movie review

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (2017) Review

There are some childhood movies that toe the line between a timeless classic and an emotionally scarring trauma. Jumanji (1995) is practically the forefather of this bizarrely common genre. As an adult, you cherish this movie and all of the horrifying nightmares it gave you as a child. Considering the timeless love my generation has for this essential 90’s movie, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (2017) had an uphill battle.

It’s 1996 and times have changed. Kids no longer want to roll dice and move tokens. Joysticks and buttons have taken over so Jumanji needs an upgrade. Flash forward twenty years and an unlikely group of teens in detention hear those dreaded drums. As they plug in an archaic video game and pick their characters, they’re taken into Jumanji as their chosen avatars. Their only chance of leaving the game is to win.

The basic set up of the story is similar to its parent film. I was initially concerned with how they would modernize the concept of the game and seamlessly shift between two realities. I was really pleased with the execution. The shift from board to video game was short and simple. Switching from high school students to some of Hollywood’s biggest names was also a smooth transition. They spent just enough time explaining the concept without dragging it on. It let your imagination kick in and fall back into that nostalgic feeling from the original.

Sequels can be tough so I did have concerns, mainly regarding the script. I was worried they would skimp on the writing and rely on star power for this movie to do well. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Yes, it’s a movie for middle school ages to adults so some plot points and messages weren’t strong, but they were still fun to watch. In fact, the script was hilarious and leaned more toward adult humor. It’s not meant to be a masterpiece, just a movie for everyone to have a ball watching. That being said, it’s definitely not a movie to take your six-year-old to see.

Dwayne Johnson is as charming and funny as ever. His character had a lot of self-reflective humor so Dwayne got to take some shots at himself. Dr. Smolder Bravestone seems a fitting enough name as any for The Rock. As heated as the public’s opinion of him is, Kevin Hart is flat-out hilarious in this movie. As usual, his timing is on point and his physical humor is killer. Moose Finbar is a strong contestant of one of Hart’s most enjoyable roles.

Who doesn’t love Jack Black? Black plays both Professor Shelly Oberon and a self-absorbed teenage girl. He gives a mocking narrative on millennial culture. While a lot of movies end up alienating their audience with a biting tone toward millennial commentary, Black’s charisma and hilarious mimicry doesn’t come across as insulting or out of touch. Karen Gillan seems to be making quite the name for herself. I’ve loved her since her Amy Pond days and I’m happy to see her in more blockbusters. While she let some qualities of her previous characters seep into this one, she still proved she has the chops for comedy as Ruby Roundhouse. We even got to see Nick Jonas take a swing at acting and doing quite well in a supporting role to the main four leads.

Overall, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is one of the most enjoyable movies in theatres at the moment. It’s hilarious for children and the adults who grew up watching the original. Its modernization and commentary on millennial culture is accurate without being rude or dated. Let’s be honest, who would want to skip out on a movie with this kind of all star cast? If you’re looking for a break from the heaviness of Oscar season, this is the perfect flick to enjoy all the way through.

What did you think of Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle? Do you love the original as much as I do? Do you think this sequel did it justice? As always, if you have any recommendations for me, let me know! I’d love to check them out. See you soon!

Banner from jumanjimovie.com

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I, Tonya Review

With the birth of the 24-hour news cycle came the death of reputations and careers. The era of the scandal was born. Of course, many those breaking news stories needed coverage but suddenly the news was a frenzy of top selling stories. So, who was the first victim of the new news? Tonya Harding. However popular her name is, I still didn’t really know much about her or the controversy surrounding her. The movie I, Tonya gives a comprehensive and entertaining retelling of events without hiding any of the good, bad, or ugly.

Tonya Harding had a talent for skating that she pursued relentlessly. While life was great on the ice, it was a different story at home. She was regularly beaten by her mother and eventually husband, Jeff Gillooly. Her tough-girl attitude and powerful moves made her a target for the judges. She had to make history as the first American woman ever to attempt and land a triple axel just to qualify for the Olympics. What outshone her skating was the scandal she was wrapped up in involving the attack of her biggest competitor, Nancy Kerrigan. When word gets out that Tonya might have been involved, her personal life and skating career was changed forever.

 

My parents always told me about this story, yet I didn’t really understand the scope of the situation. I didn’t understand how even before the incident people hated Tonya Harding. She’s arguably one of the greatest figure skaters in history who had to work for everything she had. Then, I watched I, Tonya and things began to change.

Every character in this movie is shown as they actually were in real life. The script was based on real interviews and events that happened. The actors studied the temperament, mannerisms, and habits of these individuals for an accurate performance. While this sounds monotonous to watch, the movie is actually hilarious. These characters are based on what seems like the most cartoonish group of Americans you can imagine, and yet they are all accurate depictions. Many times I thought they were exaggerating the writing of characters to add more comedy, but the real life interviews proved the performances were nothing but reality.

While the movie is extremely accurate in writing and characterization, it has plenty of creative flares. Its editing and cinematography in particular create a sense of fiction which only adds to the absurdity of the characters and situation. There were several times where the fourth wall was broken and actors made remarks to the audience. They used gliding camera movements with harsh jumps or transitions to mimic the sensation of skating. In contrast to the occasional fast pace of the movie, they threw in slow motion at certain parts, especially when skating, to highlight the talent and skill that Tonya had.

To top off the technical excellence of the movie, they used real skaters for everything. There was no actual footage of Tonya or Nancy to break the reality the movie had already placed us in. They clearly had a skater perform Tonya’s routines and seamlessly placed Margot Robbie’s face on top of the skater’s for the challenging tricks. I typically don’t like this look as it triggers that uncanny valley sensation that we hate but this movie executed it with little to no flaws. It didn’t seem unnatural in the slightest.

Both the pre- and post-production aspects of this movie were incredible, so what about the performances given during filming? Simply put, incredible. As I mentioned, the actors were directly mimicking their real-life counterparts to give them a fair portrayal. It’s not the actors’ fault they were playing the most ridiculous group of people. Everyone gave hilarious performances with nothing but utter seriousness.

Margot Robbie was an impeccable Tonya Harding. I finally realized why people just didn’t like Tonya as a person. That didn’t stop Robbie from making her a sympathetic character. Her attitude was reactive and defensive. She struggled for everything so her stubborn attitude and pride were overwhelming. Robbie took one of the most hated girls in America and made her a human being, not just an angry girl on the news.

Allison Janney gives an infuriating and spot-on performance as LaVone Harding. It’s no secret that LaVone Harding is a vile and crazy woman. Janney nails the psycho attitude of Tonya’s mother. While she’s utterly cruel, her character is still hilarious and Janney definitely had fun with that. She balanced the evil with the comical and gave us a raw performance as Tonya’s despicable mother.

Sebastian Stan shines in his role as Jeff Gillooly. You can see his twisted way of loving Tonya and cruel nature battle each other through the film. He makes the least sympathetic man in Tonya’s life even less sympathetic. If you never thought much about Jeff Gillooly’s influence over Tonya’s actions, you will after this movie. Partnered with Paul Walter Hauser as Shawn Eckhardt, these two made a hilariously infuriating pair. Hauser had fun with his role as Eckhardt. He was true to his character’s nature and after seeing real-life interviews, he nailed the role of the dumbest third wheel of all time.

What is truly incredible about this movie is that there is still a mystery in the end. Did Tonya know? After watching the movie, you can walk out with suspicion, but no clear blame or evidence. You can hate Tonya, but after this movie, you’ll also feel sympathetic for her. You may believe she did it, but you’ll also be forced to take into account the influences surrounding her.

I, Tonya toys with your emotions. You walk out feeling sympathetic, annoyed, upset, and suspicious. With its masterful script and actors, characters are true to their real life counterparts. All this movie does is present a story and allows you decide what happened from there. If you’re looking for a movie to discuss with friends, this is the one for you. There’s no end to the theories or discussions about the quality of the movie itself. It may still be January, but this movie set the bar high for storytelling this year.

What did you think of I, Tonya? Did you grow up during the Harding scandal? How did it feel reliving this from her perspective? Or are you like me and are just now diving into the controversy? Did you look up interviews and performances afterward like I did? As always, I’d love to know any suggestions you may have for me. See you soon!

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Okja Review

When a cold front hit Florida, no one knew how to respond. How did I survive the arctic-level weather conditions? With heated blankets, chili, and a movie marathon, of course! Near the top of my list was the Netflix original movie Okja.

The world needs food and the genetically modified super-pigs are the solution. In an attempt to cover up the horrific conditions these animals live in, the international Mirando Corporation sends several of the cutest pigs to be raised by farmers across the globe so in ten years’ time they can crown one as the best super-pig. What the heartless organization didn’t account for was one South Korean super-pig’s best friend Mija. When the time comes to collect Okja, Mija has other ideas.

I will warn you, this review contains spoilers. Since the writing of this movie stuck with me more than any technical or performance aspect, this post will be mainly discussing the story itself. If you’d like to check it out before reading, it is available on Netflix.

 

I was drawn to this movie by the sheer cuteness of Okja and Mija. Watching the trailers and stills of the movie, I couldn’t help but ooh and ahh. I suspected there would be powerful social commentary, but that it would be subtle compared to the main story about Mija saving Okja.

Boy was I wrong. If you aren’t in the mood for a heavy movie, maybe this isn’t the one for you. While I agree with every point this movie is making about the horrors of the meat industry and the cruelty with which these animals are treated, I think they could have been made in a much more subdued manner. It’s a powerful message that deserves to be told but this film, pardon the expression, beats a dead horse.

I will give it props for its premise. Using a fake animal that’s actually genetically modified is a great way of getting the message across without it being too scarring for a younger audience. The super-piggies are adorable (well, the ones chosen for the competition are at least), which makes them easy to love. Their intelligence and caring nature mimics that of dogs or actual pigs so they hit home as a pet we all know and love, even if they are fictional.

Okja’s special relationship with Mija was one that I wish we had gotten more of. The beginning of the movie really shows their dependence on each other. Early on, their family-like bond is disrupted by Mirando and then we don’t get to see them together until the end. It’s heart-wrenching yet also boring. So much of the movie was filled with the Animal Liberation Front, a group that really exhausts its message until you can’t really take it seriously anymore. Rather than listen to Paul Dano’s character explain the horrors of Okja’s dire situation, I would have rather actually watched Mija come to these conclusions and speak on them herself.

With all that being said, this movie still does its job. I actually had to put my chili down because I had the “I should be vegetarian; this is disgusting” struggle that I deal with far too often. It may be brutally preachy in its message, but you still feel for Okja and Mija and want to see the Mirando Corporation crumble.

Overall, I was more exhausted watching this movie than I was entertained. It got its message across but at the cost of the reason we turned on the movie in the first place: Mija and Okja. It wasn’t a bad movie by any means, but I could skip re-watching this one.

What did you think of Okja? Were you moved by it? Did you find it to be over-the-top or do you think that melodrama was necessary? As always, if you have any recommendations, let me know. See you soon!

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The Post Review

Looking at the current box office line up, there are no movies out as powerful socio-political commentary as The Post. This biographic piece about The Washington Post and the value of the First Amendment has popped up at a crucial time in history. The newest Spielberg film may seem like a movie about old news, but it will leave you reflecting on the state of our press and government today.

The New York Times reported on the infamous Pentagon Papers, a government study detailing the true nature of the Vietnam War. Much to the surprise of Americans, the war was a failure. To quiet the scandal, the Nixon administration tried to silence the New York Times by taking them to the Supreme Court. When The Washington Post, under the control of the first female newspaper publisher Katharine Graham, received the rest of the study, she had a decision to make. She could risk the losing the paper, her wealth, and her freedom entirely or she could turn a blind eye to the government’s abuse of power and and not publish the article. She chose to publish.

Before discussing the cultural significance of this movie, I’d first like to talk about the artistic merits of the film itself. Being a Spielberg production, you can expect great quality filmmaking and writing all round. However, what I didn’t realize until the end of the movie was that he actually directed the movie. His high attention to detail and ability to guide your focus to the most crucial part of the scene was everywhere. His masterful way of crafting stories and molding scenes to tell a clear and complex tale was yet again at play in The Post.

 

Not only does this movie have a legend for a director, it also has some of the most well renowned actors of all time. When Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, and Steven Spielberg all make a movie, you just know it will be incredible.

I don’t think its possible for Meryl Streep to give anything less than a stellar performance. There was an immense amount of nuance in her portrayal of Katharine Graham. Graham was thrown into the family business after the suicide of her husband. While her circumstances weren’t revealed in the very beginning, her portrayal of a stressed and uncertain woman showed an internal struggle beyond regular business. She has a slight shake in her hand whenever she spoke publicly, or tried to. There was a quiver in her voice whenever she felt the spotlight was on her. I almost cheered when she finally found her confidence and stood up for the principles her father laid in the paper. Streep actually placed me in the life of a woman I never even knew existed.

Tom Hanks acted in a role perfectly designed for him, as usual. There’s no denying the similarities in all of Hanks’ characters in his recent films. While this role fit the cookie cutter, Tom took his performance to another level. Having the honor of playing one of America’s most respected journalists, Ben Bradlee, seems to have lit a fire in Hanks. His performance was full of passion for everything his character stood for and fought to protect. I’ve always loved Tom Hanks and this film is now another reason why.

Josh Singer and Elizabeth Hannah met the perfect balance between storytelling and commentary when writing this script. The story of The Washington Post under Katharine Graham is enough to inspire reflection. Singer and Hannah really drove it home by showing reactions from the White House itself. Recordings, quotes, and historical context show that some administrations will protect themselves before the citizens they’re sworn to protect. You can’t help but wonder; if history were to repeat itself today, would we have a Graham to oppose them?

Choosing the perspective of The Washington Post over The New York Times for this movie may seem puzzling at first, but it was the right choice for several reasons. We got a sneak peak at what life was like for women in positions of management in the news industry. Graham was the first of her kind, and not necessarily by choice. It was a role she had to grow into and seeing that transformation was liberating both as a viewer and  a woman.

We see the business side of a paper that was struggling financially. As the journalists desperately struggled to find stories, the publishers rubbed elbows with high officials and bankers to protect the jobs of the writers and the American public from monopolized news sources. Choosing to publish one story could have resulted in losing close friendships, mass unemployment, and having freedoms revoked entirely. It’s was high-stress field riddled with risks from the bottom of the working ladder to the top.

Most importantly, we see first hand how important the resulting Supreme Court case was. That trial didn’t just affect the New York Times. It affected every single American citizen. Our first amendment right to speech, press, religion, assembly, and petition is in place to protect the citizens of the United States. When the government tries to take that away from us, do we let fear and greed stand in our way? The Post stood with The New York Times and inspired other papers to be bold and protect their duty as government watchdogs.

In a day and age where news is a business and the public has little to no faith in the journalistic integrity of any media outlet, this movie is refreshing. It reminds us of the value of skepticism and serves as a reminder of what makes the United States so great. It is a country governed by the people and that ideal needs protection. Both officials and journalists should be held to a higher standard. An informed public is more important than corporate profit margins. Freedom of speech should come before any elected official’s ego.

As someone majoring in communication, this case has been discussed countless times in my classes. Actually seeing it play out struck a chord with me. Without this case, my current career path wouldn’t exist in its current form. In fact, news and media as a whole wouldn’t be the same as it is now. The debate of censorship and protection is a complicated one that can change from case to case. I’m just glad the precedent is set that our papers exist to protect us, not any one administration.

What did you think of The Post? Did you find the lack of action boring? Were you inspired by what happened? Do you think the timing of this movie helps to reinforce its message? As always, I’d love to check out any recommendations you may have for me. See you soon!

Banner picture from MovieTavern.com.

Molly’s Game Review

What does Olympic skiing, the Russian mob, and a room full of gambling addicts all have in common? Molly Bloom. I went to see the movie based on her, Molly’s Game, without knowing a thing about this mysterious woman and walked out only wanting to know more.

Molly was an Olympic skier with late onset scoliosis. After crashing during her qualifying jump, she moved to L.A. to live as a normal young woman before starting law school. There she gets mixed up with Hollywood’s elite during an underground poker game. She ends up running the most elite gambling game in Manhattan before her empire crumbles. Two years later, she’s arrested and must choose between her old life or the integrity of her name.

Bloom has had an insanely interesting life so seeing it on the big screen was quite the treat. Movies based on true stories can be dull without that added sense of unrealistic glamour. While Molly’s Game does have quite a bit of glitz, I do think it lacks just a touch of the fantasy we all desire. That being said, the script does her true story justice with tight writing. Nothing in this movie seems hokey or overly unrealistic.

The editing and organization of the film does this story justice as well. Jumping between the present and the past can be difficult to balance properly. Often, you find that there’s too much of one story or that one is less interesting than the other, so the progression of the story is disrupted. Molly’s Game had the perfect blending of present day, the recent past, and childhood so that nothing overshadowed the significance of another. We got to see Molly’s entire life without being forced to watch it chronologically.

One refreshing aspect of this movie is the lack of romance. Of course, it is based on a true story so there may not have been one to add. However, knowing Hollywood’s track record, it’s hard to find a movie with a female lead that doesn’t shift its focus from the story to the inevitably forced love story that no one cares about. I’m glad Molly’s story remained her own.

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Of course, this movie wouldn’t be as good without its talent. Jessica Chastain plays the serious and sultry Molly. She rocks a glamorous vibe without undermining the seriousness of her character’s situation. Idris Elba was spot-on as always. His inner turmoil over Molly’s situation shifted from comical to gripping as his interest in her grew. His timing was perfect to counter Chastain’s brutally blunt remarks.

To my surprise, Michael Cera was in the movie. He played his usual quiet-jerk type that he’s known for but with a serious and darker twist. His character was much smoother than anything I’ve ever seen him do. I was impressed to say the least. To be quite honest, there wasn’t a single performance in the movie that wasn’t good.

From writing to editing to acting, Molly’s Game is an airtight movie. Nothing was overdone or underplayed. It was realistic yet satisfyingly dramatic. I wouldn’t say it’s the most incredible movie I’ve ever seen, but it is impressive to say the least.

What do you think of Molly’s Game? Were you as impressed as I was? Were there any performances that you weren’t crazy about? If you have any recommendations, I’d love to check them out. See you soon!

The Greatest Showman Review

I want to warn you: this review will be very negative. I typically stray away from highly critical reviews and always try to mention positives to balance out the bad. However, The Greatest Showman is the first movie I can’t find a single good thing in.

When you put Jean Val Jean and Troy Bolton together, you’d expect a musical masterpiece. What could go wrong? Everything, apparently. From a sloppy story to horrible songs, everything about The Greatest Showman flops. I was pained to sit through the entire film for the sake of a review that I could have written based on the first 15 minutes.

I do want to pardon the actors from all of this. This movie clearly has some amazing talent. There are great singers and performers all throughout this movie. They filled their roles as best they could with the script and direction given to them. It’s not their fault that this was a train wreck to watch from start to finish.

The circus is one of the most disturbing and fascinating chapters of entertainment. The concept is vile and the ringleaders were well known for their cruel ways (Barnum being no exception). Even performers became bitter as their lives were ruled by the twisted reality they had placed themselves in.  Any musical about the circus or its creator should have plenty of content to work with. Especially focusing on one of the legendary leaders, P.T. Barnum.

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Somehow, The Greatest Showman serves up almost two hours of empty dialog, singing, and a story that you can’t really follow. The theme of this movie was imagination and true love and breaking chains and finding a new path and family and just about anything else that sells on the big screen. It was a rainbow of ideas that each got five minutes on the screen with no cohesive reason to be there.

The romance between Zendaya and Efron had had no reason to exist. Their love story was thrown on us after a few awkward glances and no real conversations between them. There was very little seen of the circus itself. We never got to see what a performance was like. We only saw musical numbers end with them walking into the ring with an inspirational attitude. Williams had the most convincing and emotional stories in the film and even her conflict was brushed over with a simple apology and grueling song.

Speaking of grueling songs, this really isn’t a musical. I was told after seeing the movie that it was supposed to be a musical with a modern twist. Had I known that, I might have been more forgiving of it. This movie is just pop album. It isn’t even a good pop album. It’s much like that celebrity song that plays during the credits to get people out of the theatre as quickly as possible, but for two hours. I couldn’t even care about the uplifting nature of the songs because I didn’t care about the characters singing them. Every time a song started, I laughed because I know I was in for a tedious and torturous five minutes.

The Greatest Showman was a hollow movie with positive songs thrown in to distract people from how empty it is. It never focuses on the social commentary given long enough to make any real impact. Self love, interracial relationships, and poverty were floating around in the story but nothing stood out above the real reality of the movie. If you’re a good enough conman, you can get away with manipulation, absenteeism, and taking advantage of the downtrodden for personal gain.

What do you think of this movie? All I’ve heard is positive feedback. I’ve even seen people say this movie made them cry. I too was crying, but for very different reasons. Should I give this movie another try or were you also outraged that you wasted two hours of your life on this Hollywood crap?

I do want to apologize for having such a negative review to end the year on. I almost didn’t want to write this up but it really was so painful to sit through I had to get this out. I could rant for hours about this film but I cut some out for the sake of positivity. Heading into 2018, I’m very excited for what the new year will bring and will be back on track with reviews that hopefully aren’t this harsh. I hope you all have a happy new year celebration and I’ll see you soon!

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Review

Yes, I’m already back on schedule with a new movie review. Today I will be adding to the flood of Star Wars reviews in your timelines with my take on The Last Jedi. This post will be chock-full of spoilers so if you haven’t seen the biggest blockbuster of the year by now, I recommend doing so before giving this a read.

I need to preface this post with my thoughts on the newest Lucas Films ventures. When The Force Awakens rolled around, I was beyond excited. Finally, the most over-hyped franchise is back. This movie HAS to be good, right? Well, not quite. Actually, not at all. I hated this movie the first time I saw it. Then Rogue One was released and I begrudgingly went to the theatre and came out overjoyed. Finally, a modern Star Wars movie that I can put on par with the originals! This got me excited for The Last Jedi and even pushed me to give The Force Awakens a second chance.

Opening weekend was finally here and I had to see it before the full chaos of Christmas kicked in. Well I’m not surprised to say that I have mixed feelings towards this movie. While it’s flawed in all the ways The Force Awakens was, this movie is well made and fun to watch. I hope you can bear with me since this will be a long, long post as I try to explain the conflicting nature of this controversial movie.

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This movie was yet another remake, but this time of The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. How The Force Awakens didn’t incur outrage over the fact that was a crappier version of A New Hope is beyond me. Even the producers admitted to it and it somehow passed with the fans. I’m glad to see viewers are finally speaking out about the cheap writing of these movies. You can’t expect your die-hard supporters to be okay with you overhyping a massive blockbuster for it only to be the same exact movies they’ve already seen. It’s ridiculous to sit in a theatre after paying for an overpriced ticket to have the same exact plot points thrown at you.

After releasing Rogue One, this series has no excuse for its writing. If they can release an entirely new story and create a masterful addition to this expansive universe, then they can pick up this series and push it forward without the help of the older scripts.

I will say, I do enjoy the homage to the original movies. I think this film tows the line of remaking movies and paying respect to them. As cheesy as Luke’s death was, I did like the double sun on the horizon touch they added. I also think throwing Yoda into the movie was a great touch. While my dad predicted that before we even got to the theatre, it was fun to see Luke and his master reunited. Things like having a planet of salt instead of snow just doesn’t make the cut of giving tribute. That’s just a copy and pasted scene from the original trilogy.

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There was at least one entirely new story added to the movie. When Finn and Rose escape to find the master code breaker, they find themselves on a planet filled with the richest souls in the galaxy. It was important for Finn’s character development, Rose’s introduction to the series, and sprinkles some political commentary throughout the movie. However, there was no point to the entire sequence. This chunk of the movie took up a large amount of time for absolutely nothing productive to the story to come of it. It was a complete Raiders of the Lost Ark moment for the series and ended up being a cheesy way to push character development on an audience.

There were also many moments in the movie where I could practically feel the memes oozing from the screen. There definitely are some cringe worthy scenes that you can’t help but giggle at. Kylo’s high-wasted fashion disaster? That’s been circling around twitter since its debut.

The Last Jedi also suffers the curse of predictability. There really wasn’t any major plot point that wasn’t heavily implied. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I did still love watching this movie, even if I knew what was going to happen. There were some good shocks and surprises thrown in so it wasn’t unbearably bland.

Okay, the majority of my ranting is done. I do want to highlight some aspects that made me enjoy it so much. The first of which being the characters themselves. This series thrives on flawed characters who we all become attached to. Heck, Luke, Leia, and Han are some of the most annoyingly flawed characters that movie-goers have every rallied around.

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Rey’s character is being fleshed out even more. I’m glad they let the mystery of her parentage finally drop. She can move on and we can have a hero that isn’t bound to the Skywalker name. She can be more than just another member of Anakin’s soap opera. I love her temptation with the dark side and really want to see why she’s so connected with Kylo Ren.

Speaking of which, let’s discuss Kylo. I’ve never hidden the fact that I genuinely dislike this character. I think he’s spoiled, annoying, and isn’t much fun to watch. However, this movie did throw him a bone. He’s much more interesting than I gave him credit for. He may still be an infuriating man-child, but he has some interesting conflict within him. I’m excited to see if the writers do something interesting with this inner-turmoil or if they just pull a Vader and call it a day.

Finn got some much needed characterization. I wanted to like him in The Force Awakens but his character dragged the movie down for me. He finally seems to be finding himself and making his place in the universe. Rose is also a fun addition to the movies. I love her uplifting attitude and I really hope to see her shine in the next one.

However enjoyable these characters have been, there were two that really did wear me down. Luke is back and as whiney as ever. After all this time, he’s still just that lost teen in The Empire Strikes Back. I wanted more of his story but less of him. He has an epic redemption scene which is neat to watch, yet I was happy to see him go in the end.

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Poe was a favorite of mine from The Force Awakens. We didn’t see much of the rambunctious pilot then. In this movie they tried to push a weak story him. His non-stop whining and short-temper became exhausting to watch. When he finally learns his lesson, it was through an awkward story time with him and Leia that just doesn’t land. It was a cheesy way of implying that he will be taking Leia’s place as leader of the rebellion and really weighed down one of my favorite characters. I’m hoping this sets him up to have some quality scenes without it focusing on his ego.

While the writing lagged in many ways, this movie was actually pretty funny. I found myself laughing regularly when the tense scenes were over. I think the comedy really helped the time whiz by. Being the longest Star Wars movie to date, it needed something to keep the audience going other than action.

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Finally, we need to discuss how downright gorgeous this movie is. The CGI was nearly flawless as new worlds and creatures were brought to life. The natural landscapes used are beautiful, every visual of space or the ships is near perfect, and the creativity behind all of the design is inspiring. They really knocked this one out of the park when it comes to visuals.

The movie was extremely polarizing for the fans and I can sympathize with both sides. It’s a remake filled with cheap writing. It takes advantage of fans and casual move goers as it is the blockbuster of the year. That doesn’t mean it isn’t fun to watch. It’s funny, it’s dramatic, and it’s just beautiful to look at. I rank The Last Jedi above The Force Awakens but it doesn’t even some close to touching Rogue One.

What do you think of this movie? I’d love to hear from die-hard Star Wars fanatics and the casual fans who may not know much about the series as a whole. I’m quite captivated by the backlash this movie received compared to the warm welcome of the less-deserving The Force Awakens. As always, let me know if you have any recommendations for me to check out. Thanks for bearing with this long, rambling post and I’ll see you soon!

A Christmas Story Review

Per Christmas tradition, today is the day A Christmas Story is broadcast all day long across the United States. Each Christmas Eve I spend time at my grandma’s house and this movie is inevitably turned on at some point. It only seems fitting to follow that tradition and wrap up the movie reviews of blogmas with A Christmas Story.

Ralphie has only one gift he wants this Christmas, the Red Ryder Air Rifle. Much to his dismay, every adult he turns to hawks the same “you’ll shoot your eye out” mumbo-jumbo. He’s determined to get his gift and gets in some peculiar situations along the way. Following the life of a family in the 1940’s, this movie is a window into Christmas past.

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I won’t lie to you; I’ve never loved this movie. In fact, I used to be terrified of it. Every year I would hide in my room as my family burst into laughter. I can vividly remember my horror at the Santa Claus scene the first time I watched it. Santa kicks children down slides? You could count my five-year-old self out. Now that I’m older, I can appreciate the comedy in the movie but I can’t quite let go of that childhood disdain.

A Christmas story is oozing with satire. When I was younger, this type of humor flew right over my head. It wasn’t until I hit double digits that I started warming up to this classic. Its humor is witty yet simple. It has those little gags that every comedy needs but it also has a sarcastically biting commentary on households in the 1940’s. It’s the smart writing that really makes this movie a hilarious classic.

The comedy in this movie is satirical so many scenes can be rough to watch. You might laugh but you can’t help but cringe at the societal reflection. As his mom feeds everyone around the table, she never gets a hot meal. This is a running joke throughout the movie. I always laugh about it but am immediately uncomfortable because I realize this was what life for a housewife was like.

Ralphie’s moment with Santa was what really scarred me. I now find it hilarious that every kid ends up being scared of Santa by the time they’ve waited in the line. Yet I still get hung up on that whole sequence. The parents leave Ralphie and Randy for an undetermined amount of time to sit on a strange man’s lap. The employees are purposefully mean for the sake of satire but it’s still off-putting to watch. The way the camera disorients itself, I believe they were trying to make the scene jarring to show how the children feel. Ralphie gets pushed down the slide by Santa’s foot. I wish my appreciation for the comedy could outweigh my childhood dismay, but I’m not quite there yet.

This movie being made in 1983 gives it some leeway to jokes that wouldn’t survive in a script today. In fact, I doubt the entire movie would fly today. A young child wanting to own a BB gun probably wouldn’t get into the theatres. I’m not making any political statements; this is just something I noticed while watching this year.

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One of my favorite moments in this movie is one that I also think would possibly be cut today. When their turkey is destroyed and Ralphie’s family decides to eat out at a Chinese restaurant on Christmas day, comedy gold ensues. This is one of the only scenes that I genuinely enjoy without that haunting feeling from the past.

I really adore the childlike touches to this movie. The voice over from Future Ralphie is a great touch into the mind of a young child. I think the perfect touch of childhood imagination is when Ralphie daydreams about the people in his life doting on him or praising him like a hero. If that isn’t a window into anyone’s mind at 7-years-old, I don’t know what is.

Overall, this movie isn’t a favorite for me. It’s more of a lasting tradition that I have to pay homage to. I appreciate the satire and think there are some brilliant scenes to enjoy. I just can’t get over my negative childhood memories to fully enjoy this movie.

What do you think about A Christmas Story? Is it one that you love or couldn’t care less about? What’s your favorite scene from this movie? That Chinese restaurant scene gets me every time. See you soon!

It’s a Wonderful Life Review

Since Elf, a light-hearted comedy, was my favorite modern holiday movie, you’d probably expect a happy-go-lucky flick to be my favorite classic Christmas film. I’ve got a curve ball for you, it’s actually a movie about economic hardship and suicidal thoughts. Yes, late December I torture and treat myself with It’s a Wonderful Life.

George Bailey has big dreams. He’s going to explore every nook and cranny of this great big world and then leave his mark on it. The loss of his father and newfound love traps George. As he takes over his father’s old business, financial hardships strike and George considers ending it all. It’s up to his guardian angel to show him how life would be without him to save his life.

Jimmy Stewart has always been my favorite classic actor. He’s always had a larger-than-life charisma that makes each character of his charming. That remains true as he plays George Bailey. While George can be a complete jerk, when he’s in a good mood, you can’t help but root for George. He’s a monster when he’s crumbling but an explosion of energy when he’s happy.

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Donna Reed deserves some major props for her role as Mary. She balances out the extreme mood swings. Her character is a ray of light from the darkness of the movie. Reed rocks the role with her sweet demeanor. She has a subdued acting style that gives her one of the most realistic and comfortable performances in the film.

Yes, this movie is dated. There are plenty of things in this movie to laugh at or poke fun at. There are also plenty of things that wouldn’t pass any production company’s PR standards. However, this is one of the fullest stories of any older movie I’ve ever seen. It’s full of flawed characters, starts a conversation about a controversial topic, and follows the emotional paths of several different characters. While people may skip this one due to its age, I think it’s one that should be cherished.

With each passing year, It’s a Wonderful Life means something different to me. I’m always picking up on new things and themes every time I watch it. In recent years, I’ve focused on Potter. He can out-Scrooge Ebenezer himself. Previously I was captivated by the creativity and large scale of the movie. Of course heavy themes always weigh heavy when watching this movie. I’ve never watched this movie and not felt horrible for George, even if he does frustrate me at times.

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While it is a dark movie, the last five minutes make up for it entirely. George has a new love for life and Mary yet again saves the day. As the entire community comes together to save the Bailey family, I always tear up. When The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is found amidst the pile of money, there’s always a smile on my face. As emotionally tormenting as this movie can be, it ends up being one of the most rewarding ones to watch.

This has always been a favorite of my mom’s and when I was younger I never really understood why. Now, I cherish this movie. It’s one that I can’t even imagine skipping for one year. With a meaningful story that makes you realize that every decision you make can change your life, it’s a movie that shouldn’t be missed.

What do you think of this movie? Do you think it’s too old-fashioned for your tastes? Do you think it hits the mark on the suicide topic or opens a door for conversation and a new perspective? As always, I’d love to check out any recommendations you may have for me. See you soon!

A Charlie Brown Christmas Review

I’m a complete sucker for The Peanuts. One of my favorite books on my shelf is actually the complete Peanuts collection. It isn’t any surprise that A Charlie Brown Christmas is one of my favorite specials to watch during the holiday season.

Charlie Brown feels lost this Christmas. He feels like the holiday has gone commercial leaving him confused as to what the reason for the season actually is. Charlie also has a bad case of the blues. Who were once his bullies must come together to help Charlie Brown feel jolly.

Much like Rudolph, the majority of the characters in this movie are bullies. Charlie Brown is clearly depressed and his classmates consistently validate his feeling of worthlessness. While it is sad to watch, it’s not as emotionally draining as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. It’s mean characters serve a purpose as commentary on society. They’re examples of the cynicism that muddles the meaning of Christmas for Charlie.

While the kids can be jerks, this TV special can be heartwarming to watch. Watching Lucy help Charlie Brown feel important when he’s constantly bullied was sweet, even if she can be mean to him too. Seeing everyone come together to spruce up that iconic tree for his sake was a sweet act of holiday kindness. Even seeing Linus take to the stage to tell Charlie Brown the story of Christmas is an uplifting moment regardless of the viewer’s religion.

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As I mentioned, I’m a fan of The Peanuts. I love seeing classic comic strips come to life on the screen. Regardless of how many times I’ve seen this movie or read the comics, I get a kick out of watching Charlie Brown pick the real tree or seeing Linus console his festive-fearing friend.

I really enjoy seeing characters I adore every year. Linus has always been my favorite. Seeing him get his moment in the spotlight never fails to make me smile. Of course this special wouldn’t be as iconic without Snoopy. I love how sarcastic he is without having to speak. Honestly, I love every single character in this show. Sally, Lucy, Pig-Pen, Schroeder, and everyone else gets their own moment to let their quirks shine.

Another similarity to Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is how aesthetically pleasing this movie is. Matching the comic strip style created by Charles M. Schulz, it’s a charming and hand-drawn look that reminds you of that cartoon section of the Sunday paper. It’s an iconic design that everyone knows and loves.

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Along with animation, this movie has a legendary soundtrack. Everyone knows “Linus and Lucy” and automatically thinks of the big dance scene when they hear the piano kick in. With other famous choral-influenced songs, some smooth piano, and a dash of Beethoven, The Vince Guaraldi Trio hit a home run with this entire soundtrack.

While a big part of the Peanuts is how sad Charlie Brown is and how mean his friends are, it’s oddly a calming Christmas classic. His transformation from down-trodden to finally feeling accepted is heart warming. Its comic strip design, beloved characters, and classic soundtrack makes this a sentimental favorite for everyone. It wouldn’t be Christmas without The Peanuts.

What do you think of A Charlie Brown Christmas? Are you too upset by the darker themes of bullying and depression to enjoy this movie? Can you look past that and enjoy it for its cute bits? As always, I’d love to check out any recommendations you have for me. See you soon!