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.

Baby Driver Review

This is not a movie you want to ruin by reading spoilers. If you haven’t seen Baby Driver yet, I highly recommend you see it soon and then come back to this review.

I wasn’t planning on seeing Baby Driver until I saw a tweet mentioning it and decided to look up the ratings. I was shocked that the trailer I ignored before every YouTube video for a month was getting such amazing reviews. I clearly misjudged this movie and decided I needed to see it as soon as possible, and I’m glad I did.

I’ve learned to expect a certain level of quirk and intensity from any Edgar Wright movie and Baby Driver did not disappoint. This was an action movie packed with tender moments and hilarious comedic scenes. Learning about Baby’s past, watching him fall in love, and realizing a life of crime was going to be near impossible to escape made this movie a roller coaster of thrills, laughs and emotions.

The movie started off with a bang. Watching Ansel Elgort dancing and lip syncing while waiting for his crew was hilarious but once that heist was over, the light-hearted Baby became the best get-away driver in Atlanta. His driving was wickedly fun to watch and his music selection made each chase a new experience so you never got bored at the idea of a car chase. You could see him calculating his route in his head while responding in split seconds to environmental interferences. Even on foot, whether running from the cops or walking to get coffee, Baby was fun to watch decide his path. Everything from car chases to making sandwiches seemed like a dance that Baby had mastered. He was calm, cool, and smooth.

Along with great action sequences, this movie had some captivating and fun characters. Jamie Foxx can always pull off a crazy villain type so his character Bats was spot-on. His dislike for Baby and spontaneous actions made him a great conflicting character from the rest of the group. I was always anxious to see how Bats would respond to situations in the movie, keeping me on the edge of my seat. Jon Hamm and Eliza González were hilarious to watch flirt in the most awkward of situations. When things got serious and Darling was killed, Buddy’s transformation into the seemingly indestructible revenge seeking madman was brutal.

Obviously I couldn’t write this review without discussing Baby himself. I’ve never seen Ansel Elgort act in anything before so I was thoroughly impressed. His portrayal of the sensitive, lovable get-away driver was touching. Baby was thrown into a life of crime and was never allowed to escape. While he lived in a world of thugs and thieves, he had a heart of gold and simple taste. He loved his foster dad, he loved his girl, and he loved his music. Baby was wronged his whole life so seeing him finally snap and have strangers, family, and even Doc testify for him when he was caught was satisfying. His character and relationships were so important to him that he took his prison sentence with dignity and let his journey come full circle. He was a breath of fresh air from the typical crime movie stereotypes.

The soundtrack plays a heavy role in the story as an extension of Baby. Since Baby doesn’t talk much and uses music to drown out the ringing in his ear, we get to hear how he’s feeling through what music he’s listening to. Since music was so important to him, the damage done to his hearing at Buddy’s hand was heart-wrenching. It felt like part of him had died in that moment. Personally, I’m a huge fan of music heavy movies and love when the soundtrack is used for more than just theming. I think this touch makes Baby Driver so unique, fun, and sensitive.

I’m so glad I decided to see Baby Driver. It exceeded all expectations I had for it and let me walk out of the theatre feeling inspired. This old Americana themed movie was everything from intensely brutal to heart warming. While it is quirky and unique in style, Baby Driver is a movie I think most people would enjoy. Romance fans to action junkies alike will feel thoroughly satisfied seeing Baby and Debora together in the end.

My Three Must Rides at Universal’s IoA

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a Universal Orlando Annual Pass holder. I love spending time at the parks whether it be for the day or just a few hours, but no matter how long I’m at the parks, I have a few rides I know I always have to find time to enjoy. If you’re just visiting the parks for a little vacation or staycation, these are my favorite gems at Islands of Adventure that I think you need to check out.

One of my favorite rides is a Universal classic, The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man.This ride is just a blast. It’s based off of the cartoons/old comics so don’t expect Tobey Maguire to be the Spider-Man you’re fighting crime with. With mainly an indoor themed line, this is a good ride to escape the rain or the Florida heat. This is a 4D ride with 3D glasses and an inevitable squirt of water in the face. While 4D isn’t my favorite thing, this is one I’ll gladly ride whenever.Processed with VSCO with c1 preset

Maybe 4D rides aren’t your favorite but you’re having trouble finding exciting rides without the glasses. If that’s the case, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey is a great compromise.This isn’t your average 4D ride. It actually isn’t even 3D. There are no glasses needed for this ride. There are screens that make you feel like you’re in the world, but there are also live elements as well. The ride splits between screens and sets giving us some variety. Add in the most immersive queue theming in the park and you’ve got a ride worth braving the line for. With a unique seating and car system, taking the single rider line won’t result in awkwardly sitting with strangers. I will recommend going through the full line at least once if you have the time and have never been before, it really is magical.Processed with VSCO with m5 preset

Now I imagine most of you are expecting The Incredible Hulk to make my top three since it is the most iconic ride at Islands of Adventure. Although it is the famous Universal roller coaster that can be seen from I-4, my favorite coaster has to be Dragon Challenge.Every time I ride it, I fall more and more in love with it. Front row, back row, day or night, this is a coaster that changes every time you hop on. What’s unfortunate is that the wait is never above 15 minutes. You may read that and get excited for a quick line, but this could prove to be tragic for this thrill packed ride. If you love coasters or are trying to get into them for the first time, stop by and show this ride some love, it needs it.Processed with VSCO with m5 preset

If I had to rank them, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey has to be my favorite ride, and the other two change depending on my mood. It was extremely hard picking those three out of all of the amazing rides so I do have an honorable mention for this park. If you don’t mind getting a bit wet, Jurassic Park River Adventure is an incredible attraction and I couldn’t write this post without giving it some praise. It starts out calm and serene but as the danger picks up, this ride is anything but relaxing. I used to be terrified of River Adventure when I was younger and now I can enjoy it while still jumping and screaming. If you don’t like the 4D rides, this will be one you’ll fall in love with.

There are some incredible rides at these parks and all deserve some recognition. I’m by no means bashing any rides, just celebrating my favorites. I’ve got some other posts about the attractions at these parks coming soon so stay tuned and let me know what your favorites are, I’d love to hear!

 

9¾ Reviews: The Sorcerer’s Stone

Since I was in 7th grade, I’ve been a massive Harry Potter fan. I can remember the exact moment I started reading the books and can honestly say that since that day, it’s changed my life. As dramatic as that sounds, it’s true. As Potterheads do, I rewatch the movies almost constantly, I cancel my plans for Harry Potter Weekend, I hum The Mysterious Ticking Noise, and can be found in my Gryffindor snuggie watching A Very Potter Musical/Sequel regularly. As much as I indulge in the wonders of Harry Potter, rereading the series can be rather tedious with a busy schedule. I’ve done it a few times when I was younger and usually quit around Goblet of Fire. This time, I’m determined to finish the series and reflect on it being almost ten years older than I was when I originally read it. If by some chance you haven’t read or even watched Harry Potter by now, I highly recommend doing so before reading this, as it will completely spoil all of the magic.

I finished rereading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone almost immediately after I had picked it up again. I was completely sucked into the magic all over again. It’s strange how a story you know so well can feel new every time you dive back into it. Harry Potter still seems to do that for me.

What I love about The Sorcerer’s Stone is its little adventures. Once you reach Order of the Phoenix, and even in Goblet of Fire, the little adventures are overshadowed by the main plot. The characters are older and have bigger things to worry about than the first quidditch match of the season. The Sorcerer’s Stone introduces both Harry and the reader to the world of magic. While everything is important and ties into the plot, it doesn’t feel as heavy as reading one of the later books. We feel like we’re learning about quidditch and dragons then suddenly there’s Voldemort. It’s a deceivingly light read that is actually full of action and adventure.

Adventures aside, The Sorcerer’s Stone is also just full of warmth. Watching Harry find his new home and where he fits in just feels good to read. Harry bonding with Ron over growing up overshadowed and poor, Harry learning about his parents and seeing them for the first time, and Hermione surprising the boys with her bravery and wit gives this book (and entire series) heart that I feel a lot of books lack. J.K. Rowling let us get attached without boring us with too many details and without shoving forced relationships down our throats.

Most of my favorite scenes that I found the most touching were with Hagrid. I guess I had forgotten just how much I love Hagrid because I felt like I was reading an entirely new character this time around. Hagrid probably has the biggest heart out of anyone in the series and that’s exactly what Harry needed coming from the Dursley’s care. In one of the last chapters we see Hagrid give Harry yet another gift. Hagrid had been collecting pictures of Harry’s parents from as many people as he could to give to him. If that doesn’t show heart, I don’t know what does.

There were many other things that stuck out to me this time. The biggest and most unsettling was how rude Harry and Ron are. I understand that Harry and Ron are still children and have been overshadowed their entire lives, but they really just came across as mean. The way they treated Hermione when she was standing up to them for leaving (much like what Neville was rewarded for) was quite upsetting. Once the trio became friends, this settled down a bit, but not entirely. Gryffindors are known for this type of obnoxious and rude behavior but I guess when I read this as a child myself, I never realized just how rude Harry and Ron were in this book.

I also noticed how goofy Dumbledore was throughout this book. The movies make Dumbledore seem extremely serious so I had forgotten how he really was. It was nice to forget the controversy about the character that comes out later and just enjoy Albus as the wacky headmaster we all loved who starts to get close to Harry.

As I said before, this book is deceivingly light. With little adventures like rescuing Hagrid’s Dragon, the overarching plot line doesn’t weigh down the story. There are a couple of little details in this book that are key to the later books that I never noticed before. It’s well known by Order of the Phoenix that Voldemort has a connection with Harry and often tries to communicate with him through dreams. What I didn’t realize was that Voldemort had been doing this since Harry’s first night at Hogwarts. By Order of the Phoenix we also know Snape is a master of Legilimency. The first mention of this came from The Sorcerer’s Stone when Harry gets the unnerving feeling that Snape can read minds.

This probably won’t shock you, but I love this book. This is the book that changed my opinion on reading entirely. I think there’s something in this book for everyone that will surely hook anyone into finishing the rest. How J.K. Rowling was able to create such a huge and sometimes dark series starting from such a fun read, I’ll never know. It really is like magic.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Review

If you’re looking for a spoiler-free review, you’ve come to the wrong place. You may want to head over to iMDB or Rotten Tomatoes.

I have to say, when it comes to Marvel movies, I’m torn. Some of them are amazing, some are just boring, and some just try to copy the formula for a best selling action movie and end up completely empty. When Marvel flops, they flop. But when Marvel does well, they soar above expectations. The first Avengers movie was groundbreaking for the Marvel universe and I didn’t think anything could beat it, until Guardians of the Galaxy.

Guardians of the Galaxy has been my favorite little corner of the Marvel universe since Vol. 1 was released in 2014. Being a fan of action and space movies, Guardians was right up my alley. You can probably imagine my excitement for Vol. 2.

I didn’t go into the theatre with any skepticism or pessimism, I just wanted to sit back and enjoy a fun movie. That’s exactly what I did with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. It was heartfelt, hilarious, and action-packed. What more can you ask for? There is one thing about this movie that might be bothersome to viewers, the lack of straightforward plot. I would relate this movie to the character building episode any great adventure television series needs. This movie stood still to let its characters develop into people we care about.

As boring as I realize that sounds, this is a big deal for Marvel. The first Guardians movie was very plot driven. Heroes meet, heroes fight bad guy, heroes win and become “friends” in the process. A basic structure for super hero movies. This sequel seemed to just have events happening and we watched the characters react. You just had to sit back and watch these different paths eventually combine to fight against a villain that’s only purpose was to resolve conflict within Peter. We watched every character have realizations and personal growth. To me, this was an important stepping stone in hero movies. They’ve separated themselves from the Avengers. They didn’t just create this movie to throw them into a massive Avengers movie like Ant-Man, Guardians exists on their own and won’t depend on an Avengers movie for a purpose.

Learning about Peter’s dad fills in an important plot point for the series that can give writers some new direction. Now that Peter knows more about himself, is he likely to become more reckless or be at peace and consider a less risky life? Will he regain control over those powers his father had? Star-Lord seemed to have isolated growth where as the other characters were mainly paired off, Groot being the exception. I really enjoyed the Gamora and Nebula pairing. Seeing Gamora apologize and watching Nebula learn to forgive was so powerful since these are extremely headstrong characters. Mantis was a hilarious addition to this movie and her connection with Drax is both comedic and heart-warming.

That being said, if we’re going to call any duo in this movie heart-warming (which they all were to some degree), that title has to go to Rocket and Yondu. In my opinion, Rocket had even more development than Peter. Watching Rocket struggle with his identity in the group and waiting for his best friend to grow up again, Rocket was thrown into this movie in an awkward position. Yondu was the perfect character to help him through his transition. Yondu became someone Rocket had complete respect for, which is rare for his character. Rocket now shows traits of both Peter and Yondu, making him a potentially good leader if the writers choose that path. Yondu’s death was truly heart breaking. Having all of the other ravagers accept him again really drove home the theme of this movie: family. We saw several storylines dealing with related family, some with the loss of family, and some coming to find a new family. After this movie, the Guardians are not just a team, but are a family.

As you can probably tell, I’ve overanalyzed this movie a bit. I would like to say that while I appreciate this movie, this style may not be for everyone. Several times during the movie I felt underwhelmed by a lack of stakes presented. While this one didn’t have an intense and massive plot like the first one, its story is important and the overarching theme is what makes the Guardians so special in the Marvel universe. Even if this character development isn’t your cup of tea, you’ll have a blast watching it. I don’t think there was a single person in the theatre who wasn’t laughing. The action is thrilling, the writing is witty, the special effects are incredible, the story is heartfelt, and baby Groot is absolutely adorable.

I really can’t recommend this movie enough. I can’t even think of a single thing I didn’t enjoy about it, or maybe I just don’t want to. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 was a huge success in my opinion and I can’t wait to see it again. Let me know what you thought about the movie, I’d love to hear if anyone else liked or disliked the structure or if you didn’t really notice a difference.

Healing

About two months ago, many chapters of my life abruptly came to a close. I finished my AA at a community college, I learned how to walk away from a bad situation, and I lost my dog Emma after 14 wonderful years of having her and 16 of her being alive. I’ve experienced a lot of death within my family at a young age, but losing my sweet Emma is probably one of the hardest. Two months later and I’m still crying over her. There’s an emptiness that follows loss, and that’s what I’m trudging through now.

The two years since my high school graduation have been some of the hardest and most challenging years of my life. Dealing with worsening anxiety, loss, difficult relationships, new jobs, countless health issues, and a full school load has been a struggle to say the least. But these past two years have also proved to be some of the most rewarding. I’m more sure of who I am than I ever have been and I’m finally regaining control over my happiness.

I have always believed that every painful experience is something to grow from. Take control of situations that have hurt you by becoming stronger from them. It’s easier said than done, but it’s something I’ve always lived by. I may hurt, but I am determined to learn and grow from these past two years.

I read a book by Carrie Hope Fletcher called All I Know Now and there was one chapter that really stuck with me. She wrote about “dating” herself. She did what she enjoyed, she took risks for her own sake, and she took time to learn herself without the influence of other people. It may be June, but I believe I have my 2017 resolution. I need to put myself back together. I need to be unapologetically me. It’s time to date myself.

I may not be ready to jump in, but I am ready to take the first few steps. I am ready to start doing things I enjoy again, like my blog. I started writing several movie reviews to post but I just wasn’t ready to come back until now. I have a new series idea I’d like to try out here on Oh Hello, Darling. If you’re a Potterhead, you may want to stay tuned.

If there’s anything you’ve previously enjoyed from my blog that you’d like to read more of, let me know! I’m excited to write again, even if it is with a wonky posting schedule.