Movies

From the Stone Age to a New Age

Spoiler-Free Movie Review

The Croods: A New Age

Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

Intro

I didn’t expect this movie to be very good, but it was actually fun. The first Croods movie was a bit better, but unlike with many sequels, the sequel wasn’t eclipsed by the original.

Background

The Croods: A New Age was released in 2020 and is the sequel to the popular 2013 film The Croods. It fits into the genres of adventure and comedy.

This movie stars Nicolas Cage, Emma Stone, Ryan Reynolds, Catherine Keener, Cloris Leachman, and Clark Duke.

Summary

The old-fashioned Croods meet the Bettermans, a family who perceive their way of life as superior to that of cave people.

Pros

  • Introduces new and complex characters
  • Did not take the expected route with Eep and Dawn
  • A hilarious teenage relationship with believable conflicts
  • A humorous take on modernity vs. traditionalism
  • Fun music

Cons

  • Stretched belief beyond reason at one point
  • Not as good as the original

Review

Characters

The Betterman adults are hospitable and passive aggressive at the same time. We probably all know someone like the Bettermans, who act kind but perform small acts that scream “I don’t really like you.” Their sense of superiority to the Croods is obnoxious to someone who is aware of all the Croods have been through and their intimate family dynamic.

Dawn is less skeptical and closeminded than her parents. She accessorizes with a sloth named Sash, and immediately can relate to Guy and his pet sloth Belt. She has a sense of adventure that has been held back by her parents, who fear the dangers beyond the wall.

Relationships

Eep and Guy deal with all the ups and downs of a teenage relationship throughout the movie. Meeting the Bettermans puts a wrench in the relationship, but part of it is the fault of the adults. The gushy way they are in love at the beginning of the movie is hilarious even for me–even though I am not a big fan of romance.

I love that Eep and Dawn are thrilled to meet each other. Even though they could have seen each other as potential rivals for Guy’s attention, they are not sucked into that trope and over-simplified. They genuinely like and admire each other.

Themes

The theme of modernity vs. traditionalism was the strongest and most apparent theme. The Bettermans shower, use toilets–and they even have a compost bin. But the Croods have scars–and stories. They have kill circles and sleep piles.

I love how the Bettermans are not depicted as being simply…better. More modern, sure, but they have their own set of flaws. The movie shows that parts of older-fashioned life and parts of modern life can be successfully integrated into something that truly is better.

Music

The best song from this movie is “I Think I Love You” by Tenacious D. It’s fun and quirky, fitting the theme of the movie well.

Believability

The most unbelievable part of the movie has to do with a part involving Eep’s peanut toe and is critical to the plot. It just felt like it was odder and less believable than the entire rest of the movie.

Conclusion

Even though it was a weird movie and definitely not the kind of movie to take seriously, it was overall an enjoyable movie. If you want a movie to laugh at with friends and family, I would recommend it.

Rating System

If you are interested in how I rate movies, check out my rating system.

Links

Music

Character Playlists: P. A. Wilson

brown and black violin

Intro

My current work-in-progress is a novel that follows the journey of five “heroes” who must decide whether or not to obey their master, a sentient force whose life energy is inextricably connected with their own. If they follow its prophecies, they risk losing their identities and becoming its pawns forever, but resistance means risking its wrath—and fighting a battle no one has won before. Their story is narrated by a spy forced to recount the heroes’ journey, whose power to read minds offers omniscience but not answers, whose obsession with mortal snack foods and self-destruct buttons could have terrible consequences, and whose passive aggressiveness knows no bounds…

Recently I started making playlists for each of my characters with music that reminds me of each character. These playlists are made up of songs my siblings and I listen to. Below I share my playlist for the character P. A. Wilson.

P. A. Wilson’s Playlist

Conclusion

This is the link to my full Spotify Playlist for P. A. Wilson. I’ll be adding songs over time, so be sure to check it out.

I will post new playlists for my other characters, so look out for upcoming blog articles! The number of songs doesn’t necessarily denote the importance of a character, it’s just how well songs I know fit the character.

Do any of my fellow writers have character playlists? If so, comment below so I can check them out! If not, I challenge you to try it and share!

Card Games

Card Game Review: Sushi Go!

Sushi Go! Cover Artwork

Card Game Review:

Sushi Go!

Rating: 7.2 out of 10 stars

Intro

Sushi Go! was one of the first card games I played that I recall actually enjoying. I’m not much of a card gamer. I’m more of a board gamer. Now it’s a staple of my collection, played quickly and easily by friends and family alike.

Objective

What I hope to accomplish with my card game reviews is to introduce you to a new game and help you determine whether the game is a good fit for you. I will consider and rank five criteria: gameplay, design, strategy, originality, and replayability.

Description

Sushi Go! is a drafting and hand management card game for 2-5 players. It is recommended for ages 8 and up.

Gameplay (7 out of 10)

The game is extremely simple. Each player picks a card in their hand, and then passes their hand to the player on their left. Players reveal their chosen card and then choose a card from their new hands. A round ends when all cards are played, and there are three rounds. Scoring occurs after each round.

The real game lies in making combos with the cards you choose and keeping cards from landing in your opponent’s clutches. Each type of card has a different benefit. For example, if you manage to get 3 sashimi, you get 10 points. Whoever has the most maki rolls gets 6 points, the one who gets the second most maki rolls gets three points. Dumplings get more points per dumpling, a risky move unless you get a lot of them. There are many other cards with different abilities.

My main complaint is that it is hard to be coordinated and remember to wait for cards to be revealed, but that may be just because of distractions or the player group.

Design (9 out of 10)

Design includes two categories: art and components.

The art on the front of the cards is amazingly cute and thematic. I love its simple charm. The leaves on the back of the card do not fit the theme as much, but that may just be a Gamewright thing. Not sure. The backs aren’t unappealing, they just don’t match the theme, which is why I didn’t rate the design a 10.

Components are just cards, but they are good quality and no complaints there.

Strategy (6 out of 10 stars)

Strategy is fine, since you have to consider what cards you are letting your opponents have when you choose which card you want. Seeing what other players are up to and planning around it is also important to winning.

Originality/Creativity (6 out of 10 stars)

The game idea is not all that original, even if the theme is pretty creative.

Replayability (8 out of 10 stars)

I’d play this several times in a row or on several different days in the same week. It would get old eventually, but it’s simple and fun.

Conclusion

I’d say this is a very simple yet fun game, and it is a good way to introduce new gamers to the drafting mechanism in gaming. I recommend it for families, children 8 and up, and even maybe for college students.

Acknowledgments

Thanks to Alyssa A. Wilson for her feedback on this article.

Movies

Critics are Taking Thunder Force Way Too Seriously

Movie Review:

Thunder Force

Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

Warning! Minor spoilers ahead!

Review

Considering this movie seems to be universally despised, you may be surprised that I rated it so high and will admit to having had enjoyed it. I watched this movie without seeing the reviews first, which is probably best because I went into it without any specific expectations. While I wouldn’t necessarily call this a super high-quality film, I found it to be funny and entertaining.

This movie is a family film in more ways than one. I think it may not be great for children under the age of 10 due to language and implications of sex. However, I could see it as a family film nonetheless because parents can watch it and enjoy it with their children ages 10+. It’s also a family film because it was literally made by and for family. Ben Falcone wrote and directed the film in which his wife, Melissa McCarthy, is one of the main characters (Lydia). Their child Vivian Falcone plays a younger version of her mother in Thunder Force.

In Thunder Force, cosmic rays have given people with a specific trait superpowers. This shared trait is that they are all sociopaths. This leads to imbalance and violence, and the superpowered villains come to be called Miscreants. Emily Stanton (Octavia Spencer), a smart young girl, is orphaned when her parents are killed by a Miscreant. When Emily is bullied at school, Lydia Berman defends her and becomes her best friend.

These childhood friends drift apart after some tension builds, and are only reunited in their 40s. Lydia is working a blue-collar job, while Emily is a largely successful scientist and researcher who has built her own company for the ground up. When Lydia goes in search of Emily and is left to her own devices in Emily’s lab, she is hilariously out of place and like a kid in a candy shop (or me in a bookstore). When she gets into the laboratory chair, it automatically straps her down and applies the first dose in what will become a recurring and painful treatment for developing super strength.

Emily is aghast because she believes her research has gone down the drain. After all, she has made only one serum for super-strength, and this is what she has been working on all these years to honor her parents. She eventually becomes resigned to the fact Lydia will now have to be her manufactured superhero. She has a separate treatment plan for invisibility that she undertakes herself. Thus, they become the heroes The Hammer and Bingo.

The movie spends a lot of time in this first stage of background information and developing powers, but it does not feel too long or boring because it is peppered with jokes and humor.

My one complaint for the first part of the movie is the distinction made between being a nerd and being smart. That’s because there should not be a distinction! Being a nerd is slowly being accepted as a positive thing, and many people are becoming self-professed nerds. Why take a step back by rejecting the word nerd and embracing the word smart?

She’s not a nerd. She’s smart. There’s a difference”

Emily

Lydia is hilarious, asking for a pickle in a bag as a reward for a successful mission and falling for a man with crab appendages. Emily is smart and has a good sense of humor too when she finally lets her guard down a bit.

Lydia and Emily do not fit the stereotypes of the super hero genre. They are not slim, muscular, and young like most heroes. But that’s cool. Not every hero has to look similar. Some of the meanest reviews I saw complained about the heroes being overweight and called them unattractive. What kind of person rates a movie based on how attractive they believe the main characters are? Yeesh.

Some parts are cringy, such as the crab sex scene. Not that it shows anything, but it involves seasoning and it is so weird. Also, Lydia is addicted to raw chicken after gaining her powers. Even though I know it was really sliced pears, it still looked super gross when she’s eating it.

Other parts are realistic, such as the super suits not being machine washable and stinking after being worn repeatedly.

Things are predicable at times, but seeing certain things coming doesn’t make them less funny. We all know Lydia is going to screw something up when she is left alone in Emily’s lab, but it can prompt some laughter nonetheless.

Overall, the movie is fun and enjoyable, a light movie that critics are taking way too seriously.

Final Breakdown

Pros

  • Genuinely likeable characters
  • Not your average super heroes
  • Humor
  • Realism at times

Cons

  • Kind of cringy occasionally
  • Predictable sometimes

Rating System

If you are interested in how I rate movies, check out my rating system.