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.

Humor, Movies

So Now the Death Stare is Romantic?

Movie Analysis (with spoilers!!):

Twilight (2008)

Rating: 4 out of 10 stars

Intro

This analysis is a spoiler-filled review. If you don’t already know, my reviews that include spoilers are either for phenomenal movies that deserve analysis or movies that invite ridicule. I know many people enjoy the Twilight movies, but they are honestly poorly done and certainly not my style.

My siblings convinced me to watch it. I admit, romance is not my favorite genre, but this movie was particularly bad.

Background

Twilight was produced by Summit Entertainment and released in 2008.

The movie stars Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Billy Burke, and Peter Facinelli.

It can currently be watched on Netflix.

Analysis

The movie starts with 17-year-old Bella Swan leaving home to go live with her dad in Forks, Washington. This is followed by a scene in which Edward Cullen hunts and kills a deer. I think this is supposed to be serious, but seeing a guy come out of nowhere and grab a jumping deer was kind of hilarious. Watch the clip here.

There is something pretty respectable about deer hunting with a gun, but there is nothing remotely respectable about a pale teenager tackling a deer.

Soon afterwards we get to meet Jacob, one of Bella’s closest friends. His father Billy Black chats with them for awhile before trying to run someone over with his wheelchair. Bella hits Jacob with the door of the truck when she opens it, which reminds me of the movie Starstruck in which the heroine is hit by a car door. Both scenes are equally awkward, but the action seemed a little less pointless in Starstruck.

Bella joins in the middle of the semester, in March, and yet almost everyone with a speaking role either knows of her already or instantly is attracted to her. Mike introduces himself after she hits him in the back of the head with a volleyball, and he falls for her quickly. I guess it’s because she hit on him. Get it? With a volleyball?

(That was bad, I know.)

We meet the Cullen kids, who oddly enough are dating each other. I mean, I know that they are not technically biologically siblings, but it is still kind of strange to see the children of one family all around the exact same age and in love with each other.

The Cullen Teens

Immediately we get the first dramatic stare between Bella Swan and Edward Cullen. Now, if Edward’s stares were comparable to anything, it would be the infamous Luigi Death Stare from the Mariokart games.

When Bella walks in to the Biology classroom, there is a fan behind her that blows her hair around. I guess that’s supposed to be attractive, but really, it’s just awkward and contrived. And why is that giant fan even necessary? It’s March in a setting that is almost always rainy or overcast.

Bella ends up sitting beside Edward, who is obviously extremely uncomfortable. Something about Bella really rubs him the wrong way.

Notice the wings of the owl right behind Edward, making him look like some pasty-looking angel.

Anyway, Bella finds out Edward tried to quit Biology because he had to sit next to her and is understandably confused and annoyed.

Meanwhile, random people are being hunted and killed by vampires. My instinct was to blame the pale Cullen family, but apparently they are goodie-goodie vampires. Or what was it Edward said? That they were basically vegetarians. Who drink the blood of animals. So basically the opposite of a vegetarian…Yeah, he’s pretty bad at metaphors.

Despite the fact the relationship between Bella and Edward is supposed to be all romantic and cute, they have zero chemistry. They discuss the weather. They have apparently nothing in common. Edward apologizes, saying he is just trying to figure her out, as if she is a complex math problem instead of a one-note protagonist.

Then more staring until finally, the action starts! Bella almost is hit by a vehicle, which Edward stops easily with a hand. Before sneaking away, he stares deep into Bella’s eyes.

Then Bella dreams of Edward in her room. Or that is what she says happened. But I’m pretty sure if you’re awake when it happens, it’s either a hallucination or reality–not a dream. Later we will find out it’s the latter, which is so freakin’ creepy. Edward would literally be the perfect murderer if he was not a lovesick vampire.

“Bella, we shouldn’t be friends,” Edward says randomly a few days after their awkward interaction about the weather and Bella’s rescue from certain death. Bella really wants to be besties, however, because she won’t let him off the hook. He makes some stupid excuses suggesting he didn’t actually stop a car with his bare hands. Honestly, you would think someone who hid over a hundred years in plain sight would get used to lying about supernatural powers.

There’s a subsequent scene where an apple is dropped and it looks super unlikely and seems to serve no purpose. You can watch it here in the first few seconds of the video. The only reason I can think of for it being in the movie at all is that it could be a subtle reference to the cover art of Twilight.

Edward suggests that he is the bad guy in the story, which is not necessarily true. He’s just a 108-year-old man child who watches a girl minor sleep without her permission or knowledge long before they started dating.

You know what? Maybe he is a bad guy.

Another human bites the dust when the nomadic vampires come to feast again. Their fast movements look basically like the film was fast forwarded, not realistic at all.

Bella and her friends go dress shopping, but Bella is not into it. Clearly it’s another one of those “not like the other girls” tropes.

After dress shopping, poor helpless Bella is rescued from a bunch of potential rapists by Edward, who has been stalking her. He stares them down until they leave.

You heard me. He stares at them. I mean look at this. Wouldn’t it scare you away?

The Stare

I mean, it does make me uncomfortable. But I don’t see how it would be sufficient deterrent for a rowdy bunch of drunk rapists.

Edward tells Bella to distract him so he doesn’t go back and kill the men who were threatening Bella. Apparently that doesn’t clue her off to the fact that maybe, just maybe, he isn’t just a hot guy. On that note–he really isn’t, according to both of my siblings. I never think of people as hot, nor do I really understand what makes someone hot, so I can’t speak my mind on the subject, but I trust my siblings. This dude is not hot.

Then they bond over the fact that they both know the square root of pi. Now being a nerd is cool, in my opinion, but I still don’t like Bella or Edward, and especially not Bella and Edward.

He cannot read her mind, which is definitely not explained, at least in this movie. He can read everyone else’s mind, except hers. Now that makes me think of Nendo. In The Disastrous Life of Saiki K, Saiki K can read everyone’s mind, including animals, but he can’t read Nendo’s mind. Why? Because Nendo is so abysmally stupid. Maybe he can’t read her mind because she doesn’t think?

Edward has all these lackluster pick up lines that are creepy for any guy to use who doesn’t know her well. “I feel very protective of you” and “I don’t have the strength to stay away from you anymore.”

His hands are always cold, which I don’t know why she is cool with, because she literally says earlier how she dislikes cold things like rain.

Bella studies vampires when she gets the chance, reading articles in particular about Egyptian vampires. Because obviously if you are looking for info about vampires in the U.S., Egypt is the place to study.

Bella says the Edward is a vampire and he admits to it.

He also says he is 17 years old and has been for a long time. Now that’s simply inaccurate. If people were assigned ages based on appearance, I would have been marked down as a 12-year-old even when I was 17. No, age is based on how many years have elapsed since one’s birth. So yeah, he’s 108 years old.

Edward gives Bella an awkward superspeed piggy back ride to the top of the mountain to show off his sparkly skin. What’s better than a pasty vampire, you wonder? A bedazzled one, clearly. He seems to think he is hideous, but Bella apparently is attracted to people who could be used as disco balls.

And people who have killed. And people who subsist on blood. And people who literally have to resist the urge to eat her.

Edward compares their budding relationship to a lion falling in love with a lamb. This guy sucks at pickup lines. I mean, comparing yourself to a predator and your crush to prey is not the best way to get a date. But man, Bella is digging it.

Edward takes Bella to his house, where everyone is awkwardly nice to her except Rosalie, who without provocation destroys a poor salad bowl. The others do their best to whip up some dinner for her, but obviously are as clueless as me when it comes to cooking.

As they walk to Edward’s bedroom, they pass a wall of graduation caps. The five Cullen kids have graduated countless times, and all I can think is why? Why don’t they get jobs? Or move on? Why do they think they need to repeat high school in a new place over and over again.

There we learn that Edward doesn’t sleep, but we knew that. He wouldn’t have time anyway, what with watching Bella sleep.

They attempt dancing in the room, but Bella is reluctant and doesn’t really feel like it. He says, “Well, I could always make you.”

Um, what?

Then he calls her his spider monkey and carries her into the trees on his back. Spider monkey. That’s so cringey.

After more awkwardness, this interaction is finally over.

She has some father-daughter time. Her dad orders for them at the restaurant, picking a steak for himself and a salad for her. If my dad did that, I would be less than thrilled.

Next, a kissing scene that looks like…just not right. I’ve seen a lot of people kiss on TV, and their kissing looks more like the kissing from Jumanji than anything actually romantic.

The only other interesting things that happen in this movie is vampire baseball and the actual villain hunting Bella. And the baseball is just a bunch of superpowered people playing so loudly the thunder has to mask it. Then a rival team shows up, a bunch of vampires that want to play until they smell Bella. Then they just want a snack. (They have really short attention spans.)

One of them, James, hunts Bella until the end of the movie where he is burnt alive, but not before biting Bella. Yep, that got dark real quick.

Bella has vampire venom in her, which Edward sucks out of her. He is almost unable to stop himself from sucking out all her blood, but hey, no harm done.

She wakes up in a hospital bed with a broken leg.

The movie ends with a prom. I guess he did make her dance after all.

Conclusion

Overall, Twilight is a bizarre and unconvincing romance. If this is what romance is supposed to look like, I want nothing to do with it. I would not recommend it for any audience, unless you just want a few laughs.

Rating System

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

Links

Acknowledgements

Thank you to Finch for their 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