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

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.

Movies

A Comedic Birding Film Starring Jack Black

Spoiler-Free Movie Review:

The Big Year (2011)

Rating: 8 out of 10 stars

Intro

When I heard this was a comedy about birding, I was reluctant to watch it. I figured it was mostly a movie for birders or at least those vaguely interested in birds. Since I lack interest in most animals, and would rather do almost anything than watch them for hours, I thought this would be perhaps educational, but not relatable or funny to me in the least.

I was wrong.

It was funny…it was heartwarming…it was adventurous. The theme was creative. The trailer really doesn’t tell you much, so don’t rely on that. Overall, it was much better than expected.

Background

The movie is based on a nonfiction book called The Big Year: A Tale of Man, Nature, and Fowl Obsession by Mark Obmascik.

It stars Steve Martin, Jack Black, and Owen Wilson.

It can be watched on Disney+ at this time.

Summary

Three birders, Brad Harris (Jack Black), Stu Preissler (Steve Martin), and Kenny Bostick (Owen Wilson), attempt a Big Year. For those who do not know, a big year is when a whole calendar year is spent seeing and identifying as many bird species as possible. It is based on an honor system, because birders do not have to show proof.

Pros

  • Phenomenal actors
  • Complicated characters
  • The theme and premise are creative
  • Not only about birds–it’s about people pursuing their passion wherever it may lead them
  • It’s just plain funny
  • Credits actually fun to watch

Cons

  • It just merits an 8 out of 10. There are better movies, but if you want a good laugh, this one is one to pick up. This movie takes itself very seriously at times, making it less of a comedy (at least in the sense of the modern definition that people use), but then deals with things with a lot of humor at other times, preventing it from being completely serious.

Review

Acting

The acting of the three main actors–Steve Martin, Jack Black, and Owen Wilson–is spot-on. No complaints in that department at all. The rivalry and grudging respect between the characters is audible in the way they speak to and about each other. I do not know as much about Steve Martin and Owen Wilson, but Jack Black is a familiar name around my home.

Characters

Brad Harris (Jack Black) comes off as more of an amateur than the other two, kind of like a superfan without as much experience. He is trusting, likeable, and easy to root for. He lives with his parents after a failed marriage. His father is not very supportive, thinking that the Big Year is a waste of time and money. The movie develops a potential romantic interest for him–to see how it turns out, you’ll have to actually watch it.

Stu Preissler (Steve Martin) is an older man who is considering retirement again. He is encouraged by his wife to do the big year, and has many years of birding experience. Not as trusting as Brad, he is still willing to remember what really matters even when pursuing his passion. Stu built a company and is the CEO, and his employees continually distract him from his big year to try to get him to negotiate business deals.

Kenny Bostick is a man obsessed with birding to an unhealthy degree. Even though this is supposed to be the year he tries to conceive a child with his wife, he goes on a Big Year because he is afraid someone will break his record. During the movie, he is fiercely competitive and not afraid to turn to subtle acts of sabotage, especially by turning people against each other.

Theme

The theme of the movie is creative. Making a birding movie watchable for a wide audience is not easy, but it makes the topic more interesting. If I were to pinpoint a theme or deeper message it would be that you should follow your dreams, but in doing so you should not leave your loved ones behind.

Comedy

The movie is hilarious at times. Watching Jack Black jam to bird song, only to have a coworker listen in and say “rock on” in confusion, was great.

Plus the movie started with a warning–“This is a true story. Only the facts have been changed.” That was some humorous self-awareness there.

Credits

The credits show the various pictures of birds that were purportedly taken by a character during the movie. The song playing during the credits is “This Could All Be Yours” by Guster.

Conclusion

I would recommend this movie for anyone who enjoys comedies. Give it a chance–you won’t regret it!

Rating System

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

Links

Shows

Loki’s Back For His Own Series

Spoiler-Free Show Review:

Loki Season 1

Rating: 10 out of 10 stars

Intro

When I heard about this series, I was concerned about whether it would be any good because I was worried it would take away from the character development we saw in other movies. Instead, it provided the means for more character development and showed a different side of Loki.

Warning: This review does not contain any significant spoilers for Season 1 of Loki, but it does include some plot details from Episode 1.

Background

Loki Season 1 was created by Michael Waldron and released in 2021. It can be streamed on Disney+.

Summary

Loki escapes the Avengers only to be captured by the Time Variance Authority (TVA) and labeled a variant to the sacred timeline. To survive, he will have to use his wits and his own self-knowledge to capture an enemy of the TVA.

Pros

  • Enjoyable characters
  • Strong character development
  • Phenomenal acting
  • Immersive setting
  • The show is unpredictable and strange, which is fitting for a series centering around the god of mischief
  • Well-chosen music

Cons

  • There are no specific cons I would like to point out. This series does stretch believability, but considering the god of mischief is the main character, I don’t see that as a bad thing.

Observations

  • Inspired in a lot of ways by the comics

Review

Characters

Loki wins the prize for most character development out of everyone from this series. Watching his character unfold was like watching a narcissistic caterpillar turn into an equally narcissistic butterfly. Yeah, he does remain a narcissist, but he’s forced to re-evaluate his entire worldview and come to terms with who he truly is.

Mobius is kind of patronizing at first, but once you figure out what makes him tick, he’s easier to understand and appreciate. He kind of fulfills a mentor role to Loki in that Loki does learn some things from him, but he’s not the stereotypical old dude fulfilling his duty to pass on unwanted wisdom.

Miss Minutes is the holographic mascot for the TVA, explaining its mission to maintain the sacred timeline to Loki when he first is captured. She handles looking up information in the TVA’s databases, but is more than just a tool. Often, she acts like a sentient being with her own feelings and concerns.

Acting

The acting was impeccable, especially by Tom Hiddleston, Owen Wilson, and Sophia Di Martino. Hiddleston using a range of complex expressions to get across Loki’s reactions to pivotal events was especially effective.

Setting

The TVA as a setting was perfect. It combined a bunch of old-fashioned propaganda posters, dated cartoons, and futuristic devices to make a unique atmosphere. It was a perfect blend of old and new to make the setting seem timeless and immersive.

Plot

The plot throws you for a lot of loops. (And not just time loops.) Every time everything seems chill and like things are going to go one way, things escalate and the stakes become even higher.

Music

The quirky and thematic music of this season added to the atmosphere. There is currently a soundtrack out for Episodes 1-3 called “Loki Volume 1” and it can be found on Spotify.

Inspiration

The whole concept of the TVA and the Timekeepers, as wells as many of the characters were inspired by the comics. I love that Disney is taking into account previous works in the Marvel Universe rather than taking an entirely new path.

Conclusion

If you like Marvel, then you will appreciate this show focused on one of Marvel’s most enduring characters.

Rating System

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

Links