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

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 master’s 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
Shows

Gravity Falls Gets Even Weirder

Spoiler-Free Show Review:

Gravity Falls Season 2

Rating: 9.8 out of 10 stars

Intro

When my sister wanted me to watch Gravity Falls, I was skeptical about whether I would like it. It looked like an uninteresting kids show or like it would have a style of humor I wouldn’t be a fan of. However, it has become one of my favorite shows.

Background

Gravity Falls Season 2 was released in 2014-2016. It stars the voice talent of Jason Ritter, Alex Hirsch, Kristen Schaal, and Linda Cardellini.

It can currently be watched on Disney Plus.

Summary

Season 2 focuses on the search for the author of the journals, Gruncle Stan’s past, and the struggle against Bill Cipher.

Pros

  • Loveable characters
  • Unique villains
  • Interesting supernatural beings
  • Touching character dynamics between the twins
  • Entertaining setting
  • Clever and amusing dialogue
  • Fun animation
  • References to other shows and pop culture
  • Continuity between episodes unlike in some cartoons
  • Enjoyable for adults and children alike
  • Original catchy music

Cons

  • Gets darker in a way that is a bit much (though this is a minor con)

Observations

  • The whispers at the end of the intro song of each episode are hints to solve the cryptogram at the end of each episode
  • Alex Hirsch is the voice actor for Gruncle Stan, Soos, Old Man McGucket, and Bill Cipher.
  • Dipper’s hat was originally supposed to be red, but the creators feared that he would look too much like Ash Ketchum

Review

Characters

My Favorite Pic of the Whole Gang

Mabel Pines, the girl in the pink sweater and braces, is a quirky and boy-crazy girl. She wears a different sweater almost every episode and is very spontaneous.

Dipper Pines, the boy in the blue hat, is adventurous, practical, and cautious. He is eager to find out what supernatural forces are at work in Gravity Falls.

The twins do a lot of growing in their understanding of themselves and the world around them during Season 2. They have to realize what is most important and worth protecting.

Wendy Corduroy is the redheaded teenager. She is tomboyish, strong, assertive, clever, and funny. Wendy is my favorite character.

Gruncle Stan, the old man, is the main characters’ Great Uncle. Get it? Gruncle? He is miserly, bossy, and occasionally engages in criminal activities. Nonetheless, he is one of the most loveable characters.

Soos is the handyman in the green shirt. He is laidback, has a big heart, and is very close to the Pines family. He acts kind of like a big brother to Dipper and Mabel.

I can’t imagine the show without any one of these characters. They are all essential and add so much to the story.

There is only one character of note who debuted in the second season, but his existence is so integral to the plot that I cannot reveal who it is without major spoilers.

Bill Cipher is the iconic villain of Gravity Falls, and the main threat of Season 2. He’s just so weird….some of his scenes from Season 1 involve deer teeth and possession. It’s all quite odd, and that’s what makes him so unique. He is sadistic and thoughtless and enjoys making deals. Season 2 gets even weirder with his greater involvement.

Relationships

The relationship between the twins is so sweet and authentic. It is clear that they genuinely do care for each other and enjoy each other’s company. Gravity Falls avoids common tropes used in shows for twins–such as twins that are identical or very similar in personality, or the twin that is always right vs. the one that is always wrong, single-minded twins, etc.

Season 2 delves into this relationship more by revealing more of the twins’ pasts and creating conflict between them.

Setting

The show is set in Gravity Falls, Oregon. A lot of time is spent at the Mystery Shack in particular, which is a tourist trap filled with gimmicks and odd artifacts.

Dialogue

Pain is hilarious! And two eyes? This thing is deluxe!”

Bill Cipher, referring to humans

Romance is like gum. When it loses its flavor, you just shove another one in.”

Mabel Pines

A TV show that has big mystery elements and jokes that go over kid’s head’s”

Gruncle Stan, referring to Ducktective in a metajoke also referring to Gravity Falls itself

Animation

The goofy and sometimes postcard-worthy animation of Gravity Falls is attractive and fits the theme of the show.

Allusions

  • When Soos says “Shining, shimmering, splendid,” he is referencing the song “A Whole New World”
  • Smez is a spoof of the brand Pez
  • “We Built This Township on Rock and Roll” is a reference to “We Built This City” by Starship
  • “The Golf War” title of an episode alludes to the actual Gulf War
  • One episode has several allusions to the Muppets
  • At one time the Eye of Sauron can be seen in the Mystery Shack
  • There are so many more!

Continuity

The show is dependent on the episodes that come before for a lot of the development and for most of it to make sense. That makes it different from many TV shows where the episodes can be watched in any order.

Audience

The audience for this show is varied. When I was looking at who had left ratings on IMDb, there was a large age range from teens to people in their mid-20s or mid-30s–even people older than that such as in their 50s. In addition, it was made for children, so it fits all of these audiences well. There are a lot of jokes that adults will appreciate that kids may barely notice. The darker themes at times in the show makes it appealing to adults as well.

Music

The theme song is so catchy my sister and dad both made it their ringtone. I love it. It’s one of those iconic songs that will always bring back good memories for me.

Conclusion

I recommend this show for all ages except for very young children due to dark elements. Admittedly this season is darker, so parental guidance may be best. Things such as a person turning into cockroaches and a couch made of petrified humans might be uncomfortable for very young audiences, as well as the darker overall atmosphere.

Rating System

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

Movies

Knives Out Will Keep You on the Edge of Your Seat

Spoiler-Free Movie Review:

Knives Out (2019)

Rating: 9.8 out of 10 stars

Intro

I don’t watch mystery movies too often, but I really enjoyed this one. I watched it once with my uncle and once with my roommate.

Background

Knives Out was directed by Rian Johnson. Many people are not happy with what he did to Star Wars, but I can honestly say that he was in his element when he directed this movie.

The movie stars Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson, Toni Collette, Lakeith Stanfield, Katherine Langford, Jaeden Martell, and Christopher Plummer.

Knives Out is currently available to stream on Amazon Prime.

Summary

Detective Benoit Blanc investigates an apparent suicide, believing it to be a murder. Investigation into family matters reveals most family members had sufficient motives for murder, but this wacky mystery is much more complex than it seems.

Pros

  • Creative title
  • Phenomenal acting and cast
  • Complex and entertaining characters
  • Interesting setting
  • Subtle aspects of the film rewarding those paying attention
  • Plausible yet unexpected ending

Cons

  • Marta’s vomiting is overused

Review

Title

The title was well-chosen, part of one of the most impactful quotes in the whole movie by Benoit Blanc – “You’re a pack a vultures, knives out and beaks bloody.” In context it is blunt, but cuts to the heart of the problem with the whole Thrombey family.

The title could also be a reference to the stunning display of Harlan Thrombey’s knives, which was certainly the most iconic object in the movie.

Acting

The acting was phenomenal, especially by Daniel Craig as Benoit Blanc and Ana de Armas as Marta Cabrera. Some people found Craig’s southern drawl annoying, but it didn’t bother me.

Characters

Again, Benoit Blanc and Marta Cabrera were the best characters, though I appreciated Harlan Thrombey as well.

Benoit is an eccentric detective, not just another cookie-cutter Sherlock. He has elaborate metaphors involving donuts, and even seems incompetent at times. Yet he is super sharp too.

I feel a noose tightening. The family is truly desperate. Desperate motives, with the mystery of who hired me, the impossibility of the crime, and yet a donut. One central piece, and if it reveals itself, the fog would lift, the arc would resolve, the Slinky become unkinked.

Benoit Blanc

Marta Cabrera is a kind-hearted nurse who cared for the deceased Harlan Thrombey during his old age. She has complicated relationships with all the members of the Thrombey family. She is basically the protagonist of the movie.

Setting

The house most of the action is set in, becomes, as a character pointed out, just like a Clue board. It has all these quirky aspects that made it stand out. These details are what made the family home the family home. And as a former English major and a (hopefully!) future librarian, I appreciated the sheer number of books in the house. At the same time, I don’t think I could handle the clutter. That being said, this house just had so much character.

Details

There are some details that added to this masterpiece of a story. When each family member told the story, the flashbacks had slight differences even in places where they intersected, which is especially notable in the scene with the birthday cake.

Different members of the family say that Marta’s family is from different countries. Cuba, Ecuador, Paraguay, Uruguay, Brazil…none of them cared enough to know for sure her story.

According to Fandom, the accuracy of the clocks was carefully considered when setting the scenes. Each one was carefully at the time it should have been for the scene.

The timing of Benoit hitting a piano key during the investigation was the way one of the investigators was prompted to ask a certain question. I thought that was pretty creative.

Ending

The ending was well-executed and I would say most people would not see it coming. Obviously I won’t spoil anything, but I will say that I certainly was not disappointed.

Conclusion

I would recommend this movie even for people who don’t usually watch mysteries. It’s not your typical whodunit. The rating of PG-13 is entirely reasonable.

Also, I heard a sequel is coming out, so it’s the perfect time to watch Knives Out!

Rating System

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

Links