Movies

This DC Hero was Once Called Captain Marvel

Movie Review:

Shazam! (2019)

Rating: 6 out of 10 stars

Overview

Pros

  • Some fun characters
  • Interesting villain backstory
  • The relationships between Billy and the other children at the group home become better developed and sweet
  • Fun antics with a boy turning into an adult and trying out stuff that can only be done as an adult

Cons

  • Plot is okay, but the movie could have been more interesting
  • It made no sense for Billy Batson to be chosen as Shazam, since he definitely is not pure of heart
  • The villain in the present day isn’t very interesting, motivated only by power, kind of one-note
  • The whole bus scene makes no sense
  • The after-credits scene is just bizarre

Warning: Spoilers Below!

Review

This movie was fun at times, but not phenomenal. That is why I rated it 6, which is slightly above the mid-mark. I thought it was pretty cool that Shazam was once called Captain Marvel but that name was dropped once the Marvel Cinematic Universe came into power.

In this movie, Billy Batson is a kid who keeps running from foster homes because he is looking for his mother, who he got separated from at a carnival when he was much younger. He is far from pure of heart, but a wizard chooses him as a champion to obtain the power of near-invulnerability as well as a host of other powers.

This is partially because the Seven Deadly Sins, a bunch of creepy demons, have chosen their own champion. Their champion was a child named Thaddeus the wizard rejected, who grew up in an abusive household. When he is transported to the Rock of Eternity to be tested, he failed the wizard’s test and was sent back to his father’s car. He panicked because of the experience, and his father is verbally abusive. His father gets so distracted with being horrible to his son that the car is hit by another vehicle. From that accident, the father is paralyzed from the waist down. Both Thaddeus’s father and older brother blame Thaddeus for the accident and his father’s paralysis.

As an adult, Thaddeus seeks out the Seven Deadly Sins and becomes their champion. He has a decent backstory, but in the present he just isn’t very interesting. Some villains have good backstories are still very developed and interesting in the present of a movie, such as Loki from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Thaddeus is not one of those villains.

The part of the movie that is the most fun is probably when Billy is testing out all of his new powers with his foster brother and just being a kid with the body of an adult. He charges people’s phones with his powers to kind of act like a hero, but he is actually very self-centered. And besides, charging phones is not necessarily even heroic, it’s kind of just nice. Even so, it is really show-offy, so I feel like it isn’t a testament of good character. He uses his newfound abilities to buy alcohol and steal from an ATM. Yeah, he’s not really hero material.

Billy basically becomes a jerk, even to his foster brother Freddy. Billy doesn’t show up for him even though he knows Freddy will be bullied. He’s not necessarily a likable protagonist, but he is interesting, which is what matters.

Billy accidentally causes a bus to fall off a bridge and crash. The windshield of the bus cracks when one man lands on it, but Shazam catches the bus by the windshield, which apparently then is capable of holding up the entire bus. Also, the bus hitting an invulnerable man would be just as jarring and deadly as hitting the ground.

It takes getting his butt kicked by a villain (Thaddeus) for him to begin to change. He manages to escape from the battle only by becoming his kid self again.

But the real change happens when Billy meets his mom again, and finds out that she didn’t lose him, at least not permanently. She abandoned him, and doesn’t want him in her life right now. He realizes that in the group home with his foster family, he has found his real family.

The final battle is kind of weird. The other foster kids are given the powers of Shazam and the ability to turn into adults. They all fight Thaddeus and the Seven Deadly Sins, which are nasty-looking demons. Of course the good guys win after a rough fight. Billy spares Thaddeus but I feel like he should have just let him fall to his death. I’m usually not that heartless even with villains, but I just felt no attachment to him.

I guess it’s an okay ending, but the after credits scene really seemed dumb. An evil caterpillar came to visit Thaddeus in prison. Yeah….I don’t know where they are going with that. It was hard to take seriously.

Overall, the movie was fine and had its entertaining moments. I wouldn’t particularly recommend it, but you may find it enjoyable if you like super hero movies in general.

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Shows

The Dragon Prince Season 1 Features Sokka’s Voice Actor

Show Review (with spoilers):

The Dragon Prince Season 1

Rating: 8.5 out of 10 stars

Overview

Pros

  • Likeable, complex characters
  • Great worldbuilding
  • Engaging plot
  • High stakes
  • Good voice acting
  • Includes representation of a deaf character

Cons

  • Could not think of any specific cons, but felt that the season overall earned an 8.5 out of 10 stars

Review

The Dragon Prince Season 1 was released in 2018.

The series gives us a bit of backstory to work with. After humans discover dark magic, elves drove them to the other side of the continent and a dragon guarded the new border between the human and elf realms. The humans were not pleased with this arrangement, and proceeded to kill the dragon and murder its child.

In the present time, a group of Moonshadow elves have taken it upon themselves to launch a revenge mission to kill a human king and his son as revenge.

One of the Moonshadow elves, Rayla, is only 15 years old. When the Moonshadow elves are accidentally discovered, she is responsible for killing the unlucky human who happened to cross their path. Only, she hasn’t actually killed anyone before. And she doesn’t have the guts…or perhaps has too much heart…to do it. The human gets away to warn the king, while Rayla uses berry juice to make her blades look bloodstained.

Since the king gets advance warning of the Moonshadow elves’ attack, he tries to send his sons Callum and Ezran to safety. Rayla ends up meeting Callum and discovering the dragon’s child, the dragon prince, is still alive when she is coming to kill Ezran. They realize that knowledge of the dragon prince could end the war between the humans and elves.

I love the Moonshadow elves assassin’s pact and how it uses bands on the pact-makers arms to bind them to their oath. If they fail to assassinate their targets, the bands will get tighter and tighter. The tightening causes loss of circulation and eventually the loss of the arm or arms it was tied to. In my opinion, that is pretty dark for a kids show, but I think it is fine for kids shows to include some dark elements as long as it is not excessive.

One of Rayla’s bands falls off when the king is assassinated, which she decides not to tell the kids. I know that is going to cause problems later, and she must have realized that as well, but I can’t really blame her. The other stays on because Ezran was never assassinated. And gets tighter. And tighter.

Seeing her arm and hand turn darker and darker is actually painful. Like wow. I don’t know how she pulls through for the team again and again when her hand is in so much pain. Even the special Sunforge blade that can cut through basically anything cannot cut through the bands. It is such a relief when the dragon prince hatches and is magical enough (or powerful enough) to cut through the bands and save Rayla’s arms.

Also, Callum has the same voice actor as Sokka from Avatar: The Last Airbender (ATLA). It’s so fun and brings back so many fond memories of ATLA. I feel like The Dragon Prince isn’t quite as good as ATLA, but that may be the nostalgia talking.

A kick-ass side character in the show is General Amaya. She is deaf and uses American sign language. She doesn’t put up with much from Viren and she has a close relationship with her interpreter and Callum and Ezran. I really hope we see more of her in the next season.

Viren is the main villain, and is very complex. Though hesitant, he was willing to give his life for the king. Yet after the king’s death, he grasps power quickly and orders the princes dead. He wanted to use a magic two-headed snake to have the king switch souls with somebody and thus live, but the king wouldn’t hear of it. He tells his daughter Claudia that the dragon egg is more important than her brother’s life. Overall, he is a despicable character with some positive attributes.

In conclusion, I would recommend this show for both adults who like fun fantasy shows and for kids ages 7 and older.

Have you watched The Dragon Prince? Are you planning to? Comment below with your thoughts!

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Movies

Following One’s Dreams, Embracing What is Quirky, and Surviving the Robot Apocalypse

Movie Review:

The Mitchells vs. the Machines (2021)

Rating: 9 out of 10 stars

Overview

Pros

  • Unique, flashy style
  • Good animation
  • Well-developed, interesting characters
  • Fun plot
  • Relatable conflicts
  • LGBTQ+ representation

Cons

  • No specific cons. Some people think it was chaotic, but I saw that as part of its charm rather than a problem.

Warning: Spoilers Ahead!

Review and Reflection

I watched this movie with my sister and absolutely loved every moment of it. The Mitchells vs. the Machines is about a soon-to-be college student named Katie Mitchell whose family does not understand her quirky projects, which are videos filled with over-the-top animations and goofy storylines. She’s accepted to a top school, and the tension increases between her and her technophobic, nature-loving father when he is worried that she does not have a back-up plan in case her aspirations land her nowhere.

I relate to Katie Mitchell so much, even though I bet my sister relates to her better since they are both artists. The thing is, I have always loved writing. So much so that I have long wanted it to become at least part of my career. When I started college, I didn’t have the guts to just be an English major. I felt like I had to add something a little more…rational. So I added Secondary Education to my major with my fingers crossed that I would be a good English teacher who would write on the side.

I mean, I liked kids and books, so that meant I had to like teaching English. Right?

Nope. Apparently not. I had a fear of standing in front of a class so strong that my fear saturated the days before I would have to teach or present. The way my body handles stress is basically to shut down, so my response to the fear was to take lots of long naps, lying on my bed feeling tense for minute after slowly ticking minute.

It was not until I had been an Education major for more than two years that I had the courage to change to just English. My concern that I would not be able to find a job was stifled by my joy that I was finally doing exclusively what I loved. I read and wrote for almost all of my assignments for my major.

The point is, Katie’s struggle with people not fully believing in her was one of my deep-seated fears. I have always been the people-pleaser and the peacemaker. It is hard for me to be who I am because I am so concerned about how others will see me. As an aspiring author, I understand the fear that comes with following your dreams, dealing with your own doubt and the doubt of others. Not to say I have been without support. My family has been very supportive of my dreams, and it turns out my fear of letting them down was pretty much unwarranted.

It is the same with Katie Mitchell. She feels like her family, especially her dad, cannot understand her dream. And when it comes down to it, they kind of don’t. But at the same time, they love her and want what’s best for her. They may have their concerns, but if she goes for a job in animation or art, they are going to support her. Because they are her family.

Originally, this movie was going to be named Connected. Even though I like the finalized title better, I understand why the movie might have had that original title. The movie is all about how human connection is what makes humanity worth saving. Human connection is also what gives Katie and her family the courage and drive to save the world. But The Mitchells vs. the Machines is more playful and fun, and just fits the movie’s style and humor better.

I read some reviews online where people said it was too hyperactive and flashy, but honestly, I felt like that was part of its charm. From the picture above, you can see how the mix of animation and even floating text are used to make a point. Sure, maybe people who are old-fashioned or unaccustomed to watching cartoons alongside their animated films may not “get it,” but that doesn’t mean it is bad. It’s quirky, just like the Mitchell family and the whole plot.

Anyway, initially Katie was going to take a plane to her new college, but her dad cancels those plans and decides they will take a road trip across the country during orientation week. Now, I know how important orientation week can be. During mine, I was able to get more accustomed to living away from home and participate in events with my freshman class. I can’t imagine how stressed I would be if I had missed it. Her frustration is perfectly understandable. She wants to go to college to be with “her people,” the fabled ones who understand her.

Meanwhile, in the middle of this road trip, an entrepreneur named Mark Bowman unveils a new technology, a line of home robots, that will replace his highly intelligent AI PAL. PAL takes revenge by ordering the robots to capture all of the humans and prepare them to launch into space.

The Mitchell family are joined by two defective robots in a mission to save the world. This adventure includes murderous Furbys, kill codes, and awkward bonding experiences. In a hilarious sequence of events, the Mitchells save humanity and destroy PAL.

I love that Katie has a girlfriend named Jade by the end, and how her family is so supportive of their relationship. It’s super cute.

Overall, this movie was fun and quirky, and I would definitely watch it again. I recommend it for all ages except maybe the very youngest children.

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Books

What 19th Century Novels Have to Say About the Written Word

Although Henry James may have had a point when he called the 19th century novel “a loose and baggy monster,” he was not completely accurate. 19th century novels are large but not monstrous, descriptive and free-flowing, but not exactly baggy. Interestingly, the authors of 19th century novels meet this challenge with their own claims of why reading and writing are intensely formative and valuable experiences. Even though they are not exclusively referring to 19th century novels in these claims, they certainly include those novels in their appraisal of the worth of reading and writing. Out of the 19th century novels I read recently, Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen, Hard Times by Charles Dickens, Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell, and Middlemarch by George Eliot best reveal the way that 19th century novelists treated the written word.

The first quote is from Northanger Abbey. Austen reveals the behavior of many 19th century novelists to be contributing to public sentiment against the novel. She emphasizes the irony of this fact and separates herself from the pack of other novelists by saying “I will not adopt that ungenerous and impolitic custom so common with novelwriters” (Austen 58). This habit, she points out, is for novelists to “[join] with their greatest enemies in bestowing the harshest epithets on such works,” by which she means novels (Austen 58). It is as if writers are ashamed of being novelists, because even on the rare occasion that their heroines pick up a novel, they are “sure to turn over its insipid pages with disgust” (Austen 58).

Jane Austen’s quote demonstrates that the prevailing attitude of the time, even among novelists themselves, was that the novel was in the realm of feelings and opinions, and thus not as important as nonfiction. She clearly rejects this with her statement and shows that there is another way to see novels, as works of great value to anyone in developing their imagination and making their reality as exciting as a storybook. Catherine Morland, the novel’s heroine, joyfully takes up the habit of novel-reading, and although her fantasizing leads her into trouble, Austen does not suggest that the novel itself was the problem. Instead, Catherine’s method of understanding the purpose of the novels was flawed, because she failed to distinguish fantasy from reality and to get at the heart of what the novels she was reading were about.

Charles Dickens was clearly not one of those novelists that are embarrassed by the novel. Through exaggeration and taking up the opposing side’s argument against novels, he reveals the folly of his opponents. In Hard Times, Gradgrind’s horror at those who are using the library mostly comes from the fact that “these readers persisted in wondering” (Dickens 42). He goes on to explain that “They wondered about human nature, human passions, human hopes and fears, the struggles, triumphs and defeats, the cares and joys and sorrows, the lives and deaths of common men and women” (Dickens 42). It is clear that what makes reading so unattractive to Gradgrind is that it promotes empathy, causing readers to think of their purpose in the world, which has nothing to do with the realm of fact, but which has value nonetheless. They wanted to read about people just like themselves because novels gave them the sense that their own lives were worthwhile. It is obvious that the quote is referring to novels because Gradgrind would not have the same sense of horror if the readers were reading nonfiction, a practice he encouraged in his own children. Similarly to Austen’s work, readers used novels to understand their own lives.

The third quote is from Mary Barton and is about Mr. Carson’s transformation from a vengeful father to a forgiving neighbor. It is said that Mr. Carson “fell to the narrative now afresh, with all the interest of a little child. He began at the beginning, and read on almost greedily, understanding for the first time the full meaning of the story” (Gaskell 320). Gaskell makes it apparent that it is not just the book that is important, it is also the attitude the reader takes toward writing. This is similar to Austen’s revelation that Catherine’s attitude toward novels must be corrected. Mr. Carson is not able to understand the story until it has some bearing on his life. Then, reading illuminates his life and helps him decide what action he should take next. Just like in Dickens’ quote, empathy becomes the result of reading. This is a strong argument for the importance of reading and stories to the everyday person as well as the 19th century novelist.

The final quote is from Middlemarch and is about how writing preserves the “whispering-gallery” of the past for readers of the present and future (Eliot 256). Writing and reading provides insight into the prevailing attitudes, beliefs, and interests of people in the past in a way that learning from a lecture or from just plain gossip cannot. Even if the writing “[lies] face down-most for ages on a forsaken beach, or [rests] quietly under the drums and tramplings of many conquests, it may end by letting us into the secret of usurpations and other scandals gossiped about long empires ago” (Eliot 256). Eliot’s novel itself has two layers of revelation. It reveals the opinions of the time she was writing about, as well as her own opinions as a 19th century writer. The combination gives readers insight into two time periods. In this way, the novel can be a preserver of history.

As is shown by these quotes, 19th century novels are more than just “loose and baggy monster[s].” They have value, even if that is affected by how they are read. Furthermore, these novels promote empathy, foster imagination and depth of person, and preserve history for future generations. In the end, the 19th century novelists show that by reading and writing their novels, readers will benefit in more ways than they could imagine.

Works Cited (MLA Style)

  • Austen, Jane. Northanger Abbey. 2nd ed., edited by Claire Grogan, Broadview Press Ltd., 2002.
  • Dickens, Charles. Hard Times. 3rd ed., edited by Fred Kaplan and Sylvère Monod, W. W. Norton & Company, 2001.
  • Eliot, George. Middlemarch. 2nd ed., edited by Bert G. Hornback, W. W. Norton & Company, 2000.
  • Gaskell, Elizabeth. Mary Barton, edited by Thomas Recchio, W. W. Norton & Company, 2008.

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