Sit Down and Watch Some WandaVision: WandaVision Review

I’m a fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as is most of the globe at this point. (Is that an overgeneralization? Maybe. But I’m making it anyways!)

So no matter what the MCU elects to churn out to the masses, I’m going to watch it. I’m going to immerse myself in the trailers and the lore discussions and the review videos afterwards. It’s a whole process.

When I first saw the trailers for WandaVision, I was mightily intrigued. The show appeared to be doing something it had never tried before. Both Wanda Maximoff and the Vision were seen in these sitcom roles from various eras of television. This would be mystifying enough if it weren’t for the fact that the character of Vision was considered dead at this point.

What follows is going to be a spoiler-free review on the off chance you haven’t seen the show yet. (Though given that it’s been about a month since the last episode released, you really should have checked it out by now.) And yeah, I know I’m covering the show way later than I should. But, I mean, I am a Below Average person. It’s part of my descriptor. Might as well cover shows in a Below Average fashion, right?

WandaVision uses perhaps the most interesting vehicle I’ve yet seen to tell a Marvel Cinematic Universe story. It follows the familiar structure of sitcoms to tell its tale, so much so that you might not understand what’s going on at first.

Any fan of the MCU will enjoy this show as it offers a unique perspective into certain events that were never really explained in the films, and the sitcom angle is really quite fascinating. Newcomers to the MCU should definitely not start here, as the appeal of many moments in WandaVision rely heavily on past occurrences in the movies.

However, the people who will truly appreciate WandaVision are those who both love the MCU and have a deep-seated affection for a good sitcom. WandaVision is an homage to the art of the sitcom, and even though I’m not overly familiar with every sitcom on the block, even I could recognize the trends and stereotypes it was poking fun at.

Character development in WandaVision could have been something that was washed over thanks to the shiny appeal of the sitcom trappings, but several fan-favorite MCU characters get to display how the events of both Infinity War and Endgame have affected them. I’m just going to go right out and say it: Wanda in particular is the one to watch.

Unfortunately, and this is perhaps one of the most prevalent MCU weaknesses across the board, the “villain” suffers from rather unclear motivations and power mechanics. You are introduced to their story in a single episode, and no big explanations are provided.

The most intriguing aspect of WandaVision is how it sets up Wanda’s future in the MCU. The implications are major, and if you’re a fan of the universe, you will feel the potential ramifications of the show’s ending ripple throughout your mind more quickly than a snap of Thanos’ fingers.

Personally, I enjoyed the show, but it’s not my favorite outing into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s not something I will go out of my way to rewatch. That said, I heartily appreciate what the show set out to accomplish. It went for something new, and I think it largely succeeded.

Besides, I love campiness and I love super heroes, and WandaVision has both in spades.

I rate WandaVision a bewitching-good-time-that-spells-an-interesting-future-for-the-MCU.

The Trouble With Tenet: Tenet Review

The pandemic has thoroughly wrecked my usual form of movie entertainment. Before going into lockdown in March, one of my favorite things to do was call up a few friends and go see the latest movies at our local theater.

Yeah, that’s been out the window for a while now.

When Tenet was announced to be releasing in theaters, I possessed mixed feelings about it. On the one hand, I was thrilled at the notion of a Christopher Nolan movie premiering at theaters. A Nolan film is typically a fantastic thing to see on the big screen, an absolute must-watch of the movie season.

On the other hand, none of my local theaters were reopening anytime soon and even if they did, my stress levels and concern for my health would prevent me from seeing Tenet in them. So the news of its release also brought about its fair share of disappointment.

However, my spirits were raised thanks to my boyfriend suggesting we rent it on Redbox when it came out there, and we’d watch it together, make it a movie-date-night kind of thing safe from home.

I love my boyfriend, I love Christopher Nolan movies, and I love watching Christopher Nolan movies with my boyfriend. Sounded like a recipe for a pleasant evening.

As I waited for the day when Tenet released, I refused to read any reviews about the movie. However, one day, I caved and read some of the comments below an ad for the movie while scrolling through Instagram. (I should know better than to read the comments section by now.) Most of these strangers who took the time to type up a response on this ad were complaining about Tenet, saying it was just too confusing.

Now, I’d seen both Inception and Interstellar, so I scoffed at these remarks, knowing I could handle any complex plot Christopher Nolan could throw at me.

Boy, was I wrong.

I can now personally attest to the messy tangle of Tenet’s plot. The movie is basically a clever concept poorly executed and explained in a terrible fashion.

Normally, whenever I review a movie, I’ll provide a brief synopsis of the film, giving you a chance to learn about the story if you haven’t seen it yet.

Tenet’s story is so complicated, I actually leaned back in my chair while writing the outline for this post, absolutely stumped on how to go about explaining it.

Essentially, a man gets hired by a group (I think) to stop a time war that is about to happen thanks to another unknown group from the future (I think) sending items that can go back in time (I think) to the present in order to start or end this war (I think).

This is kind of conjecture, and I’ve seen the movie.

Tenet goes beyond Inception when it comes to how complicated the plot and story mechanics are. In Inception, rules were laid out for moviegoers to follow, and you could visually understand certain aspects about moving through a person’s dreams thanks to the power of filmmaking.

The character of Arthur from Inception spends a lot of time explaining to Ariadne, a newcomer to the dream-thief business, how things work in the dream world. As he explains things to her, he is explaining them to us. Having a rookie character in a story can help you as a storyteller more easily explain complex notions to people. They learn as your character learn.

And the film itself visually showcases how things going on in the real world can affect things in the dream world. It does so in small bursts, such as when a character needs a kick to get out of a dream, and they get jolted awake in the real world. However, Inception also showcases these moments in stunning visual displays, such as when Arthur must fight in a hotel hallway while in the dream level above him there is zero gravity.

Tenet has a barebones moment where “time traveling” is explained, but the notion is so beyond comprehension, it’s not enough to swallow the later events of the movie.

The main character of Tenet, imaginatively named Protagonist (no, I’m not joking), is shown an “inverted” object. It’s a thing that moves backward through time. For example, an inverted bullet gets fired back into a gun and an inverted ball leaps back into your hand.

Right off the bat, I can’t wrap my head around how this works. Protagonist implies it’s half thought, half physical action that makes this happen. But showing me Protagonist as he fires a gun that sucks a bullet back up does not explain to me how it works.

And that is the simplest example of going-backwards-in-time that the film shows you. Once fistfights, car chases, and murders start happening in reverse time, it gets even harder to understand the mechanics of this time travel.

And it didn’t help that when things are explained, they’re using words like “inverted entropy.” The whole movie requires captions to be turned on (which my boyfriend considers a cardinal sin when watching a film that is meant to be viewed without words scrolling across the bottom).

Aside from the convoluted mechanics of inverted time, Tenet also suffers from one glaring issue: it has no heart.

Nolan has covered mind-bending concepts in his films before, from faulty memory in Memento to dream-incepting in Inception. But one thing you could always count on in these past films was a strong emotional connection to the main character. Leonard Shelby was driven by an urge to seek revenge for the murder of his wife. Dominick Cobb is desperate to clear his name so he can see his children again. Interstellar’s entire story is practically driven by Cooper’s love for his daughter.

Tenet is missing that emotional thread that kept us invested in the intellectual twists and turns of Nolan’s other films. Protagonist is a bad-ass, but he’s a blank slate. I relate more to John Wick for his love of his puppy than I do to Protagonist.

Sure, we know Protagonist is a good guy. He’s working to save the world and its future after all. But he is missing that emotional element that would keep me rooting for him aside from a general interest in the survival of humanity.

Side note: Jeez, I sound like an uncaring person, but I hope you guys know what I mean.

Tenet is an intriguing film to watch, definitely one that’ll keep you thinking the entire time, but it is difficult to comprehend and connect to the protagonist’s journey on several layers.

I rate Tenet an avoid-if-you-don’t-want-to-spend-hours-watching-explanation-videos-afterwards-and-if-you-don’t-like-subtitles-because-man-this-movie-requires-you-to-have-them-on.

Who Watched the Watchmen?

I schedule my posts in advance, so I get a nice overview of what my published pieces will look like as they roll out. And I’ve got to say, I’ve been focusing a lot on the Movie/TV category lately. Sorry about that if you stick around for the book stuff or the video game stuff. People told me I should have the blog revolve around a specific thing instead of just going all over the place, but can I help it that I like movies, books, and video games almost equally?!

Anyways, today I thought I’d talk about Watchmen.

It is by far my all-time favorite graphic novel. I first read it when I was way too young for the content, and I remember purchasing the copy almost clandestinely. I don’t think my parents realized how mature comic books could be. I was around seven or eight years old when my dad handed The Sandman to me (which he had received from a friend who did not know my dad wasn’t into comics). And that graphic novel contains some of the most rated-R scenes I’ve ever seen. People stabbed their own eyes out, engaged in a sexual romp with more than four people participating, and admitted to necrophilia, all in one issue.

Anyways, Watchmen appealed to me for multiple reasons, not just because it felt like forbidden fruit. Even at a young age, I could tell that this story was game-changing. It deconstructed super hero tropes while simultaneously telling a gripping tale about the kinds of psyches that would have to participate in such caped crusades.

Side note: I wrote my college thesis on Watchmen’s deconstruction of these tropes and how it features multiple binary oppositions to do so.

When the Zack Snyder film came out in 2009, it was me and six other guys in the theater for the midnight premiere. It was the least-packed premiere I’ve ever particpated in, but you’ve got to appreciate the one man who came into the theater with a “The End Is Nigh” sign.

I enjoyed the movie, but my enjoyment largely came from the fact that the film was practically a frame-by-frame reconstruction of the graphic novel (with a few massive changes due to moviegoer considerations). This movie tiptoed around the original source material, a copy too afraid to alter what wasn’t broken.

In 2019, HBO released a TV series based on the graphic novel as well. It was not a recreation of the story like the 2009 film, but instead would be a continuation of the story, set in the same universe as the events of the comic. When I first heard about it, I was steeped in doubt, yet excitement still brewed within me.

And I’m happy to report that the HBO series exceeded my expectations, doing Watchmen, and what it set out to accomplish, proud.

Written by Damon Lindelof, this new series clearly grasps what Alan Moore did with the original work. Lindelof understands the spirit of Watchmen, perhaps more fully than Snyder. Lindelof took bold risks with the direction of the story, but these risks paid off because instead of telling yet another kick-ass superhero tale, he used the plot to deconstruct these tropes, along with several societal evils.

The original Watchmen spent just as much time pulling the curtain down on superheroes as it did exposing societal mores that are no longer relevant (or are too widely accepted despite being an ill that plagues human connection). Alan Moore focused on the terrors of Reaganism and the fallacies of that era. The HBO series centralizes on a more current cultural context, focusing on racial violence. It exposes this societal evil that still plagues the world today, and leaves viewers with a message that is not easily forgotten by the time the final episode concludes.

Now, this isn’t going to be a show I summarize or spoil. I’ve noticed a pattern in my posts; if I truly love a movie beyond just a normal appreciation, I’m more reluctant to detail the plot as I want you to watch it with fresh eyes.

So the most I want to tell you guys about the HBO Watchmen series is that there was nothing I didn’t like about it. I am almost inexpressibly pleased with it.

I think it’s a shame (an understandable one, but a shame nonetheless) that Alan Moore no longer expresses an interest in adaptations of his work. He has been burned many times by people butchering his graphic novels, turning complex and challenging stories into flashy pop fiction. But Lindelof has shown that he knows what made the original Watchmen tick.

I rate HBO’s Watchmen a jaw-dropping-series-that-captured-everything-I-loved-about-the-original-graphic-novel-and-turned-it-into-a-telling-deconstruction-of-our-times-that-will-stay-with-me-forever.

The Meaning of Life: Soul Review

I watched two movies this past Christmas, both of which released that very day directly to audiences at home. One of them was Wonder Woman 1984. After my last post, we both know how that turned out. The other was Soul.

And I just want to say how lucky I was that I chose to watch Soul after Wonder Woman 1984. There was no bitter taste left in my movie-watching mouth when I went to bed that night, all thanks to Pixar’s latest film.

Soul is a delightful movie that shares a great message, a message that I didn’t see coming until quite a ways through the story. (And I freakin’ loved that.)

Joe Gardner is a jazz pianist who finally catches a break when he signs up to do a gig with a famed saxophonist. Unfortunately for him, almost as soon as he finds out he got the job, he suffers a near-death experience. When he “wakes up,” he finds himself approaching the light.

Refusing to accept this fate, Joe leaps away from the Great Beyond and ends up in a place termed the Great Before. It’s a place where souls congregate before going down to Earth to inhabit newborn bodies. Desperate to make his way back to his comatose body on Earth, Joe learns he needs something called an Earth pass to make the dive.

He agrees to mentor Soul 22, a soul that has just refused to gain her Earth pass because she does not want to go through the trials and tribulations of being alive. They enter into an arrangement where Soul 22 will find her “Spark,” thus gaining her Earth pass, and then give it to Joe so he can return to his body.

That’s the basic premise, and it’s such a fascinating concept all on its own. But Soul does not rely solely on the premise to hook viewers. It follows through with a touching story about what it means to be alive.

I don’t want to spoil the movie for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet, so I highly recommend that if you haven’t seen Soul, stop reading right now. I refuse to go further into plot, but I do want to talk about the major theme of the film.

See, Joe believes that he was born to play jazz piano. He loves it more than practically anything. When he learns about Sparks, he ties that to someone’s purpose in life. He knows without a shadow of a doubt that piano-playing is his spark, his reason for being alive.

However, as Soul goes on to show us, Joe really is missing the whole point of being alive.

Soul does for living what Inside Out did for emotions. Inside Out’s major revelation showcased that Sadness is a vital emotion when it comes to expressing empathy or seeking help from other human beings. It slowly built this point up over the course of the story, showing how Riley was not getting the help she needed because Sadness was not allowed to take the reins for a time.

Soul reveals to us that there is no materialistic or purpose-driven Spark that readies a soul for life on Earth. All it takes is a passion for the joys of living and an appreciation for the sensations you can only experience by being alive. You don’t need to be a skilled pianist or a talented sports player to justify your existence.

And I have to admit, I didn’t see this message coming, even though after a second viewing, I could see the moments where it was readily apparent. I kept waiting for the reveal of what Soul 22’s Spark was going to be. Would it be teaching? Would it be as simple as communicating with other people? I was ignorant of where the story was leading me until a character outright told me about the silliness of getting hung up on “purposes.”

It’s a hefty concept, and I’ve heard more than one person say that Soul is not a movie meant for kids. Personally, I think those people underestimate the kinds of themes a kid can handle. (Though I do think a kid might find Soul an ounce more boring than, let’s say, The Incredibles.)

I rate Soul a balm-for-the-soul-especially-when-you-have-the-tendency-to-question-why-you’re-alive-and-what’s-your-purpose-in-existing.

The Wonder Is Gone: Wonder Woman 1984 Review

For those who have been with me for a long time, you probably know I’m…lenient when it comes to reviewing movies. I have loved some notoriously bad movies. And I’m not even talking about bad-on-purpose movies like Mortal Kombat.

I liked The Rise of Skywalker, if that tells you anything.

But every so often, a movie just…irritates me. And for anybody who knows me, you know that a movie has to make some egregious mistakes for me to start getting annoyed.

The first Wonder Woman movie is by no means bad. It’s fantastic, actually. I really enjoyed it. Even praised a particular moment in a single post. To say my hopes were high for Wonder Woman 1984 would be an understatement.

Which is maybe where all my dissatisfaction with the film stems from.

Wonder Woman 1984 is a letdown, mired in terrible story elements and plot holes, while simultaneously tantalizing viewers with the wonder that might have been.

Spoiler Warning!

Brief Synopsis (In Which I Might Sound Irked)

After the events of the first film, it’s clear that Diana Prince still pines for Steve Trevor. Never mind the fact that she met him for about a week in 1918 and more than fifty years have passed since then. She has never let go of her feelings for him, as indicated by this ham-fisted scene where the gorgeous Diana dines alone at a restaurant.

Diana is introduced to Barbara Minerva, a coworker who works specifically with gems. Barbara is an awkward woman who speaks rapidly and is clearly in awe of Diana’s grace and beauty.

Barbara works with this specific gem/stone/artifact that turns out to be a wishing stone. That’s right, you heard me correctly. A wishing stone. Barbara inadvertently wishes to be like Diana, and when Diana briefly holds the stone, she wishes for Steve to come back.

We are then introduced to this guy named Max Lord, who is aware of the stone’s powers and wishes to possess it. He gets ahold of it by cozying up to Barbara, then wishes that he could be the stone. The stone disappears and Max Lord now has the power to grant people’s wishes.

However, the wishes come with a price, and everyone who has made a wish (by the stone or by Max Lord) needs to pay, be it unintended bodily consequences or ambiguous moral depravity.

Diana and the newly resurrected Steve Trevor (who is in another person’s body) have to find a way to resolve things, and they figure out the solution is to have everyone renounce their wishes.

The end.

I rushed through that synopsis. My bad. But I’m mainly here to cite my grievances.

Shall we get started?

That Beginning Flashback

At the beginning of the movie, there is this flashback to Diana’s childhood on Themyscira. Some Amazonian Olympic-games event is happening, and young Diana is eager to participate and win. She cheats a bit toward the end and is caught, and the moral of this flashback is to not lie.

Looking back, I can’t even see the purpose of this flashback. I suppose that since the climax of the movie is when Wonder Woman uses her Lasso of Truth to convince Max Lord to renounce his own wish, whoever wrote the movie thought a flashback about her cheating in her youth would tie in with her getting someone else to see the truth of a situation.

But even as I type this, it feels like such a tangential connection. If that flashback had been removed from the movie, the story would not have been affected at all.

Barbara And Diana’s “Friendship”

Of all the aspects that intrigued me the most from the trailer of Wonder Woman 1984, the relationship between Barbara Minerva and Wonder Woman was at the top of the list.

If you’ve read the comics, you know that Barbara becomes the villain Cheetah, and her history with Diana is actually tragic and interesting. I was looking forward to seeing how that would be iterated onscreen.

Terribly, was the answer I got.

Barbara and Diana do not seem to spend any meaningful time together. At times, it feels like Diana is only hanging out with Barbara to learn more about the wishing stone. It never feels like she cares about her. And who can blame her, I suppose. Their “friendship” encompassed one meal shared together.

And to make things suckier, we as viewers are introduced to this early dinner by a quick cut to Diana laughing and saying “I don’t think I’ve laughed this much in a while” or some such shit like that, which is the laziest way to indicate that two characters are getting along.

Like…just show me them getting along. Show me Barbara telling Diana the thing that made her laugh so much. Show, don’t tell. Writing 101.

Steve Body-Snatching Someone

So, remember how Diana wished on the stone that Steve would come back to her?

He did come back, in a way.

Except he comes back in the body of another man.

And I don’t know why this happens.

So, initially, I thought that was the price Diana had to pay for getting Steve back. The two of them would have to confront the fact that they have effectively erased the consciousness of the man who originally inhabited the body, and Diana would have to confront how selfish she wants to be, keeping her long-lost love in a body that wasn’t his.

But then, it’s revealed that the price for Diana getting Steve back was that she lost some of her powers.

Which means some guy losing his body for days is not part of the wishing stone’s consequences.

Fuck that.

Is this movie telling me that the stone can make nuclear warheads appear where there were none, make walls rise from the earth that span miles, subvert a person’s will to someone else’s, but it can’t recreate a dead Steve’s body?

Fuck. That.

Plus, it is heavily implied in the film that Diana and Steve-Who-Is-Not-In-Steve’s-Body have sex with each other. Which basically means that the guy whose body got stolen had no say in the matter. Which essentially means he was raped.

What Are the Rules for Wishing Anyways?

The exact rules for wishing are never explained, so things that are wished for can just happen, no matter how strange or nonsensical.

At first, you might think it’s simple enough. You hold the stone and say a wish out loud. But Diana never actually spoke what her wish was. She just wished it in her head and it came true.

And then toward the end of the movie, after Max Lord has become the stone, it’s revealed the the definition of “touching” the stone is wider than the Grand Canyon. (I don’t know about you, but I never thought that watching television counts as me touching whoever is on the screen.)

The movie plays it so loosey-goosey with these magic rules, and I loathe magic that isn’t explained properly.

Diana’s Invisibility Powers

Oh, yeah, Wonder Woman can turn things invisible now. When she and Steve are trying to locate Max Lord, they steal an airplane together. They get noticed by authorities, so Diana just busts out this newfound power that we never knew she had. Turns the whole plane invisible.

And then they see a pretty fireworks display, which I don’t think they should have flown right through.

Diana’s Decrease in Power

After wishing for Steve, Diana suffers a small decrease in her normal power levels. However, this feels wildly inconsistent with what we’re shown. She can flip a car over and lasso bullets out of the air without any trouble or scratch on her, but she starts getting cuts and abrasions from punches and stuff.

Plus, something about her movements in this movie seem…off. I can’t put my finger on it, but it feels like her body does not move the way it should given her motions and the motions of the world around her.

Max Lord Broadcasts Wishes

Back to the stupidity of the wishes.

Max Lord visits this top-secret government broadcasting station because he wants to gain as much access to the population of the globe as he can. He’s not satisfied with giving people wishes (and naming their consequences) one at a time as they grip his hands.

And the reason this method is viable as a source of wish-giving is because those broadcasting signals contain particles that touch the people watching.

Yeah, no.

Just no.

If you show me Max Lord grabbing the hands of people he wants to give wishes to for hours and then expect me to believe that him on a TV screen will accomplish the same thing, I’m going to have a little trouble believing it.

Worldly Repercussions

Max Lord messes shit up by giving everyone wishes. Some people wished for others dead, a lot of people wished to be rich, and government officials wished for nukes to appear out of thin air.

And even if I were to swallow that everyone on the planet renounced their wish, you can’t tell me that the world forgot this day of madness. Those people who got murdered, were they brought back to life? And if they were, do you think they’d forget the fact that someone wished them dead?

If this movie exists in the DC movie universe, it should be as well-known as the day Thanos snapped his fingers in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Barbara’s Ending

Everything having to do with Barbara I was disappointed with. I feel like it could have been so much more if they didn’t treat her as a sideshow character. She ends up becoming Cheetah by having Max Lord gain a wish and use its consequences to benefit her. (At least I think that’s how it works. The wishes are so screwy in this movie.) And when everyone renounces their wish, it’s never made clear if Barbara renounced hers.

And after she is defeated by Wonder Woman, that’s the last we see of her.

Physics

Normally, during a super hero movie, I never question the science of things. At no point during Iron Man do I start breaking down how the arc reactor shouldn’t work. At no point in Batman Begins do I question how the Batmobile leaps from rooftop to rooftop.

Wonder Woman 1984 had me questioning everything. Her lasso seems to have a mind of its own, and it does not obey the laws of physics even when it comes to something as simple as swinging a robber around. I could spend days dissecting how inane it is for a lasso to grab onto a bullet or how strange it appears when it reaches indefinable lengths to grab onto a plane.

But I don’t want to be mad for days.

A lot of the fight scenes did not make sense to me as they were happening because I could not figure out how objects and people would move.

You know how if someone throws a tennis ball toward you and it bounces on the floor, you can more or less anticipate where it will be so you can lean forward and catch it? Wonder Woman 1984 physics feel more like trying to anticipate where a deformed American football might bounce to.

Conclusion

I can usually recommend a bad movie to a person based solely on it being a fun bad movie.

I can’t do that with Wonder Woman 1984 because it is so frustrating how potential was just wasted.

Conceptually, Max Lord as a villain is fantastic. Imagine a villain who could grant people wishes. That would lead to some great conflict, perhaps on par with the Purple Man from Jessica Jones.

The backstory of Barbara and Diana could have been the stuff of tragic legends, especially with so much comic book source material to draw upon.

But these things fall flat in the execution.

I rate Wonder Woman 1984 a disappointing-sequel-that-I-would-never-recommend-even-if-I-was-holding-onto-the-Lasso-of-Truth.

Watching The Blob

I have a fondness for old movies.

Side note: I also have a fondness for saying “I have a fondness” for things. I feel like I’ve done this a million times in a million different posts. Sorry about that.

A week ago, I spent a happy evening on the couch with the boyf watching The Blob. For those of you who haven’t heard of this gem, it’s a campy old horror movie from 1958 about a (I kid you not) gelatinous blob that attacks a town. As you can guess, the movie is utterly ridiculous, but I had a fantastic time watching it.

I mean, seriously, it’s a blob. It’s a gelatinous blob. It starts off about the size of my hand, and it eventually grows to be the size of a local movie theater. The origins of the Blob remain largely unclear. You know it came from space, but that’s about it. What also remains unclear is how exactly it consumes its victims.

At the beginning of the movie, it attaches itself to this old man’s hand, and thanks to the power of editing, it starts growing larger and larger. We never see it grow though. It’s like you blink and it’s suddenly larger.

We rarely see it move either. You’ll see it pulse or edge forward, but there’s never really a good time where its motion is captured on video. (Except for this one scene where it seeps under a crack in a door. That was awesome.)

This adds to the hilarity, because all the townsfolk who encounter it have to be on the ground for it to get them. I know it’s a horror trope to trip at the most inconvenient times, but this movie makes it even more ridiculous. At least two women trip on nothing. They’re indoors, for crying out loud. There are no leaves, roots, or sidewalk cracks to mess with their shoes. And when they’re on the ground screaming, they don’t even try to crawl away. They just keep shrieking.

Eventually, the Blob gets big enough to swallow buildings, and that’s when the movie reaches its climax.

However, before I dive into the finale, I should probably spare a thought or two to our completely forgettable cast of characters. The Blob introduces us to Steve and Jane, two “teenagers” who should win awards for looking 20 years older than teenagers. They are purportedly two sweethearts in love, but the movie opens up in an incredibly off-putting fashion. Jane is uncomfortably telling Steve she’s not ready to move so fast (they’re kissing in a car), and Steve awkwardly agreeing to slow down.

And then we cut to a meteor falling and Steve suggesting they go investigate it.

Couldn’t they have come up with a better way to start the story?

What then follows is some of the strangest dialogue I’ve ever heard in an old movie. I’m normally fond of that affected accent you hear in old-timey films, but in The Blob, that accent is coupled with the weirdest non sequiturs I’ve ever heard. It’s like the writers didn’t know how people talk. Or maybe I’m just not used to white man colloquialisms. Who knows?

Steve and Jane are joined by some raucous young boys (they’re men, seriously, they look so old) and some small-town cops to comprise the main cast. Steve’s fellow teenage males all give off this macho vibe, so much so that you can’t tell if they’re angry at him or if they’re best buds. And the cops are either down-with-all-teenagers or I’m-your-best-friend-you-can-trust-me types.

Side note: There’s this pretty hilarious moment where one of the cops looks right at the camera when he’s talking, and it’s a gut-bustingly incongruous action.

Anyway, the Blob ends up being averse to cold temperatures, as Steve and Jane find out when they hide from it in a meat locker. They notice that it retreats from attacking them. This information comes in handy later on when they’re trapped in a diner that the Blob has enveloped. Just when it looks like all hope is lost, they realize they can chase it off of the building by spraying fire extinguishers at it.

An army of local teenage boys who were not there for the entire movie show up to break into the high school, steal a bunch of fire extinguishers, and help free Steve and Jane from the diner.

The Blob shrinks down a bit, and the movie concludes by showing a helicopter traveling to Antarctica where it’s going to drop off the Blob so it can never hurt anyone again.

Which is one way to deal with a piece of jelly from outer space.

The Blob is not the best old movie I’ve ever seen, but it does have its moments. It’s an enjoyable watch, but you will have to remember that it is a campy movie not meant to be taken too seriously.

However, I do think it would be really cool if someone made a modern-day reboot and turned it into a legitimately scary movie. Like if that game Carrion were to be mashed together with The Blob and The Thing, I think we’d have a whole new classic on our hands.

A Miasma of Mediocrity: Mulan Synopsis

For those of you who have stuck with my blog over the interminable months it’s been alive, you know that I am relatively kind when it comes to movies. I mean, I saw Rise of Skywalker, and I was not ashamed to gush over how entertaining it was.

Clearly, I have very low standards.

As a matter of fact, many of my so-called “reviews” are nothing more than gush-a-thons where I haphazardly talk about how much I liked something. It’s like I can’t do a serious review even if I tried. I’m just caught up with enthusiasm and Below Averageness.

However, every once in a while, a movie just incites my vitriol, and what is usually a happy-go-lucky rant turns into a harsh and critiquing diatribe. (For an example of this, in case you’re curious, feel free to check out my Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald or my Cats review.)

I haven’t been to see a terribly bad movie in a while, in large part because movie theaters are a thing of the past now, what with the pandemic and the temporary closure of all my local movie theaters.

Thankfully, Disney’s live-action Mulan movie is here to save the day!

To be frank, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. My boyfriend saw it first and told me it was terrible, so I was primed for abysmal levels of low-quality movie madness. When it turned out to be very “meh,” that was actually an improvement upon my expectations.

And in order to save you, my beloved Above Average readers, from having to watch the dang thing yourselves, instead of a mere review, I’m going to synopsis the shit out of this movie.

With a few healthy helpings of Below Average commentary on the side.

Are you ready?

Thus Begins My Below Average Synopsis of Mulan (2020)

We get a glimpse of young Mulan as her father (at least I think it’s her father) narrates in the background. She’s in a field whirling a long stick around like a sword. She’s doing a bunch of fancy moves while her father explains how gifted she was in utilizing her “Chi.”

I’m going to pause here to let you know that “Chi” is brought up all the time in this movie, and it basically means mystical-inner-energy-that-makes-you-able-to-do-incredible-feats-like-jump-really-high-and-do-mega-flips-a-la-Crouching-Tiger-Hidden-Dragon-oh-and-it-might-also-let-you-do-magic. It’s like the Force, but even more unexplained.

After seeing Mulan practice using her Chi in that field, we then see the small town where she grew up. It’s a quaint place, brightly colored and rustic. Mulan’s family lives there, including her father, mother, and sister.

While trying to round up some chickens, one of them escapes, and Mulan proceeds to chase it back into its pen.

I don’t know what to tell you, but that chicken must have some pretty strong Chi levels too. It engages in some highly dubious acrobatics, but Mulan is able to keep up with it, showing off her own ability with her Chi as well. During the chase, she breaks a Phoenix statue and pisses off all of her neighbors. Apparently, it’s not proper for little girls to be incredibly agile and gravity-defying.

Late at night, her mom discusses the matter of Mulan’s Chi with her father. The two parents decide they don’t want their neighbors to look upon their daughter as a witch, so they agree she must hide her Chi abilities. And as with any secret conversation, Mulan overhears everything. However, she acquiesces to her father’s wishes, and she spends the next few years tamping down on her gymnastics.

Meanwhile, this dude named Bori Khan wants to bring down the Emperor of China. He’s amassed a sizable force, but his ace in the hole is this “witch” named Xianniang. She is magic times ten. She has incredibly long nails to attack people, she can turn into a falcon, and her sleeves are deadly weapons.

Bori Khan doesn’t seem to treat her too well, but he has made promises that when he takes over China, she will no longer be an outcast for having incredible Chi. It’s now clear that Xianniang possesses great power just like Mulan, and she has suffered ostracism and discrimination because of it.

And it’s at this point that I’m like, “Dude, maybe Bori Khan’s the good guy.”

Anyways, war is upon China, so the Emperor sends his Chancellor to summon all the men in the land to fight. (If you’ve seen the cartoon, you know the line.)

We go back to teenage Mulan, and her upcoming meeting with a matchmaker. She gets dolled up and unhappily goes to see if she’s suitable for marriage along with her mother and sister.

And apparently, it’s a crime to be a good sister. During the meeting, a spider crawls onto the table, and Mulan’s sister is terrified of them. Noticing this, Mulan picks up a nearby teapot and places it over the spider to trap it. The matchmaker gets all pissy and is like, “Did I tell you to move that teapot? No? Then why are you doing it? Stop that.”

Mulan is forced to remove the teapot from the spot and reveal the spider.

Unfortunately, like the chicken before it, this spider has got a talent for gravity-defying jumps. It leaps into the air and causes immediate chaos. Mulan tries to salvage the tea ceremony by jumping onto the table and catching pots, but some of them break, and the matchmaker thinks that’s a valid reason for saying she’s a disgrace, completely forgetting the fact that she was the one to demand the spider be seen.

As soon as this meeting is over, messengers arrive to ask men in Mulan’s town to join the army. Her dad has no sons, so he’s the one who must go to war.

That night, her dad shows her his sword, which has the words for “Loyal,” Brave,” and “True” on them. (This is kind of important later.) He goes to bed, and Mulan decides to go to war in his place.

So, my big gripe here is that not enough weight is placed on this moment. In the animated film, Mulan cutting her hair and donning her father’s armor is one of the most pivotal moments in the story. The music is epic, the lighting is fantastic, and her exit is dramatic.

In this live-action version, she just kind of…leaves.

Anyways, her parents pray to their ancestors to help her out. That Phoenix statue Mulan broke while chasing the chicken is part of her family’s spiritual ancestors.

I guess getting to the damn army encampment is a huge ordeal because Mulan ends up in a desert, with no food and no water. While she lies down in exhaustion, a freakin’ Phoenix flies above her, showing her the way to camp.

I don’t know why that part was necessary to the movie. I understand that the Phoenix is a representation of her family’s ancestors. But if you take this part out, nothing changes in the plot. I mean, the meat of the story takes place during her training.

Mulan’s time training is one of the better parts of the movie. She actually lowers her voice to try and sound like a man, and she always volunteers for late-night watches so she doesn’t have to bathe with the other soldiers. If the movie had spent more time showcasing her becoming friends with her squad, it would have been ten times more enjoyable. Every time that happened, I forgot how confused I was by Chi.

Another thing I approve of is the change in love interest. In the animated film, Shang and Mulan are considered an item, and with him being her commanding officer, it’s actually a prickly subject if you think about it.

In the live-action movie, her fellow soldier Honghui is her love interest, and that’s a much better dynamic. They start out as rivals in the army, trying to best the other, but end up on friendlier terms. When they talk in close quarters though, Honghui reveals that since Mulan hasn’t been bathing at all this entire time, she has gained a noticeable stench. That was funny.

Mulan’s commanding officer in the live-action film, Commander Tung, is played by none other than Ip Man! Yup, Donnie Yen is kicking ass in Star Wars and Mulan. Unfortunately, I think he was underutilized here.

In the movie, Commander Tung notices that Mulan is an incredibly skilled fighter, and he comments as much to her. There’s this one pretty tense-ish moment when Mulan, after looking at the Loyal-Brave-True inscription on her father’s sword, wants to confess to Tung that she’s a woman. However, just as she’s about to, Commander Tung starts talking about how since she’s such a skilled warrior, he wouldn’t mind if they arranged a marriage between Mulan (who is going under the name Hua Jun) and his own daughter.

Gasp.

Sadly, this is where the training part ends, and the whole movies landslides down to its unsatisfying conclusion.

Commander Tung and his army are sent to fight Bori Khan and his forces. The scale of these fights is not really clear. You know how movies like The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers showcases the battle of Helm’s Deep perfectly, so that you know where your protagonists are at all times and you can understand how the fight is going?

This movie does the opposite of that.

For some reason, Bori Khan’s forces rush Commander Tung’s, and then they run away. Mulan is part of a detachment of horse riders that chases after the group. Every one of those riders is picked off by Bori Khan’s mounted archers except for her, and when she finds that she’s on her own, she does not tactically retreat. She continues forward alone.

That’s when she is confronted by Xianniang, the witch. Xianniang tells Mulan that they are very much alike and should therefore be fighting on the same side. It would have been really nifty if this convo had, I don’t know, been extended beyond this one line, but it’s not. They fight, Mulan gets a bit injured (by which I mean she loses some armor), and then…she has an epiphany.

She decides to embrace being “True,” just as her father’s sword says. She lets down her hair, even though that might not be a sound practice on the middle of a battlefield where flowing hair can a) obstruct vision, b) be grabbed by a close-range opponent, or c) catch on fire thanks to the explosive weapons your allies are using, and goes back to the main battlefield.

Since we’ve been with Mulan this whole time, we haven’t really seen how the fight has been going for the rest of the army. Turns out, it’s been going terribly. Bori Khan’s forces have bombarded Commander Tung’s forces with projectiles from far off, and Xianniang has been pestering them as a weird flock of birds (?).

Using previously unknown powers of teleportation, Mulan gets behind enemy lines (even though she had been in the middle of the battlefield not one scene ago), and she starts firing down on the opposing army with a bow and arrow. She has also placed abandoned helmets from her side on rocks nearby so it looks like there are more people with her.

Bori Khan’s trebuchets start casting projectiles over at Mulan’s position instead of at the rest of the troops, and since she’s situated near handy mountains, the force of those shots creates an avalanche.

The battle ends with most of Bori Khan’s forces being buried alive, and most of Mulan’s comrades surviving.

Afterwards, she goes up to her friends and commanding officers with her hair let loose, clearly exuding the fact that she is female. They tell her to get lost because that’s how the story is supposed to story. If she comes back, they say, they’ll kill her.

On her way back home, Mulan is intercepted by Xianniang, who found her again in the middle of nowhere for no explicable reason. Xianniang plays the sympathy card, and I honestly wish Mulan would have sided with her. I mean, Xianniang is right. Those dudes at the army are basically her oppressors. Why on Earth should she side with them? But the moral of the story is clearly that perseverance wins the day no matter how deeply ingrained gender prejudices are. Xianniang lets slip that Bori Khan survived and is going to capture the Emperor, and upon hearing this, Mulan rushes back to her friends in the army.

After reporting to Commander Tung about Bori Khan’s plans, Mulan submits herself to be killed as long as they believe what she’s saying, and that’s when Honghui steps up (finally) and speaks in her defense. The rest of her army buddies do too, and next thing you know, they are rushing to save the Emperor.

Mulan goes from being the outcast of the group to being the veritable leader. She’s in charge of her own squad rushing forward to save the Emperor. It is a drastic change, and one that does not feel entirely earned.

During this time, Xianniang has undergone a change of heart and wants to help Mulan by turning against Bori Khan. But even though she’s shown to have amazing abilities in battle, Xianniang can do nothing to stop an arrow from striking Mulan except place her body between it and Mulan. Xianniang dies in Mulan’s arms, and we’re left wondering why, if this relationship was so important to have its own dramatic death scene, it was not explored more fully.

I hate to rush through the ending, but the movie finishes up with Mulan saving the Emperor, Bori Khan dying, and the Emperor offering Mulan a top position in the army. Not much really happens beyond that. No resolution with Commander Tung offering his daughter to Mulan. No exploration of how powerful Mulan’s Chi really is. No resolution with her friends in the army. She does get to reunite with her family at the end. So there is that.

The End.

Mulan (2020) was not satisfactory, though I wouldn’t rush to call it the worst movie ever. I had really low expectations for it, which could be why its shortcomings didn’t rankle me so much.

And I watched the whole thing so that you, my favorite Above Average people, don’t have to.

I rate Mulan a below-average-movie-that-disappoints-more-often-than-it-delights.

Madoka Magica Madness

My Dungeons & Dragons group has movie nights on occasion. It started as a way to just hang out during the pandemic. We’d hop onto Discord, pick a bad movie, and just press play at the same time. We’ve gone through Kung Fu Hustle, Mortal Kombat, and Spaceballs.

One day, I don’t recall how, but the subject of anime was brought up, and Puella Magi Madoka Magica was mentioned in the conversation.

Side note: From here on out, whenever I reference this anime, I’m just going to call it Madoka Magica.

I had never heard of it before, and neither had the majority of our party. Only two had seen it, one of them being our usual Dungeon Master, Sidney. He immediately volunteered the series as our next watch on movie night. In its favor was the fact that it was only twelve episodes long, and it was on Netflix.

Honestly, I’m not a big anime person. Often, anime series are huge time investments because the good ones have massive amounts of manga chapters to follow. I have bought a few manga volumes, notably Death Note, Fruits Basket, and Naruto. But I haven’t even made the leap to watching their anime all the way through to their conclusions.

As such, I had no idea what to expect from Madoka Magica.

Let me tell you, while it is not the most disturbing anime out there, it is definitely shocking for the genre it is commenting upon.

The “magical girl” genre is a popular one, and it basically involves a select group of girls who are granted magical powers, transform into their badass selves, and then whup evil’s ass. Sailor Moon and Cardcaptor Sakura are perfect examples of this.

Madoka Magica seeks to dismantle the tropes you commonly see in a magical girl anime. The toll the girls must accept for gaining powers is insane. The monsters they face are deadly, and, as it turns out, their transformations come at a heinous cost.

So what started as a lighthearted, girlish adventure turned into this universe-ending shock-fest. Sidney, who had already seen the series, spent half his time watching our faces on the computer screen so he could see our reactions. And we were totally engrossed. We stayed up well after midnight guzzling each episode with our eyes.

I won’t necessarily recommend Madoka Magica to you, my Above Average Readers, because I’m not sure what you’d think of it. To prove my point, two of our D&D party members just refused to watch the series (Mia and Dalton). One because she had seen it already and been disturbed by the plot twists, and the other because he refuses to watch anime that deconstruct themselves.

I will, however, say that if you want one hell of a hellish time and you enjoy a bite-sized anime every so often, then Madoka Magica should be perfect for you.

5 Disturbing Moments in Kids Movies That RUINED Me

Strange things can creep you out when you’re a kid. But one thing I’ve noticed is that when I saw something that freaked me the eff out as a child, it stuck with me for a while.

As in, to this day, I’m still unsettled at the initial object of “terror.”

My wild imagination coupled with my penchant to lie in bed reminiscing over distrubing images makes for an unpleasant combination.

Anyways, today, I thought I’d go over some scenes/images/characters in kids movies that scared the hell out of me even though I don’t think they were supposed to.

Side note: And my parents thought they needed to keep me from watching R-rated movies. If only they had taken a look at these purported children’s movies.

Be prepared for some distubing pictures up ahead. You’ve been warned (albeit briefly).

The Fireys – Labyrinth

Stuff of nightmares, am I right?

Let’s be honest, the whole of Labyrinth is pretty terrifying. From the stalkerish Goblin King to the tunnel of hands, it is a nightmare fest. But nothing made me squirm in discomfort quite like the Fireys.

These “playful” critters torment Sarah on her journey, and they have this terrifying song-and-dance number where they cavort around like demons from the fires of hell. They even kick their own heads off and play with them like hacky sacks.

I haven’t seen Labyrinth in years. And I’m not planning to. While I am very curious to see how I’d feel about it as an adult, those damn Fireys are keeping me away. I don’t think I’m going to touch this movie with a ten-foot pole.

Artax in the Swamps of Sadness – The NeverEnding Story

He literally died of sadness…and part of my heart did, too.

If people thought Mufasa’s death in The Lion King was traumatic, then they never saw the way Artax died in The NeverEnding Story.

On a quest to save his land, Atreyu and his loyal horse, Artax, have to travel through the Swamps of Sadness. These swamps are incredibly dangerous because it can make you feel so sad, you become so heavy, you sink into the treacherous muck.

Atreyu is protected from the Sadness thanks to the amulet he wears (called the Auryn). But his horse has no such protection.

Artax slowly starts sinking into the mud, and at one point he just can’t move at all.

This moment scarred me because Atreyu is screaming the whole time, trying to get his horse to stop feeling sad. Also, since I had read the book, I knew exactly what Artax was thinking as he sank into the mud forever.

E.T. – E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial

Come on, he looks kind of freaky.

Don’t judge me.

I know E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial is a classic film, but as a kid, E.T.’s design freaked me out.

I’m not alone in this sentiment.

Both my boyfriend and I shared this distaste in our respective youths. It impacted our enjoyment of the movie as a whole.

However, the two of us have largely grown past this, and we can watch the film and appreciate it for what it is.

But whenever I’ve seen the movie on my own, I always wonder who in the world okay-ed E.T.’s appearance in a children’s film. I’ve seen better lovable aliens in sci-fi horror movies.

Rat Bellies – The Secret of NIMH

Ouch.

Overall, I actually very much enjoy The Secret of NIMH movies, but that first one was incredibly dark, and it’s only now that I look back at them that I realize this.

If you haven’t seen the first film, I would highly recommend it to you. There’s just one part that made me absolutely squeamish. When recounting the rats’ time at the National Institute of Mental Health, we’re treated to a montage of flashbacks showcasing these experiments. And boy, they did not hold back. The image of rats getting injected in the belly has been forever imprinted in my memory.

I don’t know why this moment in particular stuck with me. It just did. And later on in the film, when the evil rat Jenner gets sliced in the stomach with a sword, I had flashbacks.

The Elderly – Spirited Away

Yubaba wants my soul.

Look at the detail given to Yubaba’s facial features in Spirited Away, and I think you’ll be able to understand why she scares me.

That’s right. “Scares.”

She still does.

Every indent on her lips denoting where her teeth are located, the brightly jeweled rings on her fingers, the massive wart in the middle of her forehead, her clawed nails, and the menacingly pale eyeshadow she has applied all contribute to making her the most feared elderly woman I’ve ever encountered.

And Spirited Away is by no means lacking in freak-out moments. Chihiro’s parents turning into pigs, the gigantic needy baby, and No-Face’s gluttonous rampage are all disquieting moments.

Yubaba takes the cake when it comes to the scariest of them though.

5 Movies I’ve Had To Drag My Sister To See

My sister is a reluctant moviegoer.

She wasn’t always like this. Going to the theater with my father used to be a weekly thing when we were children. That all changed when we saw Dragon Wars.

If I’m being one hundred percent honest, it was my idea to go see Dragon Wars.

But come on! It looked like an epic fight between dragons in a city, Godzilla-style. I was and am very partial to big monster movies.

However, what we ended up watching was a massively disappointing film with terrible writing and acting that barely scratched the surface of what a monster movie could be. It was corny, cringe-worthy…in short, it was a bad-movie-night movie.

And my sister hated it.

Seriously, I got more enjoyment from watching her disgusted and disbelieving expression than I got from watching the movie itself.

But ever since then, Alya has distrusted my taste in movies. No matter how much I tell her that I’m aware they are bad movies and that I think they’re funny, she thinks I have terrible taste when it comes to film-watching.

This means that I frequently have to drag her to see movies with me. And while it does pain me to have to cajole my own sister to have a good time in a theater with me, it does come with its perks.

I get to witness my sister’s sudden reversal of opinion when I take her to a good movie. This has happened on more than one occasion, and it’s especially enjoyable the more my sister thinks the movie will be bad.

So for today, I thought I’d run you through the top five movies I had to force my sister to watch and that she ended up appreciating.

Let’s do this.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

To be fair to my sister, she wasn’t entirely against watching Rise of the Planet of the Apes. We both had a fondness for the original Apes film with Charlton Heston, so there was precedent for her enjoying this type of genre.

It was a late night though, and my asking her to come with me was a spur of the moment decision. After a few oh-I-don’t-knows and are-you-sure-this-will-be-goods, the two of us went to see it.

The big crowd in the theater surprised the two of us, but what was even more surprising was how much we enjoyed the movie. It wasn’t just fun, it was good. The two of us shared shocked glances when Caesar first spoke, and we were riveted the entire time.

While my sister remembers this as that one time I convinced her to see a late-night movie she enjoyed, I remember it as a rejuvenation of my love for the Apes movies. I watched every subsequent film more than once in theaters, with the trilogy becoming some of my favorite movies.

District 9

Alya seriously thought that District 9 would be a dumb little sci-fi movie. Don’t blame her though. She had not paid a single ounce of attention to any of the trailers or marketing schemes for the film. So she went into this one blind.

I on the other hand had been watching this movie’s progress for a while, knowing it was the kind of science fiction I could really bite my teeth into.

The movie horrified us, but it also engaged us with its shocking portrayals of alien immigration and the connections it was unsubtly making to real-life comparisons.

Alya specifically remarked to me when we left the theater that she hadn’t expected to feel so much while watching this movie. I got a spring in my step after that comment, even though I myself had nothing to do with making the film.

All I had done was manage to convince my sister to take a break from homework to go watch it with me.

Watchmen

My sister thought I was a complete crazy person the day I saw Watchmen for the first time.

See, I had been a long-time fan of Alan Moore’s phenomenal graphic novel, so of course I’d take an immense interest in the film adaptation.

I was so interested in seeing the movie, I was willing to go see the midnight premiere for it even though the next day I had an exam to take in my AP World History class.

Side note: I had to fight my parents to see this movie. I basically promised them I would get an A.

I remember Alya, studying for a class of her own at night, watching open-mouthed as I left the house at 9 pm to go see the movie at midnight. And when I came back home at 3 in the morning and she had fallen asleep while studying at our dining table, her mouth fell open once more when I woke her up singing the movie’s praises.

Maybe that’s why she didn’t complain as much when I asked if she would see it with me one more time.

Afterwards, she expressed an interest in reading the comic book, and now the two of us can quote it at each other all day long.

Star Trek

Both my sister and I are huge Star Wars fans, but only I ever made the jump to Star Trek. My sister saw one episode of The Original Series (the one with the meatball monster) and thought it was stupid.

So I was asking a lot from her to go see the new Star Trek movie with me. She was groaning the whole time, from my pre-movie bathroom break to buying popcorn to sitting in our seats.

But then that opening sequence commenced, when Kirk’s dad saves everybody aboard the USS Kelvin in a suicide maneuver, and Alya’s eyes were glued to the screen. And when the opening title appeared on the screen with the Star Trek theme blaring in the background, she half-whispered, half-yelled, “Holy shit, that was so good!”

How To Train Your Dragon

If there is one thing my sister loathes more than any other kind of bad movie, it’s a bad kids movie. She is used to Pixar-quality kids movies, always has been, so when she watches some low-bar, DreamWorks Animation shit, with pop culture references up the wazoo, a vein pops in her temple.

So try to imagine her initial fury at my audacity in asking her to watch How To Train Your Dragon with me.

But, as those of you who have seen the movie should know, it’s not your typical DreamWorks fare. It does not strive to make itself relevant with popular trends; it just tells a sweet story about a boy and his dragon.

During the montage of Hiccup trying to train Toothless, Alya leaned over to me and said, “I want a Toothless!” with hints of a squeal in her voice.

And that was the start of never having to beg her to watch a How To Train Your Dragon movie with me again. Though she was less impressed with the sequels, she was invested in the characters enough to always give them a shot.