Love Yourself: Her by BTS

After a few hours of note taking and listening to my standard study music, I decided to browse Spotify. It had been a while since I heard any new K-pop and scrolled through the page. That’s when I saw it. Right there under the New Release title, Love Yourself: Her, BTS’s newest album was sitting there, waiting for me to give it hours of my life. So here I am, ready to give you my thoughts on my newest album obsession.

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While I enjoy K-pop a lot, I don’t actually speak any Korean. Trust me, I’m working on it. Because of this, my review won’t be as in-depth as some other awesome reviews you can find. I’m just a fan and would love to connect with other fans and maybe broaden someone’s musical horizon.

Before I jump into my thoughts on the album, let me give you a basic run down on what K-pop is and who BTS are. K-pop is the shortened way of saying Korean pop music. It’s a growing genre in other countries and with BTS, it’s becoming mainstream. BTS, depending on who you ask, stands for a lot of different things. The version I’m most familiar with is Bangtan Boys. They’re a Korean boy band that are breaking through the international barrier with a Billboard Music Award to back them up.

To start, this album was a lot shorter than I expected. Being a mini album, it’s only listed to last for 30 minutes on Spotify. Fans are expecting another installment early next year so don’t panic, there’s plenty of BTS to go around. I really don’t consider the length to be a problem, I prefer quality over quantity. BTS delivered quality.

This album incorporates EDM elements more than the previous ones have. I think this is a smart move for the group to make it big in other countries, and that’s proving to be true. By making it a more universal sound, some day-one fans might be upset. Personally, I love the sound as much as I love the other albums and if this gives some people who are hesitant about K-Pop a way to break into it, I’m all for it.

Alright, let’s get into a song break down.

  1. Serendipity. This song starts the album off with a sweetly soft bang. Boy Meets Evil kicked Wings off with a dramatic and intense number that led into the album perfectly. With a lot to live up to, Serendipity holds its own. This song is all about love and highlights the voice of Jimin. It’s a good way to start the album and it’s a song I think most people will enjoy.
  2. DNA. For the big single of the album, this song rocks. This song is also about love but takes an energetic pop approach compared to slow Serendipity. This song style is close to that of Blood Sweat & Tears, but with a bit more EDM mixed in. Not only is the song good, the choreography is exciting with a strong build that gets more and more interesting even up to the end.
  3. Best of Me. Slowing down just a bit from DNA, we get another song about love. Are you detecting a pattern here? This song sounds like a generic radio hit with even more EDM mixed in. I still really enjoy this song, but this one is where I can understand the ARMY getting upset over the originality in their favorite K-Pop group disappearing. That being said, this is still a great song and one you can really dance to in the car.
  4. Dimple. I bet you can’t guess what this song is about. Spoiler, it’s love. The lyrics are a bit cheesy in this one and it mirrors the radio hit EDM trend they’re following. It’s not a stand out song for me, but still is so catchy it’s another traffic hour jam to dance to.
  5. Pied Piper. This song is a slower song with some really unique sounds mixed in. This one may seem safe from your first listen through, but the more you listen, the more hidden gems pop out at you. This is definitely an interesting song thrown in right before their skit.
  6. Skit. In the past, BTS has included skits into their albums. While I usually skip them since I can’t understand the language, I really love the flow of this album with the skit. It serves as a great transition into their next song and lets the shift in theme happen with ease.
  7. Mic Drop. Now this is classic BTS. Very reminiscent of Silver Spoon and Cypher 4, this song is all about hip hop and attitude. It’s a big jump from Pied Piper but the skit in between the songs creates a fun transition from love to brass sass. If we’re going to discuss choreography for any song, it has to be this one. The comeback show performance was full of attitude and ridiculously cool moves. This is definitely a stand out song for me and one I replay as much as DNA.
  8. Go Go. This is an insanely fun song. It has that unique BTS sound we love with goofy and relatable lyrics. Not only is the song adorable, the choreography is cute and still delivers some great moves. The song and performance shows the silly side of BTS, which fans should enjoy, I know I do. Like Mic Drop, Go Go is another stand out song and refreshing break from the love theme.
  9. Her. Alright, back to the sweet love songs, this one is a great way to wrap up this mini album. It’s a lot like Pied Piper in that it may seem safe but it really has a unique sound. While it’s a good bow on top to finish the album, it also sounds like a good way to lead into whatever other music they’ll be releasing next year.

Overall, this album is a great win for BTS and it’s showing on the charts. With some really strong numbers and some that are great to sing along and dance to, Love Yourself: Her is a just a good time. If you’re looking for a way to break into K-pop or are slightly interested, I think this is the album to start with.

Let me know what you think of the album and if you have any recommendations for me. I’m always on the hunt for more music, even if it might take me weeks to stop playing BTS on repeat. See you soon!

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Dragon Challenge Disappointment

I’ve been putting this post off for a while now. I didn’t feel ready to discuss how upset I was or how angry I still am over the tragic closing of Dueling Dragons. I think it’s time I try to put it past me so I can hopefully go back to the parks again, something I haven’t been able to do since.

As you all know, Dragon Challenge is one of my favorite rides at Universal’s Islands of Adventure. Originally named Dueling Dragons, this ride has been a fan favorite since opening in 1999. Being an original ride, it’s got some great history. It was there before Harry Potter was incorporated and stood out as a staple ride for your Orlando vacation. The great theming of the ride helped that out as well. Come on, you’re riding a dragon next to another dragon. What more could you ask for?

The closure of this ride has been rumored for quite some time. The consistently short wait time was a red flag for fans that this ride wasn’t getting enough attention. Personally, I look to Universal for this. Advertisements of the parks used to focus on The Incredible Hulk and Dueling Dragons. Lately, the focus on Dragon Challenge has switched to Rip Ride Rockit, the newest coaster. The placement of the ride didn’t help it’s survival, either. Had the Dragons originally been in the front of the park, I doubt they’d be considered for closing. They simply took away the necessity for this ride on your trip to IoA.

With such nostalgia guarding the ride, the unnecessary closing of the ride would obviously rub fans the wrong way. Clearly, Universal didn’t care.

I arrived around 5 pm to Islands of Adventure that day. On my mission to get to this funeral, I trekked through the park as quickly as a could. The looming threat of bad weather was concerning, but we’d wait it out. I saw a lot of management walking though the park so I was under the impression that Universal delivered and gave an event to their fans.

Boy, was I wrong. All there was given to us was an extended queue for the lockers and some extra security. My heart dropped as I saw the missed opportunities for a franchise to give back to its fans. I was among the line that waited for two hours to wait out the impending storm to get one last ride in, even staying until after the park closed with unwavering dedication. The cheering that echoed through the cave walls when they reopened the ride was filled with joy. I’m not sure how a theme park neglects its fans like that by not giving them anything in return.

I know what you’re thinking, “Wow this girl is way too passionate about Dragon Challenge.” Yes, I’m horribly sad over this ride being taken out, but I’m mainly angry with the manner it was handled. There was some PR gold to work with that night, and for some reason, nothing happened. I will give some credit, when I walked off the ride for the last time with tears in my eyes, I saw tables with candles and black table cloths. Maybe there was a ceremony done, but I have yet to find it anywhere online. If anyone has a link, I’d happily look it over to see what they did for the closing.

The reason franchises are so great to be apart of is the fans. They give so much to what they love, it gives that company or studio room to give back and interact. We see this at any convention. Comic Con is a great example of how franchises can give back to their fans while also getting great publicity for it.

Simply put, nothing was done for the fans who came in original merchandise, who recited the original story of Dueling Dragons, and who waited for hours through weather delays. It’s not up to your fans to make your events. Whether it was PR department’s fault or if higher up management didn’t consider it worth the money, Universal slept on what could have been a great night for fans and for profits.

As a fan, here are some of the things I wanted to see done for the Dragons:

  1. Re-Release of old and new merchandise. I’m not sure how much it would have cost to do this or if there were licensing restrictions, but this would have been a huge money maker for Universal. The old merchandise I saw has me currently scouring eBay for the chance to get one. People were even making their own shirts and selling them in honor of the occasion. That’s all money that could have gone to Universal and could have kept fans happy and feeling justified.
  2. Cocktails and Mock-tails. The seating area next to Dragon Challenge could have been rearranged for a small cart. All they needed was a slushie cart with red and blue flavors and some alcohol to throw in the adult drinks. Boom, Fire and Ice themed drinks for everyone in the family. In that long bag line, this would have been a gold mine and a life saver.
  3. Regular park hours. I don’t know why they scheduled the closing date on a night with limited hours. Not only does that limit the people who could only ride after work, it puts your employees in a tough spot. You know the line will be long and extend past park hours when you close two hours after people get off work. Better time management could have helped a lot with this process.
  4. Pass Holder and Press Event. Universal’s annual pass holder events are a blast. There’s shorter lines, a better environment for fans, there are sometimes prizes, and it’s a nice way to give back to your regular consumers. Had park hours closed early for a pass holder event, that would be understandable. With press there, they see first hand how universal cares for pass holders and gives them a nice article about their incoming ride.
  5. Duel. I know they can’t duel for safety reasons, but maybe at this pass holder/press event, they could have had an empty cart duel to start off the night. This would be on every fan’s social media and would have gotten great feedback for the parks.
  6. Invite the Creator. This is an idea that might not have worked but the designers of the ride and the concept creator could have been invited to the pass holder and press night to speak to the fans and watch one last duel before their babies got taken down. This would be another great way to show that Universal is a family community and something you want to be apart of.

After the disrespect to the fans and the Dragons, I’m not sure it’s a family I want to be apart of anymore. I had high hopes for that night and they all fell through. With the way Disney World respectfully handled the closing of The Great Movie Ride, there’s no excuse for Universal on this one. Hopefully they can step their game up for their sake and for their fans.

Me Before You Review

Every now and then you need to put the sci-fi away, turn off the comedies and hide the horror to let your heart get ripped out by some otherworldly attractive couple on the big screen. I mean, what’s better than that first sob after you’ve been holding back for the past hour of movie watching? Well if you’re looking for your next sappy yet gut wrenching flick, Me Before You has got you covered.

Now this movie has a twist that I didn’t pick up on until I watched the movie. Because of this, you should definitely watch it before reading this to save you the spoilers.

Me Before You follows Lou (Emilia Clarke) through her new job as a caretaker/professional best friend. She keeps Will (Sam Claflin) company, gives him medication, and eventually they fall in love. Shocking, I know. The real twist comes in finding out that Will has decided to end his life to escape his misery in his new crippled form. Lou tries to change his mind and we see both of them struggle with the harsh reality of the situation.

This isn’t your basic mind candy movie. From the trailer, I thought this would be an interesting romance to keep me busy for a night. I had no idea I was watching a movie with such heavy themes and topics. From unfulfilling love lives to disability to euthanasia and how each affects personal relationships, this is a movie that you’ll be thinking about for hours.

The same titled book by Jojo Moyes is what inspired the movie. Moyes’s story gave light to that painful reality that sometimes love requires you to let go. Any story with this theme is naturally painful to watch, this one is no exception.

By adding in that controversial topic of assisted suicide, this becomes a political commentary that can show that as scary as the concept is, sometimes suicide is a logical decision made by someone in severe pain. This doesn’t cover up the horror that follows or the effect it has on loved ones. There’s an argument that could be made for each side of the debate on this topic, but for the sake of the story, love wins. Maybe it doesn’t win in the way we expect or want it to, but if love is there, love wins. I know, sappy yet heartbreaking.

Yes, you can argue that the romance is very Beauty and the Beast-esque. They spend so much time together they fall in love by default. While it’s cheesy, it sure is cute. He loves her innocence and positivity. She loves his wit and sees that playful sense he had before his accident. It’s simple yet adorable.

The actors deserve their credit in making two characters with seemingly nothing in common convincingly fall in love. Emilia Clarke’s Lou was bubbly, bold, and most importantly, genuine. Clarke took that lovable, quirky girl-next-door character and actually made her believable. She didn’t rely on the weird clothes or the fact that she reads to make her seem interesting. She took Lou and brought her to life.

Sam Claflin, as we’ve seen on the screen before, plays a good rich boy with attitude problems but heart of gold. However, he added a new side to this role he seems to excel at by showing genuine distress and sadness.  Will has experienced a tragedy that changed his life, took everything away that he enjoys, and causes him severe pain and illness regularly. He has no privacy, no outlet, and has had no positive interaction until Lou. We realize his desire to be alone and stare out the window is actually his coping mechanism for his depression. His embarrassment of being singled out in public was just as confining as his chair. His happiest moments with Lou were still riddled with misery by his own reality. Claflin had to show all of this using only his face and voice. I’d say he’s proven he’s more than a one role wonder.

There were some amazing supporting actors in this movie as well. Charles Dance (Stephen Traynor) and Janet McTeer (Camilla Traynor) deserve some praise as having some of the hardest roles this Will’s life. They didn’t have many scenes compared to Clarke and Claflin but still had to show their struggle with Will’s decision which is a major theme in the movie. They held their own and our heart broke with theirs as they realized Lou’s efforts failed.

I also need to mention Matthew Lewis. Lewis had a cringingly clueless character that was both infuriating and funny. As happy as I was to laugh at him in scenes as the worst boyfriend in the world, I was just as happy for him to leave since he played that ridiculously selfish character so well. Lewis isn’t just Longbottom anymore.

I enjoyed this movie much more than I expected to. While it’s not my new favorite, this is one I do recommend to friends who get the itch to watch a romance. I wasn’t blown away with the details or the bond between the characters. I think this movie’s strengths really lie in the individual acting and in the themes presented in the story.

Let me know what you thought of Me Before You. I’d love to hear your opinion, especially since it got some mixed reviews. It definitely left me feeling bittersweet for quite some time. When I emotionally recover, I might read the book. If any of you have read it, I’d also love to know if you think it’s worth picking up.

Amy Review

One thing I’ve never spoken about on my blog is my major love for music. Whether I’m in the car, doing my makeup, walking on campus or around my house, or even just staring off into space, I’ve got my music playing at an unhealthy volume. Yes, my ears already ring constantly at the ripe old age of 20. Like everyone, I get stuck in music ruts and a month or two ago, I was miserably bored with the music I was used to. I remember my best friend mentioning an artist to me that I knew about and heard some of her hits but never really listened to. Well I got desperate and I’m so thankful that I did because Amy Winehouse has been my musical obsession ever since (thanks, Laura).

Now I know what you’re thinking, “Amy Winehouse? Rehab lady? The 27 Club chick with the beehive hair?” Yes, that’s the very one. Her music is so expressive and raw that it feels like she’s sharing different moments in her life with you personally through each song. You can’t hear the song F*** Me Pumps and not feel like laughing like a petty 16-year-old. You can’t listen to Back to Black without asking yourself “Who would hurt you this badly?” Surely you can’t hear the lyric “I don’t ever want to drink again. I just, oh, I just need a friend” and write this girl off as a junkie loser with no story or pain.

It’s the gut wrenching honesty in her music that led me to watch Asif Kapadia’s documentary Amy. While I will be diving into her life, this won’t be a complete retelling of the documentary. I’ll just be sharing what I appreciated and some of what stuck with me. I urge you all to watch this movie before reading this so you can decide if you agree or disagree with what I say. You can also see the details of her life that I’ve decided to leave out of this review for the sake of not criticizing certain individuals shown in the documentary.

Kapadia had a hard job in making this documentary. Amy is a controversial celebrity with a distinctive look and attitude. So many documentaries focus on friends and family as footage or even hire actors and create a biographical movie. Asif knew Amy was a raw character and decided to show the real her. The entire documentary is actual footage of Amy herself. From childhood, teenage years, and adulthood to her performances, phone calls, and public meltdowns were actual footage, pictures and recordings of the singer. This lets us see a less filtered version of Amy. Rather than just hearing about Amy, we heard from Amy.

Naturally, the documentary follows the chronologic order of her life and we begin with the making of Frank, her debut album. While that’s the starting point, you also see footage of Amy as a child and teenager to learn about her younger life. This is so important, as I found out, to fully understanding her music. She was convinced to write her own music by her friend and she turned her love of poetry into that of songwriting. She believed her music needed to be extremely personal for it to be her emotional outlet so each of her songs has major ties to Amy’s experiences. She even mentions specific people by name in her songs that I always figured were just random names. Thanks to Kapadia’s understanding of her need for honesty in music, you get to see who inspired her songs and what each lyric really means.

I think what Kapadia really excelled at was showing us Amy without the filter of the media. It’s no secret that the way our society treats celebrities is brutal to say the least. We can love them and what they add to our lives but there’s a line crossed, mainly where the paparazzi is concerned. One shopping trip can be on magazines for weeks for a celebrity. A night out with friends can be portrayed as the next Watergate in tabloids. Morning news shows that need filler segments love to throw a jab at the current screw-up star. I’d like to say, Amy’s decisions and actions were her own. She had major issues and addictions that were entirely her choice. However, take a young bulimic girl with emotional issues and make her feel like her only safe place is a bottle because around every corner she’s being harassed by camera flashes and people yelling in hopes of a scandalous response, maybe you stoked the fire. One of the hardest things to hear in the documentary is how often Amy claimed that fame would ruin her. She knew she couldn’t handle a massive following and she was right. Again, her actions were entirely her own, but the narrative this documentary gives is eye opening into why she did what she did.

My opinion? Winehouse is one of those celebrities that society loves to judge on a surface level. Before diving into the album Frank, I only knew Rehab and Back to Black and even I thought she was gross. I’d always been told she was a junkie who didn’t care about life. Listening to her music, I knew there had to be more. Asif Kapadia did a masterful job of showing that even though we don’t fit into society’s standards, we all have a story that deserves to be heard before we are judged. Amy wasn’t just judged by friends; she was judged by the world. She was trapped in a fish bowl and put over a fire for the world to see.

This documentary was raw, honest, and shows the painful truth about Amy Winehouse. She has a heartbreaking story that’s told by herself, her friends, her interviews, and her performances. Every fact was laid on the table about Amy. We saw the good, the bad, and the downright ugly. Despite the negativity and bad decisions in her life, Asif Kapadia gave Amy a fighting chance for his audience and changed perceptions (at least mine) of a talented young woman with issues she couldn’t handle.

If you can’t tell, I really enjoyed this documentary. I highly recommend you watch it if you’ve got an interest in Amy Winehouse’s music or even want to get a new outlook on her. It’s also a great commentary on celebrity culture and how paparazzi and media aren’t what people always sign up for. Let me know what you thought of the documentary. I’d love to know your thoughts and hear some new opinions to think about. See you soon!

Irma Made Me Do It

As hurricane Irma hurtled toward Florida, I finally got bitten by the writing bug again. With so much going on in my life, I took a step away from the keyboard and tried to focus on family, friends, work, and mainly the new semester. However, my break from blogging wasn’t as relieving as I intended it to be. I missed my outlet to gush about movies, attractions, books and life. So as the Godzilla of Atlantic hurricanes raced to knock my power out and shut off my wi-fi, I made the intelligent decision to stream movies and drain my laptop battery so I could get a few reviews up here on Oh Hello, Darling. With my power back up, I’m happy to announce I’m back in business. Stay tuned for few movie reviews and my thoughts on a true theme park tragedy that I’ve been itching to share. See you soon!

Ride Guide for Skull Island: Reign of Kong

There’s no denying that Skull Island: Reign of Kong is the most popular ride at Universal Orlando this summer. Being the newest ride to open and one of the most interesting, it’s a ride with a lot of hype. I’m going to give you everything you need to know to determine if the 115-minute line is worth the wait.

I’d like to start by saying that this ride truly is a great ride. There’s nothing out there, that I’ve ridden at least, that’s anything like this. You’re driven by a fake driver that’s given a full character specific to your car so every time you ride, you can get a slightly different experience. Your car drives on a trackless course into a cave that soon turns into screens. You then get thrown into a new world that’s larger than life. While I’m tired of screened rides, this is one of the coolest rides I’ve ever ridden. For reference, my initial reaction as I was exiting was “Holy crap, what was that?!”

I may think this ride is insanely good, but I’ve only ever ridden it three times. The ride itself is very intense and I do get a healthy dose of adrenaline whenever I ride this. I enjoy rides that are genuinely thrilling, so my problem lies elsewhere. When you see the wait and decide to brave the line, you need to take that phrase very seriously. The queue for this ride is actually too scary for me. It’s an indoor line with great air conditioning and some incredible but scary theming. It’s dark, creepy, and loud. The worst part of this line is that it has people that jump out at you from hiding places. It’s a mini Halloween Horror Nights house for me. Personally, I found that to be disappointing. I would actually love this line for this ride because it’s so detailed if they didn’t have people trying to scare you through tight hallways. This might be your cup of tea, but it’s too overwhelming for me. If you have small children or just don’t like jump scares, I would skip this ride or go single rider where no one jumps out at you.

There is one other reason you might want to skip this ride. I don’t usually get motion sickness (unless it’s the Simpson’s ride) so I can’t say for sure how you might feel if you easily get queasy. I would expect that if you usually get motion sickness, you’ll probably feel a bit ill after this ride. I don’t want to give away too much about it, but if you can’t handle screens, I’d plan for a break after this one.

For some little tips, I always recommend you download the Universal app and keep an eye on the wait times. It’s a great ride but you might end up missing over two hours of theme park fun for just one ride if you don’t plan. While this is an indoor ride good for dodging the weather, I recommend riding when the skies are clear of storms so you get to ride outside and see those massive doors open for you. It’s a small feature, but it’s really cool to see. I also think you should try to sit in the back so you can take it all in and see the world you’re exploring. You’re in a big safari style car so the front is completely blocked. You won’t necessarily have a bad experience in the front, but you’ll enjoy it more the farther back you sit. As I mentioned above, this ride does have a single rider line. This is a great tool for most rides in the park, but especially this one. The carts are massive so even if you and your friend hop in line to ride alone, there’s a good chance you’ll still be in the same car as them. It’s hard to find the single rider line open, but if you do, I highly recommend you run through it.

While I have my problems with this ride, I think you should ride it. It’s one of the most unique rides in Orlando and it really is worth the line. I recommend getting there early so the line isn’t too long. Even an hour before the park closes it’s usually a 60-minute wait in the summer. I really want to stress that if you have a child that’s already scared to go on this ride, just skip it. The line alone will scare them witless. While I’m not usually brave enough for this ride, I’ll still get in line sometimes because this ride is worth it. Skull Island: Reign of Kong is a must if you haven’t ridden it yet, but maybe get a Fire Whiskey in Hogsmeade for a bit of courage before you queue up.

Let me know what you think of this ride. If you have any questions about Skull Island: Reign of Kong, I’d be happy to answer them in the comments. Do you have any rides, parks, or attractions at the Orlando parks you’d like reviewed? Let me know, I’d love to give you some insight. See you soon!

 

My Three Must Rides at Universal Studios

Universal’s Islands of Adventure in Orlando is known for being packed with thrilling rides around every corner, but Universal Studios has some incredible rides as well. Studios is a bit roomier than its neighbor and has more nooks to explore making it a more relaxing experience. While it’s a refreshing park, it does have amazing rides to get your adrenaline pumping. Obviously, I recommend every ride in this park because “when in Rome,” right? However, there are some stand out attractions that I think you need to make time to experience before your trip to Studios is over.

The first ride on my list that you’ll come across is Revenge of the Mummy. This is an indoor roller coaster based on the film series The Mummy. I was quite worried when the new movie was released that they would re-do the ride’s theming, luckily, I don’t think Brendan Fraser is going anywhere. I say “luckily” because this ride is one of my favorite rides in Orlando. It’s an indoor coaster that takes you through real sets as you escape Imhotep. The theming for the ride is immersive, the queue is perfectly creepy (and air conditioned), and the coaster itself is a blast. It’s a simple ride that’s easy to enjoy. If you don’t like the Florida heat, don’t like screen rides, and aren’t too jazzed about riding a coaster as big as Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit, this is the perfect ride for you.

The next ride on my list is one I don’t think anyone would skip. Just in case you’re on the fence about it, you need to ride Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts. Potterheads and muggles alike will enjoy this ride. It’s a 3-D ride that spins you, lifts you, and even drops you. It has some physical elements that are impressively massive and the videos that you watch are impressively realistic looking. I would like to include a disclaimer about this ride, if you’re lucky enough to be placed in the front cart, you’re in for a real treat. If you’re placed in the second cart however, your experience won’t be as incredible. It’s an unfortunate design flaw that takes away the immersive magic that this ride offers. I still highly recommend this ride to anyone visiting the parks. It really is magical. Both this ride and Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey are groundbreaking rides that I think are both enjoyable as well as uniquely impressive. Both have incredible queues, amazing theming, and are just a good time. Even if you don’t like Harry Potter, you’ll be blown away by the detail and you’ll have no choice but to crack a smile.

Hidden in the back of the park is the ride for all people seeking a relaxing break from the heat without having to lock up your belongings for a thrill ride. E.T. Adventure is one of the cutest and most relaxing rides in the park. You start in an outdoor waiting area and are ushered into three small standing theatres where you get a special mission from none other than Steven Spielberg. After giving your name to an attendant, you enter a forest with the most satisfying smell anywhere. Seriously, I’d wait in line for an hour just for the smell. You then get on bikes and help return E.T. to his funky home planet. If you’re lucky, E.T. will even say your name as he thanks you for helping him. This is a relaxing indoor ride for everyone in the family to enjoy. It may seem a bit outdated but the nostalgia you’ll feel will make up for it. It’s a classic Studios ride worth the hike to the back of the park.

Unlike my Must Rides at Islands of Adventure, I do know which ones I like most. Revenge of the Mummy is hands down my favorite ride in this park. I ride is every single time I go to Studios.  It’s a great thrill ride and I hope to see its style copied in the new Fast and Furious ride. My second favorite is E.T. Adventure. I have a soft spot for this ride and when I’m lucky enough to sit in the front row, I’m actually giddy over it. Because of the design flaw in Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts, this ranks as my third favorite. It’s a great ride that is worth braving the line for, but maybe head there as soon as the park opens so you can make the most of your day.

Much like my previous Universal Must Rides post, I struggled to pick these three since I have multiple favorites. So to be fair I have to give Men in Black: Alien Attack an honorable mention. This is an arcade style game that whirls you around as you try to protect the planet from an alien invasion. This ride honestly could replace Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts as a favorite for me but I’ve ridden this ride so many times that the excitement is wearing off. I think if you’ve never ridden this ride, it will most definitely be a favorite of yours. While I say I’ve over-ridden it, I still ride it almost every time I’m there. It’s just a fun ride.

Well those are my must rides for Universal Studios in Orlando. If you have any questions on rides for a vacation, staycation or a spontaneous day trip, ask away! If you have different opinions on these rides or have a different set of favorites, I’d love to hear them. Any info you’d like me to discuss on Orlando theme parks, leave me a suggestion. See you next time!

The Big Sick Review

With as many blockbuster releases as there are right now, people will be flocking to the theatre for Spider-Man: Homecoming, War of the Planet of the Apes, and Dunkirk. However, I think there’s another movie you should be making your way to see, The Big Sick. I had no expectations going into Big Sick and it was not what I was expecting at all. When I hear rom/com, I think of predictable jokes and a basic but enjoyable love story. While Big Sick was enjoyable, it definitely wasn’t predictable or basic.

Fair warning before I jump into my review, this will be filled with spoilers. If you haven’t seen The Big Sick yet, please do so and then come back and let me know what you think of it. Until then, enjoy the movie unspoiled. You won’t be disappointed!

The movie starts backstage of a comedy club with comedians including Bo Burnham and Aidy Bryant. From here, the roller coaster begins. We see sparks fly between Emily and Kumail, a forbidden romance that’s kept secret by Kumail. When Emily discovers the truth, things go down hill. Emily gets sick and Kumail signs as her husband to put her into a coma. After some awkward bonding between Emily’s parents and Kumail, he realizes his mistakes and fights to win her back. It seems to be too late when she wakes up so our lead moves to New York only to discover that his love came to find him. A classic happy ending.

So what sets this movie apart from the other rom/coms? Plainly put, the lack of Hollywood. This story was genuine. Seriously, it was based on a true story written by Kumail Nanjani and his wife Emily V. Gordon. When you saw this movie, you watched a love story written by the people who experienced it. With some artistic liberty taken in the script, I still think its honesty is apparent throughout the movie. It was a relationship set in the real world, experienced by real people, with real problems. It’s hard to find that level of reality and honesty in a movie. It’s also a plot with a twist. When Emily gets sick and goes under, it’s heart-wrenching to watch. Emily is a character that’s hard for anyone not to love. Seeing Kumail start to crumble without her and being a viewer waiting for a majority of the movie for Emily to come back was hard. I was sure she was actually going to die and it tore me up. Her sudden revival was as exciting for us as Kumail. Without the Hollywood touch of outlandish romance and lack of realism, this movie stands out among the blockbusters.

As touching as the honest romance is, it’s one of the funniest movies I’ve seen in a while. Being written and acted by comedians, I shouldn’t expect much less. Not only is a stand up comedian the star of the movie, the movie is full of other comedians so every scene’s witty banter is perfectly timed.  It makes light of hard situations and brings light to some funnier aspects of relationships. Kumail Nanjani was hilarious. It’s hard to write or act as a sarcastic character without them seeming rude. Kumail handled it perfectly, even moments when would show his sarcastic side, it was more charming than rude. While the comedy focused on a lot of modern topics, this is a movie any generation can laugh at. The theatre I was in had a good mix of baby boomers, generation x, and millennials and everyone was laughing so hard it was difficult to catch the next joke.

A big theme in this movie is family. From Kumail’s side, we got a glimpse into the life of a Pakistani family in the United States. More specifically, we got to see a light hearted take on arranged marriage. It’s a controversial topic with a new perspective. We learn about it from people who believe in it, people who grew up with it, and people who struggle to break free of it. Adding a variety of opinions and a lot of comedy, it was handled tastefully. Zenobia Shroff had one of the most intense scenes in the movie as she told Kumail he was not her son. It was shocking to see after the cute mother we saw who was goofily awkward presenting a new girl to her son each week.  Anupam Kher, the stylish father, was the line of communication to Kumail’s mom after he was disowned. His final scene with Kumail was heart warming as he reached out to his son. He may have been disowned, but he was still loved. I think it’ll be a great way for people to educate themselves on it even if they don’t agree with it. Disagreeing doesn’t have to mean bashing, and Kumail did a great job demonstrating that.

Emily’s family was another great touch to the movie. Usually, the father is the one that cracks down on the boyfriend or ex while the mother is more sympathetic. This movie was the exact opposite. Holly Hunter was the bull dog mom and Ray Romano was the one rooting for Kumail. They had their own issues and arguments to deal with and ultimately helped push Kumail to make some big changes in his life. Not only were they vital to his growth, they were absolutely hilarious. Watching Holly Hunter go into mom mode and defend Kumail in the comedy club was touching and had everyone laughing. Ray Romano’s failed jokes were laughably bad and his attempts to give advice were perfectly awkward. It was a great new twist on the overprotective parents we see so often in rom/coms.

Overall, The Big Sick was a touching romance, a phenomenal comedy, and a great feel good movie with a journey that didn’t always feel so good. It handles controversial topics with grace, shows how people can feel regret for unforgivable mistakes rather than blowing by the issue, and gives away the big secret that girls do indeed poop. It was quite complex for a rom/com. This is an independent movie that made it to the big screen across America and I think it deserves some major recognition. With all of the Hollywood blockbusters coming out this month, I really hope people make time to see this gem.

9¾ Reviews: The Chamber of Secrets

Welcome Muggles and Magic-folk alike to the next 9¾ Review on Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. If you’re new to 9¾ Reviews, this is a series dedicated to the Harry Potter series done by a Potterhead grown-up. If you’re interested in starting from the beginning, you can ready my review of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone here. For the few of you who know nothing about Harry Potter (I’m very sorry you don’t), you should check out the amazing series before reading my reviews filled with spoilers.

In my review of Sorcerer’s Stone, I mentioned loving it because it was very episodic. There were little adventures to teach us about the magical world and it took away from the heaviness of the plot. Chamber of Secrets is where we see the first big shift in Rowling’s writing style. They switched from little adventures to plot driven books. One of my favorite things about this series is as we read them, we see Rowling’s writing style grow. It is like we grow up with the characters and with J.K. Rowling.

Plot driven does not exclude little adventures. Those fun scenes of the trio doing something stupidly brave still exist. They now have a purpose greater than teaching us about magic. Nearly Headless Nick’s death day party is a prime example that nothing in this book was written without it aiding the plot.  It was a great adventure to read about and was an alibi for the trio when the first attack happens.

While the style of writing has changed in this book, the trio is still choosing to be involved. In later books like The Goblet of Fire, the characters are forced to participate in Voldemort’s wicked plans. In the earlier books, our three heroes chose to snoop for answers and eventually ended up in the midst of chaos.

Writing style wasn’t the only thing that caught my attention. Some characters in this book really stood out to me. The group that stood out to me most was the Dursley family. More specifically, how cruel they were to Harry. Obviously we all knew Harry wasn’t treated well by his aunt and uncle, but this book really showed how much fear and hatred they had toward Harry. Aunt Petunia tried to swing a frying pan at Harry’s head, trapped Harry in his room except for monitored bathroom trips, and fed him barely any food. I’m not sure if this disturbed me as a child as much as it does now, but I was shocked to read the little details of their abuse.

Staying on the subject of vile people, let’s discuss the Malfoys. Whether it be because I’ve seen the movies so many times or because I watch A Very Potter Musical too much, I completely forgot how horrible Draco Malfoy was. Yes, it was his horrible family that warped him into such a cruel person. Yes, in future books I do feel a bit more sympathetic toward his position in Voldemort’s ranks. However, I don’t have any sympathy for him in this book. Wanting to help murder people, guessing who would be next, and pouting when those people attacked were saved in the end reminded me of why I’ve never been able to be a Draco fan. The movies portray him as a horrible person also, but they definitely toned it down. Lucius Malfoy is downright evil in this book. Reading about his son and how he treated him in Knockturn Alley shows just how good of a dad he is (or isn’t).

Yet again we can see how J.K. was preparing for the rest of her series in these early books. In Dobby’s visit to Harry at the Dursley’s home, Dobby hinted that there is dark magic that even Dumbledore doesn’t know about. Dobby was likely hinting at horcruxes made by Voldemort. She also mentions Mungdungus Fletcher in this book whom we meet later on in Harry’s journey. Something I never realized until my second time reading this book, Snape is the professor who taught Harry his signature spell, Expelliarmus, during the dueling club. If not for that dueling class, who knows when Harry would have learned the disarming spell that saved his life many times.

As always, there are differences between the book and movie. In the movie, I always miss the death day scene for Nearly Headless Nick. I think that’s one of the more unique ideas written about in this book. I know in the directors cut that is played on Harry Potter Weekend, we see people really believing Harry is the heir, but not in the regular version. While I think it’s ridiculous that anyone suspected Harry, it was a great pressure added to Harry in the books. Surprisingly, I actually prefer the fight scene in the movie. The book’s battle scene, while still good, was much shorter than I remember. That being said, I do find the concept of the basilisk in the book to be scarier and actually got chills the first time reading the voice as Harry hears it.

The Chamber of Secrets may be creepier than Sorcerer’s Stone, but that doesn’t make it any less fun to read. Scenes with the flying car, visiting The Burrow, and freeing Dobby, prove that this book is as full of warmth and mischief as its predecessor. This book is an important transition in the series that sets the tone for future books. I’d love to know your thoughts on The Chamber of Secrets so if there’s anything you’d like to discuss, let’s talk in the comments. Keep an eye out for my next 9¾ Review of Prisoner or Azkaban, my personal favorite.

Spider-Man: Homecoming Review

By now you all know that these reviews have spoilers and this one is no different. Go check out Spider-Man: Homecoming and then come back to read this after.

There was no way I could wait the entire opening weekend to see the new Spider-Man reboot. When it comes to Marvel, I have some mixed feelings that you can read about here. I was worried this Spider-Man would just seem like another cog in the Avengers machine, especially since he’s my favorite Marvel hero. Fortunately, my fears were misplaced.

Spider-Man: Homecoming had everything a Spider-Man movie should. It was written with comedic intent, it had few but smart fight scenes, and it was filled with heart. No, this isn’t a sappy Spider-Man, it’s just your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.

We started off with some vlog footage from Peter himself during his time in Captain America: Civil War. Trying to keep busy when he wasn’t getting any missions, he stumbled on an underground weapons operation. After some rebellious mistakes and heroic moments, Spidey got grounded by Stark and had to choose between saving the day or enjoying homecoming like a normal teen. You can probably guess which one he chose.

Tom Holland’s Peter Parker acts like the kid who lives down the block that’s able to make friends with everyone. He is awkward and childish in a way that charms everyone, even criminals. He does well at balancing the rebellious side of Spider-Man and the responsible geek of Peter Parker. His comedic timing was spot on, which is important for anyone playing this role. He actually had me crying in the theatre from laughing so hard at his interrogation mode scene.

What really makes Holland’s Peter Parker stand out is the writing behind him. I feel most writers find the easiest way to make a teenage character relatable is through a bland romance. Romance sells but it doesn’t give much depth. This Peter was written to act in the way a normal high school nerd would. He handles bullying, crushes, friendships, and family issues while swinging through the city after his Spanish tests. He was loyal to his friend and aunt, not only his crush. He and Ned were hilarious while showing how good of a friend Peter is. Peter Parker is a complex character that requires more complex character development, and they delivered.

With so much of this movie being character driven with chosen involvement, there was less fighting than other hero movies. Less isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Spider-Man loves to fight smarter not harder so every fight was clever. Each fight was fun to watch to see what trick he would try next or which new part of his suit he would use. Of course there was plenty of action and some epic scenes, but not as much as some of the other Marvel movies we’ve seen.

Something I’ve been noticing and appreciating in the Marvel universe is seeing negative consequences of the Avengers or any superhero in this universe. In comics it’s easy to forget that there are other victims beyond the ones saved. Civil War did a great job at showing that heroes can make mistakes. While this is an interesting dynamic for the genre, I think it was a drastic jump for this movie. We go from Michael Keaton’s character focusing on hard work and providing for his family to being a thief and underground weapons dealer because Stark issues the Damage Control to step in. While his motive made sense, I couldn’t believably see the man excited to prove himself to his new employers becoming a villain on the drop of a dime because an advanced agency was brought in to clean up alien technology and wreckage.

I know what you’re really wondering though. Was this reboot worth it or was it a desperate money grab by marvel? For me, this movie was absolutely worth the reboot. There are two main things that set this movie apart from the others.

One big difference and reason I loved this movie was that it was played by believable teenagers. The actors looked young enough to be in high school, they acted like regular awkward high schoolers, and for the most part they dressed like actual high schoolers. I think the vlog footage in the beginning was a great way to connect with millennials while showing Peter’s excitement. It was a great way to integrate new media and show people who didn’t watch Civil War everything they needed to know.

The second major difference, and most important one at that, from the other Spider-Man movies was that this one was not an origin story. We had to see Peter lose his uncle and become Spider-Man twice before, could we really sit through the same basic plot again? By skipping that part of his story, we got to jump into a new plot at a different stage in Peter’s journey. While Uncle Ben wasn’t there to say it, the meaning in the phrase “with great power comes great responsibility” was still a major theme. They found new ways to integrate the key points that make Spider-Man so unique and relatable.

I love the way they involved Stark so heavily in the movie. It paints Tony in a good light again, something they needed to do after Civil War. Stark is becoming a father figure to Peter and I’m excited to see that relationship grow. We finally have a Spider-Man who can interact in a universe full of other heroes unlike the other ones we’ve seen. With a world full of potential, I don’t think we’ll be seeing another reboot any time soon.

While I was on the fence at first, I can say this is my favorite Spider-Man movie to date. I think Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield were great which makes them tough acts to follow. Rebooting this series so soon again was a big risk but it paid off. This may have even won me over to fully loving the Marvel movies again. Maybe. While the movie wasn’t perfect, I sure did love it and can’t wait for more adventures with Spidey.