hilarious scene where she annoys her captors into letting her go), and Justin Rupple plays Tuffnut (instead of T.J. Miller, who had done it in previous editions).

  • Kit Harington plays Eret, son of Eret, who is there to share exposition about Grimmel and what he’s done in the past.

The movie is exceptional, beautiful, touching, and fun. It’s the perfect ending to this wonderful trilogy.  Side note, I saw this opening weekend. In the row behind me, a woman had brought four young children, all seeming to be under the age of 4. None of them watched any of the movie, preferring to yell and scream at one another the whole time.  Listen, yes, it’s a kids movie, but it is a little more complicated than most with a great deal of fairly complex storytelling.  Maybe don’t take the really young ones to this one – if not for their sake, for the sake of everyone else in the theater.

9 out of 10 – absolutely wonderful.