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.

Kong: Skull Island Review

Don’t want to read a review filled with spoilers? Head over to IMDb or Rotten Tomatoes because you’re in the wrong place, my friend. Seriously, there’s a lot.

You may or may not have read my Beauty and the Beast review in which I mentioned a Kong: Skull Island review would be coming soon. If you’d like to check it out, I’ll link it here. If not, the gist of my comment about Kong was that it was a disappointment for me. Kong was a movie I had spent months waiting excitedly for. The trailers were epic and enticing and the movie poster had such a great design I didn’t see how it couldn’t be a great time. I had some concern it wouldn’t be good but typically with action movies, I’m able to over look some plot holes or a weak story with cheesy dialog if the overall movie is still good. If anything, I was hoping if Kong didn’t blow my mind, it would still be fun and I could walk away satisfied. Unfortunately, Kong neither blew my mind nor left me satisfied.

I’m not saying Kong was a bad movie, just extremely disappointing in some departments. I think my biggest problem with the movie was the writing. The plot was weak and the characters weren’t interesting. Samuel L. Jackson should have been the most interesting character in the movie as a man seeking vengeance for his troops after leaving a war he considered pointless. Jackson played the part well, the role just wasn’t written in a believable or logical manner. Every scene he was in was predictable and boring. This eventually seemed to happen with every scene regardless of Jackson’s presence because the movie lacked character development. Kong was the most sympathetic and interesting character overall and he didn’t get enough time to shine through the boring dialog and predictable sexual tension between two bland characters. Even the tribe of natives with interesting customs don’t talk or do anything but stare at the main characters. The soldiers were the saving grace for this movie. They were hilarious but also made the movie very serious when they decided to turn against their commander and deal with the consequences of that.

The ending was really what sealed my opinion on this movie. Kong seeing the helicopters and getting ready to attack would have been the perfect spot to end the movie. It was interesting and puts an urgency back into the movie. To leave the audience on a cliff hanger like that would have been fun and creative. Instead, during the credits the video of the WWII soldier returning home to find his wife and son ruined the purpose of that last scene. They did make it out. Somehow his wife never remarried and were ready to welcome him back into their lives. I thought it was cute but really took us away from Skull Island and Kong’s rage.

I’m not here to just talk negatively about a movie many people put a lot of hard work into. There were some really good things about Kong as well. To say the CGI wasn’t incredible would be a lie. The detail that went into Kong was intricate and realistic and made every interaction with his environment believable. The Skull Crawlers were really cool to look at and were really fun to watch fight. The action in this movie was also excellent. Watching Kong walk through fire was epic and the final fight between him and “The Big One” had me curled up on my seat and watching with anticipation and stress. Even scenes without Kong were fun. The scene with the spider legs in the bamboo was extremely stressful and creative.

Overall, Kong: Skull Island was a fun movie but had poor writing and weak characters. It was a beautiful movie to look at with some really great action and adventure. It’s not necessarily a movie I would seek out to watch again, but if it were on TV, I’d leave it on to pass the time or as background noise.  I would never turn down a chance to watch Tom Hiddleston and King Kong for a couple of hours.

Beauty and the Beast (2017) Review

If you’re looking for a review without spoilers or gushing, you may want to head to IMDb or Rotten Tomatoes because this is not the review for you.

I went into Beauty and the Beast (2017) with my hopes high and fully expecting to be crushed with disappointment. I had bought a magazine on the making of the movie and spent spring break browsing the pictures and scanning the articles. I felt as though I were hyping myself up for a major heart break, much like what happened with Kong (but that’s a review for another day). Fears ranging from being a gimmick with big actors (all of which I love) to new songs being a major flop were making me quite skeptical. However, being a major Disney fan, I had to see it opening weekend despite my doubts.

Beauty and the Beast has quickly become one of my new obsessions. This remake was so incredible that I saw it twice in the opening weekend and I’m hoping to see it for a third time as soon as I can think of a valid excuse. I’ve got the soundtrack downloaded to my phone and the new songs are played just as frequently as the classics we all know and love accompanied by a beautiful score. I’m actually listening to it as I write this.

As I mentioned, I was worried the major actors were being used to distract from a poor remake and to get people into the theatre. I couldn’t have been more wrong. As if Emma Watson couldn’t be more wonderful, she played a spectacular Belle and made the character much more practical and relatable. Dan Stevens was able to further humanize Beast without taking away his power or commanding presence. Not only were the main characters perfectly cast, everyone’s favorite castle ensemble knocked it out of the park. I had the most doubts about Ewan McGregor playing Lumière. I haven’t seen much of his previous work and knew this was a make or break character for the film. That’s a hard role to tackle but McGregor did it with grace. Lumière was just as fun, if not even more so, than in the original. Guru Mbatha-Raw played a flirty and nurturing Babette that made Lumière’s interactions fun and spontaneous. Both Emma Thompson (Mrs. Potts) and Sir Ian McKellen (Cogsworth) I expected to be great, since I’d seen much more of their previous work. Much like I’ve said about everyone else so far, they were spectacular in their roles and gave even more dimension to classic Disney characters. Even new characters were fun and exciting. Cadenza and Madame de la Grande Bouche while not being new, were given almost new roles in this version and made for a new favorite pairing in the castle. Luke Evans was an absolutely hilarious Gaston. His comedic timing was spot on and showed Gaston’s darker side without seeming over the top. Josh Gad’s performance perfectly complimented Evans’ Gaston. Gad’s LeFou was more independent in this version and made the sidekick somewhat of a hero in the end when he switches sides.

I’ve probably gushed enough about this movie, right? Well, unfortunately for you, I haven’t even talked about the technical aspects. The costumes for this movie were larger than life. I adore theming in costumes and Jacqueline Durran did not disappoint. Each couple or group in the show had matching but unique costumes. LeFou and Gaston were more subtle in their pairing while Cadenza and Madame de la Grande Bouche were matching top to bottom in massive costumes that matched the decor of the castle. Belle’s costumes were made more practical with boots rather than flats and dresses (or even undergarments) that she could ride a horse in. Durran made whimsical yet practical costumes that were breathtaking.

The sets, like everything else in the movie, were gorgeous. Many being studio sets while some being CGI, all were spectacular. The colors in the castle were light and reflected the vanity Beast had before meeting Belle. The outside and the inside of the castle were both massive and beautiful. The library was different than the original but, in my opinion, much better. It was bigger and cluttered, similar to the environment an avid bookworm might feel comfortable in. The French village was quaint and bright making it the perfect setting for a poor, provincial town. The pub rang true to the cartoon but did have a new, more Gaston feel to it.

As I mentioned, the soundtrack for this movie is everything the old one was and more. The new songs are touching and ring true to the classics, as Alan Menken probably intended. One of my personal favorites is Evermore, a new song entirely from the perspective of Beast.

The CGI was also rather impressive in this show. I get very nervous when I know movies will use a lot of CGI because it runs the risk of looking fake and unbelievable. My main concern was Beast. I was worried Beast would be noticeably fake and would take away from the romance between him and a character acted in person. Fortunately, my fears were yet again proven wrong. Beast looked incredible. His eyes looked human while other features were actually quite intimidating. The facial movements mimicked the way a person would normally talk and were full of life and expression. I know they used a newer method for making Beast with CGI to capture a wider range of expression. This made Dan Stevens act his part twice essentially, but the result was well worth it. Be Our Guest was another concern of mine but somehow they made the iconic song even better. The song itself is new and fun, the CGI was spectacular and the choreography was exciting.

Acting is often hard and awkward with that much CGI so there were some awkward moments but they were tiny moments that you might not even notice. The most awkward and noticeable one for me was when Belle was being dressed by Madame de la Grande Bouche. It was cute and made the children in the theatre laugh but it was a bit awkward to watch. My first time seeing it wasn’t the best experience. I was put front row and the only movie time available was 3D. Seeing it in 3D from that angle made everything blurry and seemed like I had double vision. If you go to see it in 3D, I’m sure it looks great, but if the theatre is full and front row is likely the only place you can sit, you may want to pick a later time for a better seat.

While there were changes and additions, they all added a new depth to the story. Belle’s backstory was one of my favorite additions. Her character became so much more interesting in this movie than it had ever been before. Beast became even more sympathetic and human in this version than the classic by learning about this mother’s death and showing he did have a loving side when he was young. Minor changes like Belle’s dress and Maurice’s character were refreshing. We got to see a new interpretation of a classic and it gave new life to the story. As for the LeFou addition of being gay, this didn’t change his character in the slightest and added another happy ending during the final ball scene. If anything, it made LeFou more interesting.

I really can’t recommend this movie enough. Even movies that I’ve seen recently that I was impressed by didn’t get my attention quite as much as this one. I know I probably sound like a crazy Disney fan, but that’s not the reason I’m so fond of this movie. I’m quite critical of movies so if I’m not a fan of certain things, I’m not shy with my opinion. If you love Disney, musicals, fantasy, romance, or happiness, you should see this movie. Believe me, you won’t be disappointed.

La La Land Review

This review will contain spoilers so if you haven’t seen La La Land,  this may not be the review for you. You may want to head over to Rotten Tomatoes or IMDb.

I was very excited to see this movie after I saw the trailer. Being a fan of musicals, and an obvious fan of movies, I thought this would be right up my alley. Once I saw Damien Chazelle was directing, I knew it was a must see movie. I loved his film Whiplash and was excited to see his style in this music-heavy film.

Before seeing this movie, I asked a friend and former teacher of mine what he thought of the movie. His opinion made me skeptical. In summary, he said to someone who doesn’t see musicals or work on musicals regularly, this movie would be incredible. But to someone who has had some background in theatre, this might be a bit disappointing.

I absolutely agree with him. The musical aspect of the movie was very lack-luster. The opening didn’t seem to match the rest of the movie, the numbers were unevenly spread out, and the songs themselves weren’t all that great. There was what felt like 45 minutes to an hour with no musical number at all. To go along with the disappointing musical songs, the choreography just wasn’t exciting. The big tap number between Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling seemed underwhelming when there was so much potential.

That being said, if this movie didn’t have its musical aspect, this could be one of my favorite movies of all time. I absolutely adored this movie. Just the story alone was captivating to me. It’s truly hard to write a complex love story that is relatable, strong, and actually good. This love story was beyond good, it was heart-wrenching, endearing, and forces you to care. I think Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling were perfect for their roles. Stone is usually good at playing the sarcastically realistic character while Gosling seems to thrive as the misunderstood love-stricken character. This movie was no exception. They really became their characters and had a hold on me throughout the entire movie.

The cinematography was unique, the sets were fun, the theming was detailed, everything just came together to create this lively movie, even in scenes so still that forced you to hold your breath with tension. The music in this movie gave it another dimension of life. If this movie had simply been jazz heavy, that just included singing jazz songs maybe with a musical number for Mia (Emma Stone) when she’s having her big audition, this movie could have had that unique quirk that still sells while not struggling to make this story fit into those few musical numbers.

Overall, I have to give this move a three and a half out of five stars only because I was disappointed with the musical side of it. While I wasn’t in love with the entire movie, if I were ever to make a movie, I would want it to be much like this one. A great story, incredible technical aspects, and a cast that fully embodies the characters. Damien Chazelle did it again, and I’m very excited to see what comes next.