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

Shows

This She-Ra Remake is Surprisingly Good

Show Review:

She-Ra and the Princesses of Power Season 1

Rating: 8.5 out of 10 stars

Warning! Minor spoilers ahead for Season 1!

Review

Anyone who has been reading my content for awhile knows that I adore kids shows when they are made in a way that adult audiences can appreciate. Yet I was still skeptical about this one. It just looked childish to me from the pictures, and my sister’s claims that it was as good as or better than Avatar: The Last Airbender didn’t assuage my doubts.

I was wrong to judge it so quickly. It is one of the best cartoons I have watched in my life, even if I still like Avatar: The Last Airbender better.

The first season begins with Adora, the main character, working as a soldier for the evil Horde. She has been brought up to believe that the Horde’s missions are benevolent in nature, and that the Horde’s enemies–the princesses–are wicked. One day she ventures outside of the Fright Zone, which is the headquarters of the Horde, and finds a magic sword. The princess Glimmer and her friend Bow capture Adora. They try to get the sword for themselves, but Adora manages to use it. This sword transforms her into the legendary She-Ra.

Even though Adora has several opportunities to escape from Glimmer and Bow, she does not. This is because she comes upon a town burned by the Horde and realizes there is something wrong with what the Horde is doing. Adora comes to realize that the Horde has lied to her and that they are attacking innocent people.

She joins Glimmer and Bow and they take her to Bright Moon, where she joins the rebellion against the Horde. The first season focuses on building the rebellion’s forces.

Adora’s best friend from the Horde, Catra, is devastated by Adora’s abandonment of her and the Horde. Catra’s character development is one of the best parts of Season 1 and of seasons to come. Her mental and emotional breakdowns, her mourning, her pride, and her jealousy make her a well-rounded and sympathetic villain.

Catra vs. She-Ra

Despite being very good, the first season in a lot of ways is the set-up for what is to come. As the rebellion grows, several episodes each introduce a new princess who is not very well-developed in the first season. Background information is established and relationships begin to development and change.

There are many funny parts such as when Adora discovers things like parties and horses for the first time, because her experience has been limited in the horde.

Entrapta

My favorite character in the first season is Entrapta. From her love of tiny foods to her passion for anything science, she is a hilarious character. Her prehensile hair makes her even more interesting.

The intro seems more childish than the show itself, and I just couldn’t get behind the song. It’s fine–but it could be better.

The design is attractive, with bright colors and a beautiful palette that features various hues of pink and purple. Character design looks good, with representation of various skin colors and body types. Some people, mostly men, criticized the show because She-Ra doesn’t look sexy enough–but I can’t see why that is a problem, especially since the show promotes body positivity.

Animation is decent but not amazing. It’s kind of oversimplified, but it doesn’t look bad.

LGBTQ+ representation is present in the first season, but not as obvious as in later seasons. Spinnerella and Netossa are married princesses, but their relationship is not explored in the first season. There is more to come.

The names are not particularly creative, but they come directly from the 1980s series She-Ra: Princess of Power. Since the new show was loosely inspired by the 1980s one, I don’t consider this lack of creativity a con. Examples are Catra for a character with cat features, Bow for an archer, Perfuma for a girl with flower power, etc.

I would certainly recommend this season for most people ages 8 and up. I especially recommend it for fans of Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra. If you are expecting it to be anything like the 1980s show She-Ra: Princess of Power, you will be disappointed because it is vastly different from the moralistic and old-fashioned episodes of She-Ra: Princess of Power.

Final Breakdown

Pros

  • Great for children and adults
  • Attractive design choices
  • Representation of different body types and skin colors
  • LGBTQ+ representation

Cons

  • Overly childish intro

Observations

  • Decent animation
  • Names are not creative, but they are directly from the original She-Ra series from the 1980s
  • Not very similar to the original She-Ra

Rating System

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

Links

Shows

LoK Season 3 is Darker than the Rest

Show Review:

The Legend of Korra Season 3

Rating: 9.2 out of 10 stars

Intro

I had the pleasure of watching The Legend of Korra (LoK) Season 3 for the second time with my best friend. It is not as good as Avatar: The Last Airbender (ATLA), but it is fun nonetheless.

Spoiler-Free Version

First, a spoiler-free sum up of my thoughts, and after that we will get into spoiler territory, so watch out:

This season is much better than the poor planning and execution of Season 2 for many reasons.

The villains, though they lack much backstory, prove that they are resourceful, intelligent, and dangerous. There are lasting consequences to poor decisions in this season because the villains are so competent. Zaheer in particular rivals Amon as a potential best villain of the whole show.

My favorite addition to characters this season was by far Kai. That kid is funny, mischievous, and very likeable.

The settings include a close-up look at modern Ba Sing Se, which is unfortunately as corrupt as it was in Aang’s time, and Zaofu, home of the metalbending clan.

Rather than getting a ton of obnoxious relationship drama, we get a dose of pent-up family drama. It’s kind of refreshing to not have to deal with the stupid love triangle that dominated Season 2. I have to say it – even though Mako was fun at first, his wishy-washy-ness with Asami and Korra was a pain to watch and made we like him less. Last season even made me love Bolin less, and he’s my favorite character.

This season they all find the better version of themselves and move forward with life. The world is starting to regain balance in ways it hadn’t during Aang’s time as Avatar – the spirit world and the physical world have intertwined, causing problems and yet seeming to bring more balance to a world that had been previously deprived of the presence of the spirits in most instances.

Warning: Below this point are spoilers for Seasons 1-3 of The Legend of Korra, as well as spoilers for Avatar: The Last Airbender Seasons 1-3!!

Background

The Legend of Korra was created by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko. It is a sequel to the TV show Avatar: The Last Airbender (ATLA).

Characters in this show are either benders, who can control one of the four elements, or non-benders, who cannot control any elements.

It is a unique blend of anime style with the style of American cartoons.

The Legend of Korra Season 3 was released in 2014 under the name of Book 3: Change. After episode 8, the show stopped airing on Nickelodeon and moved online. This was partly due to leaked content and partly do to unfavorable ratings.

Summary

The Legend of Korra Season 3 focuses on Korra’s efforts to rebuild the Air Nation, Lin Beifong’s reconciliation with her sister and her sister’s family, and Zaheer’s attempt to end the Avatar for good.

Pros

  • Entertaining, appealing old characters
  • New and fun characters
  • Formidable villains
  • Interesting settings
  • Humor
  • Focuses on family drama instead of relationship drama
  • Merging of the spirit world and the physical world brings new challenges
  • The Airbending nation is back!
  • Considers how preservation of old traditions must be balanced with changes that come about as part of the modern setting
  • Consequences for inadequate efforts

Cons

  • Villains without much backstory

Observations

  • Darker than previous seasons

Review

Characters

If you want to learn more about the main characters, look back at my reviews for seasons 1-2. The links are at the bottom of the page.

Kai develops the ability to use airbending and meets Team Avatar when they are trying to round up recruits to rebuild the air nation. He’s mischievous, thieving, and untrustworthy–but chooses good when it really matters. His crush on Jinora and their mutual affection is kind of cute, and puts him on Tenzin’s bad side. Bolin treats him like a little brother willingly, and Mako does more grudgingly. Overall, Kai is a wonderful addition to the team and adds a lot of humor and trouble to the mix.

Suyin is the half-sister of Lin Beifong. This is where the family drama comes in. Suyin was rebellious as a child, in stark contrast to Lin, who was obedient and law-abiding. Suyin is the reason Lin has a scar on her face. She wants to make amends with Lin, but Lin is uninterested in acting like a family again. They get into a serious fight that is amazing to watch. “Fighting is all part of the healing process,” Bolin assures the others, and he is not completely wrong. Suyin is the leader of Zaofu, the metalbending clan, and has a large family of talented individuals.

Opal is the daughter of Suyin. She develops airbending abilities and is trained by Korra. Even though she really wants to go and join the Air Nation, her mother insists she stays at home. Opal eventually stands her ground and is permitted to leave home. Bolin x Opal (Bopal) is so much better than Bolin x Eska (Boleska).

Zaheer is one of the new airbenders, and has long admired Laghima, a long-dead airbending master. At the beginning of the story, he is kept in a prison as a result of his efforts to kidnap Korra as a child. After developing airbending abilities, he is able to escape and fights to release all of his friends from the Red Lotus. Zaheer is an anarchist who believes governments are evil and that the avatar cycle must end along with these governments in order for a new world to be born. Zaheer rivals Amon as the best villain of the series, but I wish he had more backstory,

Settings

Ba Sing Se is a huge, sprawling Earth Kingdom city. Just like in Avatar: The Last Airbender, there is a lot of corruption going on here, and the outer parts of the city are decrepit while the inner circle is immaculate. The Earth Queen rules her city with an iron fist, and tries to make her own airbending army. I found this second look at Ba Sing Se to be a much-needed echo from the past, tying ATLA and LoK together even more.

Zaofu is a beautiful and secure city run by Suyin. It is a place where metalbenders can hone their craft as well as their talents, which for some includes artistic skill. The protective dome makes Zaofu especially safe. It is technologically innovative city, but even its strong defense could not stop Zaheer’s attack.

Humor

This show balances humor with darker aspects. For example, the very serious scene of Korra vs. Zaheer, the poisoning, and the mass destruction are lightened somewhat when Zaheer is defeated and Bolin “put a sock in it” by literally putting a sock in Zaheer’s mouth.

Balance

This season is all about the balance brought about by change. The spirit world becomes integrated with the physical world in a way it never was during Aang’s time. The rise of the airbending nation caused by this is somewhat of a relief considering there was only a single family of airbenders before that. It is heartening to see that the balance Aang envisioned is finally coming to life.

Dark Aspects

The Earth Queen’s murder through suffocation is one of the darkest parts of this season. It’s not bad that it’s gotten darker–just different. Zaheer rips the oxygen from the queen’s lungs and creates a mini tornado-like ball around her head until she dies.

P’Li is one of the few individuals who can combustionbend like Combustion Man from Atla. When her head is encased in metal, there is an explosion inside that kills her. This is a particularly brutal death, but since the metal covers her head, we do not see the gruesome results.

The capture and poisoning of Korra is very dark as well. Even though Zaheer fails to end the Avatar cycle, the poison has lasting consequences.

Consequences

At the end of the season, Korra is unwell and barely able to move, let alone walk. I think that this a good step because it makes the Avatar seem less invincible. It also shows that trauma cannot just be there one day, gone the next typically. Physical and emotional scars tend to stick around, at least for a time.

Conclusion

I would wholeheartedly recommend this season. It is rated PG, but I would not recommend it for younger children since this season is darker.

Rating System

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

Links

Related Articles

Acknowledgements

Thank you to Alyssa Wilson for her feedback on this article.

Movies

The Best and Worst of The Princess Bride

Intro

I love this movie. I was first introduced to The Princess Bride as a child, and watched it again as a college student, and then a third time as a graduate student. It’s hilarious from beginning to end, with a few serious parts spliced in for dramatic effect.

Just as a warning, there are spoilers below!

Background

The Princess Bride (1987) is a fantasy comedy film based on the novel of the same name written by William Goldman.

It can currently be watched on Disney Plus.

The Best and Worst of The Princess Bride

An Expertly Done Frame Story

The Best:

The frame narrative of the ailing grandson becoming increasingly interested in his grandfather’s enchanting book is heartwarming. The interruptions to return to this frame story are well placed and add to both the suspense and the character of the film. I do not usually like frame stories, but I felt that this one is well done and adds rather than detracts from the story.

I love the way that the grandfather brings the book as a wrapped present for his grandson. It reminds me of when the library at my college wrapped books so that people could take them home and get a surprise. I chose one myself and was delightfully surprised with a story that I never would have picked out myself but that I enjoyed more than expected.

The kid’s response is priceless. He is not excited by a musty old book. (I definitely would have been even as a child.)

The Worst:

That the sick grandson is disinterested in his cheek-pinching grandfather and more apt to play video games than read is stereotypical of the way kids are portrayed in the media. That is not all that surprising, especially since it is often true of children that they are not especially likely to listen to the wisdom of their elders over the clever banter of a television or mobile device. It’s an old movie though, so ideas like this that are now overused were much newer and less worn out than they are now.

The Details:

Did you notice the assortment of Christmas themed craft projects in the room? When the camera shifts and you get a glimpse of the entirety of each figure, you see the creepiness that only the vaguely humanoid creations of children can impart. Or maybe it’s because I have always thought Santa was creepy. I mean, supposedly he sees you when you’re sleeping, like some sort of Twilight vampire.

Also, the kid has Garfield in the background of his room, which I can appreciate. Garfield is just plain funny. (Yeah, I like old stuff…)

Plus, am I the only one grossed out when people lick a finger before turning a page? When is that ever necessary? I have read hundreds, possibly even a couple thousand unique books, and I have never felt that the pages were so hard to turn that only my saliva would do the trick.

“As You Wish”

The Best: Now I don’t love romance, but I think it’s pretty sweet that Westley says “as you wish” to mean “I love you.” The fact that she convinces him to do things such as fetch a pitcher that’s hanging inches from her head in order to spend more time with him is kind of cute too.

Inconceivable

The Best: Vizzini keeps using this phrase as Westley is chasing him, adding humor to the dark scene of them kidnapping and planning to kill Buttercup.

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

Inigo Montoya

Fight Scene: Inigo vs. Westley

The Best:

Inigo Montoya’s fight with Westley is priceless. It begins with Inigo impatient with how long it is taking Westley to scale the cliffs, so in a display of foolish yet goodhearted sportsmanship, he throws him a rope. The level of trust becomes ridiculous when Inigo hands his sword over to Westley to inspect. Yet this is not poorly done, it is merely the revelation of a well-developed character who will have his own fascinating character arc. Including left-handed fighting for characters who are right-handed was clever too.

The Worst: The weapons are very strange choices, being long and thin rapier-style blades. At least Westley as a pirate is unlikely to have such a blade. Unlike real rapiers, they wobble at their tips considerably. The fight, with its spins and flips at times, is far from realistic, but I find myself not minding much because it’s a comedy.

Predicting the Future

Fezzik: Why do you wear a mask? Were you burned by acid, or something like that?

Westley: Oh no. It’s just they’re terribly comfortable. I think everyone will be wearing them in the future.

The Best: Westley successfully predicted the future! Everyone is wearing masks these days!

The Worst: Westley lied to us. They are not terribly comfortable, and for people who wear glasses like me, they tend to fog up glasses and impede sight, at least in winter.

The Details: Westley’s mask covers the top half of his face rather than the bottom half, so maybe it is more comfortable for him? I kind of doubt it.

The Battle of Wits

The Best: Vizzini, unlike Fezzik or Inigo, is no expert when it comes to physical prowess. He engages in a mental game with Westley, but it turns out to be a no-win situation for Vizzini. Cleverly, Westley puts poison in both drinks and convinces Vizzini that he must pick the one that is not poisoned and they will both drink at the same time. Only, Westley has built up an immunity to the poison and thus does not feel its effects. Vizzini’s intellect is at least not as immense as he believes that Australians are all criminals and thus do not trust each other and somehow connects that to the challenge at hand. It’s all very funny.

Westley being difficult

The Worst: Westley treating Buttercup like she’s unfaithful is terrible. She thought he was dead for five years. She should be permitted to move on! Instead he says the promise of a woman means nothing, and that she is incapable of love. It is like Odysseus questioning Penelope’s loyalty after being gone so long, after she had been nothing but loyal to him.

Westley’s Death

The Worst: Something about the whole death scene bugs me. You know from the beginning Westley cannot die in a comedy, since he is the hero. “Mostly” dead is funny, but not convincing.

Fight Scene: Inigo vs. Count Rugen

Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”

The Best: We finally get to see Inigo avenge his father. I hate the point where Inigo is seriously wounded with a knife because I remember that was when I thought he might fail, forgetting that this movie is a comedy. This is probably the most serious part in the whole movie. Rugen is a complete coward, initially running away, throwing a knife from afar. This is not the honorable fight that we saw in Inigo vs. Westley. Inigo echoes the wounds Rugen gave him, including the facial scars, before killing him.

A Fight to the Pain

The Best: Westley challenges Humperdinck to a “fight to the pain,” which is basically a way to leave someone alive but barely after a fight, but the way he speaks of it is frightening and scares Humperdinck into surrendering, even though it is a bluff. It’s creative the way he chooses how to cause the most pain.

Conclusion

The Princess Bride is a classic that you won’t want to miss if you haven’t already watched it.

Recommended Links

  • A great Youtube video breakdown of the Inigo vs. Westley fight by Jill Bearup
  • A great Youtube video breakdown of Inigo vs. Rugen fight by Jill Bearup