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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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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Movies

A Movie Where the NPC is A Hero

Movie Review:

Free Guy (2021)

Rating: 7.8 out of 10 stars

Overview

Pros

  • Well-chosen actors
  • Comedic elements
  • Interesting concept
  • Great CGI
  • Disney takes advantage of its access to properties such as Marvel and Star Wars by including their characteristic items in the game Free City. Also has several great cameos.

Cons

  • Definitely see strong similarities to The Lego Movie
  • Some very convenient plot points

Warning: Spoilers Ahead!

Review and Reflection

In Free Guy, the protagonist Guy discovers he is a NPC in a video game. It’s a slow realization for him, which is prompted when he first sees the woman of his dreams and leaves his normal everyday routine to interact with her. Player avatars are indicated in this video game world by sunglasses. Guy decides he is going to be extraordinary like them and steals a pair of sunglasses, which allow him to see things like power-ups. When Molotov Girl, the woman of his dreams, informs him that he is an NPC, he is devastated, but eventually comes to terms with this reality. He helps other NPCs alter their programming and saves the video game world of Free City.

One of the things I like about this movie is that it puts the focus on NPCs, who get very little attention in most video games. Most NPCs do not even have developed character arcs in video games. It was a unique point of view to choose.

Me and my whole family got Lego Movie vibes from this movie, mostly because Guy is a man who lives every day exactly the same and loves it, even though it is futile. If you watch it, you’ll see what I mean. The first part is like a live action Lego Movie.

Guy tries to level up by being the good guy in a video game where robbery, destruction, and violence are the key ways to get ahead. It’s unheard of. It’s also funny, and inspires many of the gamers in the movie to think twice about their treatment of NPCs.

Personally, those games that focus on robbery, looting, excessive violence, and vandalism are not my style. I have always felt bad about my actions in video games that hurt NPCs, even when they are the bad guys. I guess I am just soft-hearted. I will say that this movie was a reminder to me that even supporting characters, the fictional equivalent of NPCs, can have interesting character arcs.

Antwan, the creator of Free City, has stolen the original code of the characters Keys and Millie (Molotov Girl) in order to make Free City. As the movie progresses, he tries harder and harder to hide that fact. His measures become more and more extreme. First he tries to destroy Guy. Later, he kicks everyone out of the game and reboots it, and finally he begins to destroy the servers.

Antwan is a colorful character and makes a convincing and formidable villain. The fact that Keys works for him adds to the tension.

I’m glad Millie and Guy didn’t end up as a couple at the end, even though they shared a kiss twice and got bubblegum ice cream together. It would have been extremely uncomfortable if they ended up a couple, considering that Guy is just a video game character. Instead, Guy reveals that he is like a love letter to Millie from Keys. I admit, that is one of the sweetest love letters I have ever witnessed.

There were some very convenient parts, such as that the evidence Millie needed to prove that Antwan stole their code was in a building guarded by a Guy fan. Also, when Antwan smashes servers, the one he goes for last is the one that covers the area Guy is in, so he is not destroyed. Super convenient.

The cameos by Dwayne Johnson and Chris Evans were fun, as were the use of Captain America’s shield and the lightsaber as items in the game.

Overall, a great movie with many comedic elements. I recommend to anyone who enjoys a good comedy or video games.

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Movies

Turning Red Review and Reflection (with Spoilers!)

Movie Review:

Turning Red (2022)

Rating: 8 out of 10 stars

Warning: Spoilers Ahead!

Overview

Pros

  • helps to normalize talking about periods
  • Great animation
  • Creative concept
  • Even though I did not find the characters especially relatable, many preteen and teenage girls would
  • Nice to see an underrepresented culture on screen
  • The friendships between the teenage girls were touching
  • The music was cute

Cons

  • Requires a lot of suspension of disbelief

Review and Reflection

Turning Red is a 2022 movie about a 13-year-old Chinese-Canadian girl named Meilin, who turns into a red panda when she feels any strong emotion. Her ancestors were blessed by the ability to turn into large red pandas to protect themselves and others, and this ability has been passed down through the women of each generation. Once a blessing, it now happens to be a major problem.

As you know, our ancestor, Sun Yee, had a mystical connection with red pandas. In fact, she loved them so much that she asked the gods to turn her into one. It was wartime. The men were all gone. Sun Yee was desperate for a way to protect herself and her daughters. Then one night, during a red moon, the gods granted her wish. They gave her the ability to harness her emotions, to transform into a powerful mystical beast. She was able to fend off bandits, protect her village, and save her family from ruin. Sun Yee passed this gift to her daughters, for when they came of age. And they passed it to theirs. But over time, our family chose to come to a new world. And what was a blessing became… an inconvenience.

Ming

When Meilin first turns into the red panda, she tries to hide this from her parents. Her mom wrongfully believes Meilin’s period has started. Now, most movies wouldn’t touch the topic of periods with a 10-foot pole, but this one embraced that part of growing up. I feel like normalizing that topic is important, since it is just a part of life, and so many people go through it.

I saw some reviews complaining that parents had to explain what a period was to the boys watching, but I do not see that as a con. Boys SHOULD understand what a period is. It is a part of biology, and besides, guys who don’t understand how periods work can be extremely judgmental. I know that many teenage boys wrongfully believe that girls can just “hold it” and control their period, when that is certainly not possible.

Meilin’s mom, Ming, is so clueless that it is obnoxious. She tells Meilin she forgot her pads in the middle of a class after apparently spying on her through the window. Ming recognizes a teenage boy from Meilin’s drawings and accuses him of being romantically involved with Meilin. It’s hard to imagine that an adult could be that out of touch with the social ramifications of her behavior for her child.

Even though many people could relate to this movie, I personally did not find Meilin relatable. From her obsession with boy bands to her intense crushes, many of her experiences were not as relevant to me. As a teen, I only ever had mild crushes on anyone, and boy bands never interested me in the least. I never had a celebrity crush.

Additionally, she grew up with really strict parents. Even though my parents were protective of me and I was somewhat sheltered, I never felt pressure from them to be perfect. Almost all of the pressure I felt was self-imposed, even though it was intense.

The friendship between the four girls was touching, and the fact that Meilin could control her inner panda by thinking of them was really sweet. That was another way my early teenage years were different. I didn’t have a strong friend group in my early teenage years. It was not until college that my social life really took off.

But I know it was a really good movie, even if it wasn’t always the most relatable for me.

I kind of wish Meilin had taken a little more time to learn how to control the red panda. She got the hang of it really quickly, and it wasn’t super believable. Also, the way that everyone mostly just accepted that a girl could turn into a big red panda was not believable either. Furthermore, when 4*Town and the audience of the concert sing to help turn Ming back into a human after her inner panda goes rogue, that stretched the believability of the movie as well. After all, if a giant monster red panda was going on a rampage, I don’t think that many people would stick around and sing.

The animation and the music were superb and cute. I thought it was interesting that some of the aspects of the movie were similar to anime, with eyes that got large and bright in response to things that were cute or funny.

Overall, I really enjoyed this movie and feel like Pixar is on a roll. I would recommend it for ages 12 and up mostly because it is super awkward to explain periods to young children.

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