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Love Actually Review

It’s hard to believe that, as a movie fan and a lover-of-all-things-Christmas, I’ve never seen one of the most over-hyped holiday movies of the 2000’s. For years I’ve heard the words of praise from devoted fans, seen all of the cringe-worthy gifs, and watched the adorable film clips that people share every year. Finally, after all of these years of stubborn avoidance, I watched Love Actually.

Following the lives of multiple people through their quest for love, we’re taken on a roller coaster of emotions. Through the whirlwind of romantic cuteness, we discover that these stories all weave and clash together at the climax of the movie. Spoilers to come.

This movie takes just about every cheesy trope, stereotype, and overdone plot point and throws it in the viewer’s face. As tragic as that sounds for audience, it somehow works. From the moment the movie started, I was sucked in by the heartwarming sappiness. Even though it’s highly predictable and hopelessly mushy, this movie really touches the heart.

While a lot of this love overload is acceptable, some of the characters and ideas just seem forced. Makatsch’s character comes to mind first when I think of contrived characters. She plays a pivotal role but she’s so brass that it’s not believable. One of the more annoying stories was Marshall’s which unfortunately ended happily-ever-after. Of course we can’t over look the King of Cringe Lincoln’s sign-holding scene is just as bad, if not worse, than that gif you’ve seen floating around.

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Yes, it’s campy and some characters would be better-off forgotten, there are some solid stories that I got very attached to. I was most invested in Neeson and Brodie-Sangster. Sure, it’s slightly disturbing how nonchalantly both of them act in response to their wife/mother’s death, but that’s one doozy of a cuteness overload. Heck, that story alone could be its own movie. I also, surprisingly, latched on to Grant and McCutcheon’s little love fest. Even though it was put on a back-burner for the middle chunk of the movie, it was one I was constantly wondering about.

Of course this movie wouldn’t have come together if it weren’t for Bill Nighy. Not only was his character vital for the resolution to Sam’s journey, he was a much needed rest from the lovey-dovey nonsense. His character’s self-awareness and blunt honesty made him a joy to watch. Even his big epiphany scene was sweet in a trashy rock star kind of way.

There are two storylines in this movie that I believe deserve some justice. Two of the most compelling women in this rom/com fest of happy endings and Christmas miracles were left out to dry with a resolution no where near satisfying. Laura Linney’s character just seemed to disappear after a plot-twist of romantic interest sprung into her life. Instead of giving one of the hardest-working and self-sacrificing characters a happy ending, they give it to Colin Frissel, the epitome of Nice Guy culture.

Emma Thompson’s story also ended in a genuinely upsetting manner. While she stays true to her character, I wanted to see her shine as an independent mother. She gives her kids the world and in return she has to sacrifice her fiery gut instincts and her chance at finding loyal, true love elsewhere. I’m probably just too passionate about this because I love Emma Thompson but Karen deserves better and I stand by that.

While there were other characters and romances that I didn’t mention, I enjoyed watching them all. Even if some were slightly infuriating and others unrealistically sentimental, it was all a joy to watch and discover how they all weave together. I’m sad to sad to say I waited so long to watch this movie. Much to my surprise, I actually love Love Actually.

Let me know what you think of this movie. Are you sucked in by its charm or revolted by its overdone shenanigans? As always if you have any recommendations, let me know. I’d love to check them out. See you soon!

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Blade Runner 2049 Review

I’ll keep it simple: Blade Runner 2049 was the longest three hours of my life.

If you haven’t seen Blade Runner 2049, you should before you read this review since there will be spoilers. If you haven’t seen the original Blade Runner, you should since it’s an amazing movie.

Let’s start with the original Blade Runner. I only saw this recently in anticipation for 2049 and fell in love. It’s very 80’s and it is dated but the immersive qualities make that unimportant. Its editing is choppy and the music is too loud at times but that adds to the uniqueness of the movie. The plot is simple but the story is complex and makes you think about life and your perspective on it. You follow multiple emotional journeys and end up having one yourself. It’s a masterful movie in every aspect. 2049 had a lot to live up to, but it had plenty of potential to be just as incredible as the original.

While there was a lot that disappointed me in this movie, I’d like to focus on the things I really enjoyed first. I think the modernization of the future is a great commentary on today and the 80’s. The original movie was set in a futuristically junky melting pot of cultures. It both celebrates and disregards cultural significance. In 2049, Everything is sterile and dead. I think this shows the level of optimism and realism from the times in which both movies were written. While 2049 wasn’t as immersive as Blade Runner, the disconnect between viewer and movie doesn’t feel wrong. It seems like another commentary on how people of today feel, out of touch.

Not only was the concept interesting and modern, it was portrayed beautifully. The cinematography was gorgeous and let us take in all of the different aspects of the future. The CGI was spectacular. There are usually some awkward moments created with CGI that don’t look right but I can’t think of a single moment like that in 2049. It was just a visually stunning movie from beginning to end.

There was one aspect of the movie that I need to give some major praise to, Ryan Gosling. His character’s storyline was the only one I truly cared about. The journey of a replicant realizing he’s alive, experiencing emotional highs and lows, having his dreams crushed, yet still accepting that he’s experiencing life regardless of what society allows is a rollercoaster. It was a rollercoaster that we felt ourselves through Gosling’s amazing performance. He brought the essence of the original movie into 2049 and his performance left me contemplating the themes and ideas he represented.

I wish his strong story line had been the focal point of the movie from beginning to end. Unfortunately, once Harrison Ford came into the movie, its focus shifted to revolution and reunion. These are very valid themes in the movie, but they overpowered the essential emotional experience that is so important to both Blade Runner movies. Even switching the order of the last two scenes to show Gosling on the steps in the end would have added so much to the story.

So much in this movie seemed wasted. The entire first movie’s plot was pointlessly invalidated with a mediocre and illogical attempt at complexity. The interesting love story in this movie was also invalidated. Instead of letting there be another thoughtful take on love in the AI universe, they stripped it away to corporate control. Even Harrison Ford’s character was given a mediocre story to work with and he seemed like a token in the film instead of being given the chance to re-embody an iconic character.

This movie tried so hard to replicate the slow burn and complexity of the original that it became boring and tedious. Not every plot point, location, or character needed the amount of time it was given. Not subplot line they included needed to be in the movie. As a viewer, I felt overloaded with so many characters and paths to keep track of when there was only one I cared about. It took away the simple complexity that makes the original so thought provoking.

2049 was also extremely gendered compared to the original. Why were there only ever advertisements for Jo, the female companion? Why were there only female prostitutes? Why were there so many naked women and barely any naked men? It can be argued that they were trying to normalize the female body, which is something I think should happen through media and art. Unfortunately, it was done so tastelessly and forcefully that it portrays a highly sexual view of women. There are movies that have succeeded in this aspect, but it fell short in 2049.

Blade Runner 2049 isn’t a bad movie by any means, just a disappointing one. It’s visually beautiful, has a phenomenal performance by Gosling, and keeps the Blade Runner universe alive. If it had a few characters and subplots removed, this could have been an amazing movie for Blade Runner fans. Unfortunately, it will forever be one of those sequels that just doesn’t compare to the original.

As always, I’d love to know what you thought of the movie. It seemed to be an overall success with fans, so maybe I was too critical. Let me know what you thought and how you think it holds up to the original. If you have any recommendations, let me know. I’d love to check them out. See you soon!

Train to Busan Review

Train to Busan is one of those horror movies you think you’ll just turn on to pass the time. It starts with a simple set up and basic zombie attack gore. The simplicity doesn’t last long. Suddenly this seemingly one dimensional horror show becomes a gripping story about family and redemption. What was going to be a fun flick becomes a suspenseful and gut wrenching story that demands your attention.

The movie begins by following a funds manager as he takes his neglected daughter to visit her mom in Busan. What should have been a simple train ride/nap for Seok Woo quickly turns into a battle for survival as a zombie boards the train and begins infecting passengers. His battle for survival quickly twists into a tale of redemption as he saves his daughter and proves his worth not as a businessman, but as a father.

This review will have quite a few spoilers that you’ll regret reading if you haven’t seen Train to Busan yet. If you enjoy zombies, yelling at your TV, and crying occasionally, you’ll definitely want to check it out.

Looking at the vast zombie genre, there are only a few shows that stand out. Shaun of the Dead, Zombieland and the first few seasons of The Walking Dead are some recent winners in the zombie universe. But why is it that there are so many stories that fall short with such an interesting concept to play with? Simply put, there’s usually too much focus on the zombies themselves. Instead of using them in the story, many movies like to hide their story behind them.

Train to Busan is one of the few exceptions. Instead of watching strangers react to their changing environment, the people themselves are changed by their circumstances. The character development in Seok Woo (Gong Yoo) is both painful and beautiful.  From monster into man, he becomes the self-sacrificing leader his daughter needs. His pain in realizing his company aided in this outbreak radiates from the screen and forces you to feel it in your gut. Tears can’t be held back when he’s saying goodbye to his daughter and remembering her birth.

There were some other amazing characters in this movie. Hands down, Sang-Hwa was my favorite supporting character in this movie. He was the necessary comedic relief and a great catalyst for Seok Woo’s transformation. He and Jung Yu-mi were adorable together and watching her react to his death was heart breaking. Acting as a child is difficult, but Kim Soo-Ahn nailed it. She was both vulnerable to her environment and powerful to those around her.

This movie didn’t try to explain the science behind zombies, which is refreshing. So many movies, like World War Z, uses the science behind zombification as a major point in the story. This opens opportunities for plot holes and can break the intensity of the movie. This film shows us the fun quirks these zombies had, which adds their twist on the lore without bogging the movie down.

This movie also stands out from the majority of the genre because it lacks major political or environmental commentary. Using your art to convey messages that are important to you is great, but sometimes it gets exhausting for your audience. By focusing the conflict on the monsters and Kim Ui-Seong’s character, anyone, regardless of societal standing or beliefs, can enjoy the conflict without feeling singled out.

The special effects were good without being overpowering. The intimate setting of the train gives viewers the chance to really study these zombies, so makeup artists and animators made sure they held up under close scrutiny. The zombies looked realistic enough with makeup and some digital touch-ups that ensured awkward CGI moments were kept to a minimum.  There are no outlandish weapons or massive explosions as there are in the majority of monster movies. This only raised the stakes for our protagonists, keeping movie goers on the edge of their seats.

With such a hit or miss genre, I was skeptical. I kept my expectations low but I was blown away. Not only is it a good zombie movie, it’s also good horror and tragedy. This movie tackles some of the most overdone concepts in film and creates a fresh new story.

As always, I’d love to know what you thought of the movie. Let me know if you agree or disagree with what I said. Of course, if you have any recommendations for me, I’d love to check them out. See you soon!

Me Before You Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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.