Clowns, Gore, and More: IT Chapter Two Review (Spoiler Free)

Just so you guys know, this whole spoilers free thing I’m trying to do here is just me being very polite. The book and the made-for-TV movie have been out for years. This no-spoilers stuff is basically for people who haven’t taken the time to guzzle up their Stephen King lore.


Clowns make me a tad uncomfortable.

I know a few people who are seriously terrified of clowns, as in they will scream, tremble, run away, all that jazz, if they see one, but I’ve only ever been slightly put off by them.

I’ve seen them too many times as vehicles of horror to appreciate them in real life. At the same time, I don’t live my life flinching at working clowns.

So for me, the latest adaptation of Stephen King’s infamous It is nothing more than a good time for me. I can get properly freaked out by a killer clown without shitting my pants.

IT Chapter Two is by no means the best horror movie in existence. It doesn’t break any boundaries or raise any bars. Its scares are largely predictable (especially if you’ve read the book), its gore is blatantly over the top at times, and the mythos behind Derry’s terror goes largely unexplained.

I still adored it.

IT Chapter Two shines, as did its predecessor, because of the fantastic cast of “Losers” being harassed by Pennywise. They are all incredible actors, from the children to the adults. If you loved the kids in the first movie, you’ll love the adults they grow into. I don’t know who is responsible for picking these actors, but goddamn, they did a great job.

There are three big-name actors in the movie, who obviously do a phenomenal job of picking up where their respective child actors left off. But I’ve got to give special props to the man who plays adult Eddie Kaspbrak. I just looked him up on IMDb. His name is James Ransone. I don’t want to be mean, but I’ve never heard of him before. However, he totally fit the role of adult Eddie to a tee. Spot on.

Pennywise’s personal moments are also extremely enjoyable. Unfortunately, they’re few and far between.

In the first movie, when Pennywise has his iconic sewer moment with Georgie, I was astonished at how well actor Bill Skarsgard played him. I mean, it goes without saying that Pennywise is an evil individual. You know it from the movie trailers, the pop culture references, and in your gut when you see him pop up from inside the drain. But when he speaks in his bubbly voice, you can feel a charisma that lurks underneath, a charm that draws his hapless child victims in.

Just as in the first movie, Pennywise doesn’t always have his time to shine while utilizing the full extent of Skarsgard’s acting ability. There is this one moment that feels similar to Georgie’s moment, and you’ll know it when you see it. (Feel free to take guesses in the comments as to which moment I’m referring to.)

In terms of jump scares, the movie has a regular amount of them, i.e. perhaps too many. However, if you’re on the fence about seeing it, you should know I always knew when to close my eyes before a jump scare. I don’t know if that’s an indication of whether or not this movie won’t be too scary for you, but it definitely was okay for me.

The gore was also cringey, as is expected. However, the fact that a lot of the gory moments relied on CGI and stuff actually helped to alleviate whatever feelings of distaste I might have had.

Any qualms I had with the movie, which were not many, were overshadowed by my love for the source material, my respect for the actors taking on these roles, and my genuine appreciation for the theme of growing up that is ever-present in nearly every Stephen King book. No one boils down childhood hope into palatable, less-corny pulp fiction than he does.

I rate IT Chapter Two a definitely-go-see-if-you-liked-the-first-one-or-if-you-like-Stephen-King-in-general-just-be-prepared-to-cry-a-bit-either-from-laughter-thanks-to-phenomenal-jokes-or-from-genuine-sadness-over-the-film’s-ending.


Top 5 Hayao Miyazaki Films

You might not know who Hayao Miyazaki is, but I thought I’d write about my top five favorites of his movies.

That’s right, folks! It’s time for yet another Below Average list!

Hayao Miyazaki is the creator behind several wondrous animated films, each one brimming with detailed and immersive worlds and engaging characters. Miyazaki is a genius of the highest order. He knows how to tell one heck of a story.

The fact that his movies are animated might fool you into thinking they’re meant for kids, but you’d be dead wrong. The narrative appeals to people of all ages, dealing with morality and fantasy in equal measure.

Plus, all of his movies have insane replay value. Whether you’re looking for a movie to put on in the background while you do something else or a movie to intensely revisit in order to learn something new, Miyazaki’s films can satisfy both needs.

So, even if you’ve never seen a Hayao Miyazaki movie in your life or if you’ve seen them all multiple times, here are my top 5 favorite Hayao Miyazaki films!

5. Spirited Away

Spirited Away is the classic Hayao Miyazaki movie. It’s probably the one that most average moviegoers have heard of. It’s about a little girl named Chihiro whose parents turn into pigs due to an unfortunate case of the munchies. Chihiro then has to embark on a peril-infused journey through a fantastical ghost world in order to save herself and her parents. She makes a few friends along the way and learns about the strength she’s had inside the whole time. Spirited Away is a pretty vanilla story when you look at its bare bones, but the trappings surrounding the narrative are what make it so special. The ghost world is absolutely magical, and by “magical,” I do mean that magic is involved. I rewatch this movie about once a year. Feels new every time.

4. Ponyo

If my sister made a list about her favorite Hayao Miyazaki movies, Ponyo would be the number one for hers. She loves this movie so much, she actually stole my copy of it. Ponyo tells a version of the Little Mermaid story. A little girl falls in love with a little boy and abandons her watery home to live with him. It’s a very cute story, with a surprisingly laid-back atmosphere considering it’s about a phantasmic underwater world. It actually reminds me a lot of My Neighbor Totoro (another Miyazaki film that sadly did not make my top 5) because of how quaint and unique it makes the average character feel. Ponyo is the perfect rainy day movie. (Unless your sister then starts butchering the final song by only singing the word “Ponyo” over and over again.)

3. Castle in the Sky

Castle in the Sky is actually one of my favorites for reasons that are external from the movie itself. My mom bought me a DVD copy of the movie one day, completely out of the blue. She got it for me simply because she knew I liked Hayao Miyazaki movies, and she figured I didn’t have this one. The spontaneity of this act of love touched my heart so much that it made the movie hold a special place there. And funnily enough, this movie about a boy and girl who have to find a lost city in the sky is all about those random acts of kindness. Plus, it features Mark Hamill as the voice of the villain. You just can’t beat that.

2. Princess Mononoke

Okay, remember how I said Hayao Miyazaki makes animated movies that please both adults and children? Well…Princess Mononoke is a tad gruesome, so be wary when showing this PG-13 rated film to kids. But the story is truly epic! I love this movie so much! It deals with man’s destruction of nature, love, and integrity in the face of rising odds. The name of the movie initially put me off from watching it when I was younger because I thought it was going to be a weird “princess” movie. It’s not that at all. It’s an engrossing story, and what I like the most about it is how it has these two opposing perspectives and neither one of them are truly evil. It’s about compromising and realizing when you have to change and when you should hold to your ideals.

1. Howl’s Moving Castle

I’m a bit embarrassed that Howl’s Moving Castle is my number one Hayao Miyazaki movie because it is unabashedly a love story. But I like how unexpected a lot of it is. Sophie, the main character, is a quiet girl who meets the flamboyant wizard, Howl. As you might guess, they’re the romantic couple of the story. But get this: Sophie is cursed by a jealous witch at the beginning of the movie to be an old woman. This love story feels unconventional because it truly is about loving a person for what’s on the inside. I mean, say what you want about strong Disney princesses or whatever. You can’t deny that those chicks are gorgeous and that their looks are usually what garners them the attention of their romantic interests in the first place. Not so with Sophie. Her willpower, practicality, and dry sense of humor are what make her stand out from the other girls vying for Howl’s attention. Plus, Calcifer (voiced by Billy Crystal) is one of Hayao Miyazaki’s best side characters.

What the Hell Did We Just Watch: A Midsommar Review

I just got out of the theater, and I still have tears of laughter in my eyes. I have no clue what me and my friends just walked out of.

Was it worth the nine dollars to get in?

If you have a sense of humor, yes, yes it was.

You might be a bit confused about this intro. Isn’t Midsommar a horror film? Yes, I think it’s supposed to be. But honestly, it felt like a straight-up comedy as I watched it.

I feel a bit guilty as I type this. The movie covers some serious subject matters, including suicide, grief, acceptance, and cultural sensitivity. But I don’t know what to tell you guys. Maybe it’s the circumstances in which I saw the film.

Me and two of my friends from D&D (Chris and Sidney) decided to watch Midsommar at the spur of the moment. We wanted to hang out, and we were eager to watch a scary movie. When we entered the theater, it was just us and three other people in the room.

As soon as the cringey dialogue began, complete with awkward pauses, the six of us could not contain our guffaws.

From a more removed standpoint (hearkening back to my college days), I can appreciate Midsommar for its themes and symbolism.

But as a Below Average person, I think the movie is ri-goddamn-diculous.

For this review, I thought I’d give a “short,” comment-filled synopsis of the movie. However, I do heartily recommend you watch it in theaters. There’s nothing quite like it.

Are you ready?

The movie starts fairly soberly. A girl named Dani is fearful for her family’s safety due to her sister’s suicidal tendencies, and Dani’s boyfriend, Christian, is wondering whether or not he should break up with her.

Dani’s sister commits a murder-suicide, killing her and Dani’s parents with some car exhaust. Christian, the douche-nozzle, was busy talking with his friends about how he doesn’t want to be Dani’s therapist right before she calls him to let him know what happened. Christian decides not to break up with Dani in light of these events.

This is all legitimately depressing stuff.

It’s after this part that the movie takes a turn.

The movie then cuts to a few months later (I think). Dani and Christian are at a party, and Dani is surprised with the information that Christian is planning to go to Sweden in a few weeks. When the two of them are back at their apartment, Dani asks him about this trip he’s apparently been planning.

And Christian gets stupidly defensive.

Dani is calmly asking him about the trip, and he reacts as if she’s attacking him. And I get that maybe the movie is trying to showcase how much of a dick Christian is. But it was just so absurd.

THEN the movie cuts to a few days later. Christian is with his friends, Josh, Mark, and Pelle. He tells them he invited Dani to come with them to Sweden.

And he does it in the most awkward way too. Every conversation in this movie sounds stilted. Dani comes into the room a moment later, and Mark asks Christian if he can talk to him.

Initially, I thought they were going to talk shit about Dani behind her back. Mark asked Christian to go into another room SO shadily. But nah, nothing like that happens. They just go off. Meanwhile, Dani strikes up a conversation with Pelle.

Pelle is the Swedish one of the group, the man responsible for initiating the group’s trip to his own commune. He and Dani talk about the trip, and then he decides to apologize to Dani for what happened to her parents. At this point, my friends and I flipped our lids.

What kind of insensitive human being would just BRING UP the MOST TRAUMATIC MOMENT in Dani’s life like that?

The film then decides to jump-cut immediately to the plane flight that Dani, Christian, Pelle, Josh, and Mark are on.

The group are in Sweden seconds later, and they run into Ingemar, Pelle’s brother. Ingemar has brought some foreign friends to the commune as well, Simon and Connie, and as soon as I found that out, I just knew that everyone would be lambs to the slaughter. What other reason could they have for inviting a bunch of foreigners to their place.

The group decides to imbibe some hallucinogens (for reasons), and Dani has a bad trip. She sees grass growing through her foot, and she sees her dead sister for a moment. This was legitimately a scary moment, but it was somewhat ruined by the pot-head comments the characters were making.

Everyone at Pelle and Ingemar’s commune seems really friendly. They dress all in white and do breathing rituals every now and then. They’re also fond of awkward pauses and not explaining things to people. They also like to keep a bear in a cage (remember that!) just for fun.

Things are going swimmingly until Dani and the other foreigners witness an extreme ritual that Pelle’s people practice. When someone gets too old in the commune, they commit suicide. They do this by leaping off a cliff. If they survive, there is a handy man with a large wooden mallet to bash their heads in.

Simon and Connie are freaked beyond belief and want to leave, which is a normal response. Dani’s group are idiots and write this off as just part of the commune’s culture. Simon and Connie end up leaving at separate times, very suspiciously and off camera, so you know that they got offed.

Meanwhile, Mark decides to take a leak on a sacred tree, which pisses off a bunch of Pelle’s family. He’s Mark-ed for death after that.

We find out the gruesomeness of Mark’s death later that night, when Josh tries taking some clandestine pictures of a sacred book. Josh gets caught by a man who is wearing Mark’s face as a mask. Josh then gets bashed on the head, and we assume he died as well.

Dani and Christian are now the only ones left alive, but since they’re such bad friends, they don’t question Mark or Josh’s disappearance. Dani participates in the Maypole dance and becomes May Queen. The commune really seems to accept her where they’ve just outright killed the other foreigners.

Christian, on the other hand, is being groomed for a strange sex ritual. One of the girls of the commune, Maja, wants to do him, and she’s been sending him typical flirtatious signals. You know what I mean. Things like leaving runes under his bed, putting pubic hair in his pies, and dripping period blood into his drinks.

Christian takes some drugs during Dani’s Maypole dance (because why not) and is made to have sex with Maja in a room while being surrounded by more naked cult women. This part gets real gratuitous. The naked women around Christian and Maja are super…helpful. They make moaning noises in time with Maja, and an old granny-woman with sagging you-know-whats pushes Christian’s buttocks in order to make him thrust more rhythmically.

Dani, who was otherwise preoccupied with being a May Queen, hears the sex noises and peers inside the building. She sees what Christian is doing and then runs away sobbing. Other young girls of the commune who participated in the Maypole dance start sobbing in time with Dani, as if they’re feeling her grief, and it’s actually one of the niftier parts of the movie. You see how Dani appreciates and longs for someone to feel with her.

Anyways, after Christian is done, he runs out of the building buck naked. He flees into a chicken coop and sees Simon dangling from the ceiling with his eyes plucked out and his lungs removed. Then Christian gets knocked out with some drug powder blown into his face. (There are a lot of drugs in Midsommar.)

Christian wakes up paralyzed. He and Dani are in a crowd of the cult people, including Pelle. Pelle’s been in on it the whole time. Everything is revealed at this moment. The cult requires nine sacrifices during this festival, and the four foreigners were part of that sacrifice. Four members from the commune sacrifice themselves as part of the ritual as well, but the last person to be sacrificed is left up to the May Queen.

That’s Dani.

The commune people ask Dani if she would rather sacrifice Christian or some rando from the commune.

She chooses Christian because he is an absolutely horrible boyfriend.

Christian is then stuffed into the disemboweled bear (the bear from the beginning!), kept paralyzed, then burned alive.

Dani smiles as she watches on.

And those are the bare bones of Midsommar. Reading over my synopsis, I can’t find the hilarity I felt when watching the movie. It might be one of those experiences you have to be there for in order to understand.

I rate Midsommar a there-are-almost-no-words-to-describe-my-feelings-while-watching-it-but-I-had-a-great-time-so-I’m-going-to-recommend-it-to-everyone-I-know-even-if-I-know-they-won’t-like-it-just-because-I-want-to-see-what-happens.

Game of Thrones Season 8 Episode 6 Review: Where Do We Go from Here?

In these below average reviews/recaps I’ve been doing for the final season of Game of Thrones, I have stuck to a certain structure. I usually give you my overall thoughts, I summarize what happened in the episode, and then I leave with a few parting words.

I’m not going to do that this time around. I’m just going to knock out the spoilers right at the get-go and then just mope a bit.

Side note: I should probably change the title of this post, but I like the consistency.

Here are the spoiler moments for this episode:

  • Dany does in fact officially go Mad Queen
  • Jon, with some advice from Tyrion, kills Dany in the Throne Room.
  • Bran becomes the King of the Six Kingdoms (with Sansa as the Queen of an independent North.
  • Jon is sentenced to the Night’s Watch (once again) as punishment for killing Daenerys.

I’m not actively bothered by any of these plot points. Time is the one thing that’s eating at me. I don’t think enough time went into this season.

Well, in terms of manpower and filming, I’m sure a lot of time went into making this season.

But in terms of the story, I don’t think we had enough time to say good-bye.

In the span of a single season, we saw the fight against the White Walkers, the overturning of Cersei Lannister, the ascension of Daenerys Targaryen, Daenerys’ murder, the upheaval of Westeros’ political system, and resolutions for most of the major characters.

And those last four points happened in this final episode.

It wasn’t enough time to do these characters justice. In my previous posts, I held back from any criticizing because I didn’t want to come across like a petulant fandom that is rife with toxicity.

And I’m not saying that there should be a redo of Season 8.

I just wish the ending had been drawn out a little bit. These last six episodes of Game of Thrones feel so rushed compared to what the first six episodes felt like. And I do miss that feeling of slow build-up, that measured pacing before a final explosion of plot-action.

Regardless, I would still recommend Game of Thrones to anybody. This episode still had its highlights thanks to phenomenal characters played by phenomenal actors.

Side note: Tyrion stole the show in this final episode.

I rate Game of Thrones a…

You know what?

I’ll rate this some other time.

I need to recuperate.

Not only from that ending, but from the fact that the one television show I tuned in for regularly is now over.

What’s next?

Game of Thrones Season 8 Episode 5 Review: Turning the Tables on Fate

As I write this, I know that people are going to be steamed at Game of Thrones. This latest episode, “The Bells,” is an emotional wringer. Characters die, and some of their deaths spit in the face of some rampant fan theories. I checked on Twitter to see general reactions, and a lot of people seem pissed that all this character development has “gone to waste.”

That’s the phrase I keep seeing.

“Gone to waste.”

I don’t think that.

Now, I’m not saying I was thrilled to see the destruction in this episode. But I do not think that a single part of the show has “gone to waste.”

One of the things I like about Game of Thrones is the idea that fate is just a word. Sure, beings like the Red God or the Three-Eyed Raven occasionally swagger forward throwing their weight around, but at the end of the day, death is the only sure thing in this world. Magic and miracles are fickle.

Death doesn’t care whether you grew as a person, got your revenge, or met the love of your life. It just is.

So even though Episode 5 of this season wiped out a bunch of main characters, I do not feel as if the whole show has “gone to waste.”

That’s just the way the cookie crumbles.

So the episode opens with Dany still mourning the loss of Missandei back on Dragonstone. She has not been eating or sleeping. She has been keeping to herself.

I felt terribly sorry for her while watching this because no one goes to her to comfort her or be with her in her hour of need. Her isolation is an awful thing, and I wish someone could have reached out to her.

Varys is taking this opportunity to write letters. Who these letters are for exactly is unknown. We do know that each letter basically contains the secret of Jon’s birth. Apparently, Varys is doing more than talking about betraying Dany. He is actually betraying her.

Tyrion decides to remain loyal to his queen. He tells her that Varys has betrayed her.

As if to underscore that point, when Jon arrives at Dragonstone, Varys approaches him and not-so-subtly tells him that he should be king. Thankfully, Jon remains his loyal self and tells Varys he is loyal to his queen.

However, when Jon goes to see Dany, she is clearly a wreck. She sits alone at a fire with a very uncommunicative Grey Worm nearby. When Jon comes in, she tells him of Varys’ betrayal and, perhaps for the last time, reaches out to Jon. Jon maintains his loyalty to her, but knowing that she is his aunt prevents him (damn) from comforting her in other ways.

Later that night, Varys is arrested by the Unsullied. He’s taken to the beach where Dany, Tyrion, and Jon are waiting.

Yes, you guessed it. Varys is put to death for treason against the queen.

It was a very sad moment because you know that Varys is acting for what he believes to be the good of the realm. When I first saw this moment, however, I couldn’t help thinking about how ardently he used to promote Dany’s cause. His betrayal felt sudden, and I couldn’t blame Dany for wanting to punish him.

Though maybe Dany should consider another form of execution instead of roasting people alive with Drogon all the time.

Just before Dany’s assault on King’s Landing begins, Tyrion begs her to keep the common people in mind, the innocents of the city. He tells her that the bells of King’s Landing will ring when Cersei’s forces have surrendered. If they do ring, Tyrion pleads for Dany to stop her attack on the city. Dany nods once.

Now, Jaime, if you recall, left Winterfell and Brienne to return to King’s Landing and Cersei. He got himself caught by Dany’s forces outside of the city. Dany tells Tyrion about this, and of course, the first thing Tyrion does when he reaches the army’s encampment is find his older brother.

What follows is one of the most emotional scenes in the whole episode. (And there are a lot of emotional scenes.)

Tyrion knows that Jaime is going back to King’s Landing to rescue Cersei or die trying. Tyrion knows that Cersei is a tyrant that Jaime can’t help loving.

But he releases him anyways.

They hug each other one last time, and Tyrion tells Jaime that he (Jaime) is the one person in his (Tyrion’s) life who has never thought of him as a monster. Then they part ways.

The day of the battle arrives, and I honestly thought things were going to go terribly for Dany’s side. Their forces were severely depleted after their fight with the Night King, only one of the original three dragons remains, and the defending army is bolstered by the Golden Company and the Iron Fleet.

But Game of Thrones got me.

Once Dany arrived with Drogon, King’s Landing was doomed.

Drogon set all the scorpions on fire. The battlements never stood a chance. He and Dany just flew by so quickly. The Iron Fleet posed no threat either. Drogon set those poor wooden ships ablaze in seconds. And the Golden Company? They were incinerated.

Eventually, the Lannister forces throw down their arms because they realize how futile it is to fight against a dragon when all you really have are swords. Cersei can only watch in displeasure as the bells of King’s Landing are rung.

Here’s the thing.

Even though the bells were rung signalling the surrender of King’s Landing, Dany decides to burn them all anyway. She starts taking Drogon on strafing runs over the entire city, over soldiers and innocents alike.

Poor Jon Snow, who was leading the Northern forces through the city, has to watch as the scene devolves into chaos. Soldiers on his side, the “good guys,” start rampaging through the streets, slaughtering women and children. Jon actually has to kill one of his own men who was trying to rape a woman.

Aside from seeing Daenerys’ face as she makes the decision to destroy everything, we don’t see her expression at all once she begins. The rest of the slaughter is seen from the perspective of the people on the streets.

However, back at the Red Keep, Cersei is finally persuaded by Qyburn to get the hell out of dodge. She, Qyburn, and the Mountain descend the stairs, hoping to reach Maegor’s Holdfast and survive the onslaught.

Two parties are trying to reach Cersei specifically at this point. Daenerys isn’t one of them. She’s just looking to set everything on fire. Jaime is trying to sneak into the Red Keep to get Cersei out of there. And Arya and the Hound are trying to get inside to murder her.

Let’s start with Jaime.

He has trouble getting into the Red Keep through the front gates, so he goes through the secret tunnel that leads from a cave on the beach to the caverns beneath the Red Keep. Unfortunately, Euron, who somehow survived Dany’s assault on the Iron Fleet has washed up to this exact spot. The two engage in a sword fight, they both get wounded, but Euron gets wounded more.

It was a lot more intense than I’m currently describing it, but all you need to know is that Euron eats it and Jaime makes it (for the most part).

Arya is as determined as Jaime to reach Cersei, but for completely different reasons. However, once they reach the Red Keep, the place is shaking and crumbling apart from Dany’s attacks on the structure. The Hound pulls Arya aside and brings her to her senses. He tells her that no one is coming out of this place alive, and she should get out while she still can. There’s no hope for him, but there’s still hope for her.

For once, Arya chooses life over death.

It was sweet to see this moment of closeness between her and the Hound. But it felt oddly out-of-character for Arya to decide to just leave him.

The Hound meets Cersei, Qyburn, and the Mountain on the stairs as they’re coming down and engages in battle with his brother. Qyburn tries to stop the Mountain from fighting the Hound and gets a skull full of rock for his trouble.

Cersei is now officially alone.

And even though she started this whole thing, I felt bad for her.

God, this episode was all about me feeling bad for people who may or may not deserve it.

The Hound and the Mountain duke it out. It’s epic as fudge. At one point, you think the Mountain is going to pull his Oberyn Martell special on his brother, you know, thumbs through the eyeholes? But the Hound stabs a dagger into his brother’s eye, then pushes him off the building for good measure. Sadly, the Hound also falls off with his brother since it was a whole-body kind of push, and the two Clegane brothers meet death together.

They either splattered on the concrete or the flames from Drogon’s fires consumed them. Either way…oof. There goes the Hound.

Cersei makes it to one of the lower floors of the Red Keep, but she’s all alone. You can see the despair on her face. And just when she needs him most, Jaime appears beside her. He’s made his way to her with two stab wounds from his fight with Euron.

Their reunion, next to Tyrion and Jaime’s hushed good-bye, was strangely the moment that choked me up the most. I never liked Cersei much. She is such a selfish woman, with no thought of kindness in her head. But I felt…moved…by her desperation.

And Jaime has changed so much since we first saw him in Season 1, but he still can’t escape his feelings for Cersei. He traveled to King’s Landing knowing he would probably die, just so he could die with his twin/lover. That whole incest thing is still weird, but now it has a sense of pure sorrow to it that feels earned.

Jaime leads Cersei back the way he came, but the tunnel he used has collapsed from the destruction Dany is wreaking up above. Together, Jaime and Cersei are crushed by the collapsing cave.

Arya’s journey through King’s Landing is the most harrowing one. Following her through the burning, crumbling avenues was exhausting just to watch. It has the same kind of chaos to it that the D-Day scene in Saving Private Ryan has. She has some near misses, but she makes it out of the city alive.

And that’s where the episode leaves us.

There is only one more episode to go before the season and the show ends for good.

With most of Season 8 done, I can look back at the show in its entirety.

And you know what?

I can honestly say no matter how the show ends, my time watching it has not “gone to waste.”

Avengers: Endgame Review–Oh, I’m So Old

If anything has made me notice how old I am, it’s the passage of time in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Which is kind of sad, media-driven, and pathetic now that I think about it.

Iron Man first released in 2008, and Avengers: Endgame came out in 2019.

That’s eleven years later.

That’s eleven years of my life.

Like anyone else who has been watching these movies since their youth, I was really hyped for Endgame. I don’t want to call it the culmination of years of super hero films again because I’ve done that so many times for work (I write about films, TV series, comic books, and video games) already.

But yeah, Endgame is the ultimate culmination of years of super hero films.

My local theater does not have reserved seating available yet, so when you buy an advanced ticket to a showing, seating is first come first served.

Side note: Danny, I swear to god, if you make one comment about “small towns,” I will punch you. Well, not really. But I’ll figuratively punch you.

I bought my ticket to see Endgame weeks in advance, and when the premiere date finally arrived, I made sure my schedule was clear for the entire day, showed up at the theater at 6:45 in the morning, and waited for my 6:00 p.m. showtime.

As you can probably surmise, I am a dedicated MCU fan.

This review is thus going to be biased as hell.

But I have established this with you guys beforehand, so I think that gets me off the hook.

Also, in case you haven’t figured it out yet, there will be SPOILERS ahead.

The best thing about Avengers: Endgame is how much tribute it pays to the history of the MCU.

One of the things I didn’t like about Avengers: Infinity War was how little time was given to each hero. I understood why this had to be, since Infinity War had to cram so many heroes and so much plot in such a short amount of time, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t wish for more breathing space for my favorite characters.

Endgame gives these characters some breathing space. With that three-hour runtime, the film allows the original Avengers to have these awesome character moments. Like when Black Widow is just sitting in Avengers headquarters, dealing with the aftermath of the Snap, and she starts to sob. That was beautifully acted out, and if the plot had been rushing along like a runaway train, it wouldn’t have happened.

The movie also pays homage to the original Avengers by having them revisit some of their prior stories.

Let me explain.

The basic premise of Endgame revolves around time travel. When Scott Lang is freed from the Quantum Realm by a fluke, he realizes that time passes more slowly there than it does in the regular world. He figures that the Avengers can use this knowledge to travel back in time and reverse the effects of the Thanos Snap.

With this knowledge at their disposal, the Avengers make a time machine and travel back in time to moments where they can collect the Infinity Stones and bring them back to the present. Once done, the Avengers will use the Stones to bring back everyone dusted by the Snap.

Not only does this plan allow the Avengers to be the heroes the world needs them to be, it gives us as an audience a chance to go back to the good old days. We get to see the Ancient One from Doctor Strange again when Hulk goes to collect the Time Stone from her. We get to see Frigga again when Thor and Rocket go to Asgard to get the Reality Stone before she dies. We get to see the Battle of New York when Cap, Iron Man, and Ant-Man finagle a way to get both the Mind and the Space Stone during that time period.

It’s a mega trip down nostalgia way, and if the movie wasn’t already making you prone to tears, these memories might just push you all the way to Sob Street.

Oh, I should also warn you the movie can be very cry-inducing. When I went to go see it, there were a bunch of people ugly-crying all around me. It was fantastic.

The beginning parts of the movie show the Avengers and the world coping with the loss of half of all life. That’s a downer right there. Two of the Avengers, Black Widow and Iron Man, sacrifice themselves to save the world, and that’s a kick in the emotional balls if there ever was one.

Luckily, the movie is also chock-full of humor and epic moments.

My favorite funny part was when Iron Man, Captain America, and Ant-Man were spying on their past selves, trying to find an opportune moment to steal the Space Stone. Iron Man makes a comment about how Cap’s old costume is not doing his ass any favors, and then Ant-Man pipes in, telling Cap not to worry, he thinks his ass looks great, and, in fact, that’s America’s ass.

Can we just stop and appreciate the character of Ant-Man for a second?

Aside from the original Avengers, Ant-Man is one of the few heroes who gets to go on this time-travelling adventure, and I’m glad he did. The other Avengers are our heroes. Ant-Man is us if we got to tag along.

The best epic moment, in my opinion, is not when everyone who was brought back from the Snap joins the fight. That’s second best.

The best moment was when Captain America picked up Thor’s hammer and started using it.

That’s right, folks. The moment we’ve all been waiting for happened.

The theater I was in shook with the roars and cheers of excitement and approval when we saw who was carrying Mjolnir. It was a big fan-service moment, but goddamn it, I don’t care! Service me, Marvel! Service me!

As for the bad qualities of the film, that basically revolves around the time travel aspect.

Time travel is a double-edged sword in stories. It can give you wild situations that provide engaging and unique plots, but it can also become a convoluted mess right quick.

The time-travel rule in Endgame starts out fairly straightforward. Going back in time and altering the past does not affect your future. What it does is create an alternate timeline, a branching path from the original. This is why the Avengers had to go get the Infinity Stones and bring them to their present instead of just murdering baby Thanos.

But if this is the case, then boy, did the Avengers leave a mess of alternate timelines in their wake. In one timeline, Loki stole the Space Stone and is now god knows where. In another, Thanos and his entire army is just gone. In yet another, Captain America lived a different life and now he’s an old man.

That last one still has me scratching my head.

But these temporal gripes do not stop me from liking the movie. I loved Endgame. Even if it didn’t make sense sometimes, it still came across as a loving send-off. It’s like a good-bye message on your high school yearbook from your best friend who maybe didn’t do too well in their English classes.

You can feel the love oozing from every scene, and I wanted to bask in that love for every minute of the movie, even though I made the mistake of drinking a Coca-Cola ICEE during the first half and my bladder was set to explode for the last thirty minutes of the movie.

I rate Avengers: Endgame an if-you-have-been-there-since-the-beginning-of-the-Marvel-Cinematic-Universe-then-this-movie-was-made-just-for-you-and-like-every-hero-in-the-film-it-won’t-let-you-down.

Game of Thrones Season 8 Episode 4 Review: That Escalated Quickly

The third episode of Game of Thrones left me with so many questions.

With the Night King dead, what did that mean for the story at large? Ever since the opening scene in the very first season, the threat of the White Walkers has loomed over the plot like a tidal wave you can’t ignore. After Arya annihilated the undead threat with a single stab of a dagger, I couldn’t help being a bit stupefied at the prospect of a show without them.

I mean, after facing the living dead, what sort of threat could our heroes possibly come up against that would pose a serious problem?

The answer? Themselves.

Let’s start at the beginning of Episode 4, “The Last of the Starks.”

The survivors of the Battle of Winterfell deal with their dead by burning them on great pyres they’ve built in front of Winterfell’s battlements. It’s heartbreaking to see Sansa give her final good-bye to Theon and to see Daenerys give hers to Jorah. We’re reminded that the death toll after last week’s episode was enormous because the smoke from these pyres clouds the entire skyline.

Afterwards, there’s a half-hearted feast in Winterfell’s Great Hall. Everyone is kind of morose after their losses. Who would have figured that Daenerys would be the one to lift everyone’s spirits?

Gendry, looking for Arya so that they can have some more alone time probably, is stopped by Dany in the middle of the feast. The whole room hushes as she speaks to him. She asks him if his father is Robert Baratheon, and at first you think she’s planning to berate him for past deeds that are not his fault. Instead, she names him Gendry Baratheon, Lord of Storm’s End, lifting him up from his bastard-hood and into a lordship.

This thrills Gendry so much he decides he really needs to see Arya. He eventually finds her doing some target practice with a bow and arrow, and he asks her to be his lady when he is lord of Storm’s End. We all saw this coming, but the look on Gendry’s face when she turned him down still hurt. As Arya told him, she has not, and probably never will be, a lady.

Back at the party, things are tense as fuck for us poor viewers. Everyone is having a reasonably good time after Dany broke the somberness, except for Dany. She looks so alone in the Great Hall. Everyone else is talking and laughing in groups, except for her. Missandei, her only friend, is sitting with Grey Worm, and Dany sits alone, eyeing Jon Snow with…some troubled emotion in her eye.

Obviously, she has not forgotten her rushed convo with Jon about his heritage, and it is seriously bumming her out that not only does he have a stronger claim to the throne, he also has a greater rapport with “her” subjects.

She leaves the Hall alone, and I don’t know about you guys, but I felt a terrible sense of foreboding after that.

Brienne and Jaime, unlike Dany, have a great time at the feast, playing drinking games with Tyrion and Podrick. And afterwards, the moment we all thought about but never seriously considered would happen occurred.

Jaime and Brienne had a…romantic moment.

I won’t go into it too much, since I want to focus more on the endgame of the series. However, you should know their relationship begins and ends in this single episode. Jaime looks to start a life with Brienne at Winterfell, but he ends up leaving to return to Cersei for personal reasons. He told Brienne it’s because he loves Cersei. But something tells me it might be more complicated than that.

Anyways, back to Dany.

After the feast, she heads to Jon Snow’s room, looking to finally talk to him about the bombshell he dropped on their lives. However, the talk does not go according to anyone’s plans.

Dany clearly expects Jon to keep the fact that he is Aegon Targaryen to himself. She still loves him, so she initially pleads with him to keep this information a secret. We’ve been with Dany for a long time, so we should all know by now that she does not beg easily. She is clearly desperate to hold onto what she perceives as her destiny, her reason for living.

However, we’ve also been around Jon Snow long enough to know that he’s no liar. Telling the truth comes to Jon as naturally as a fish swims in water. Dany sees this, and you can tell it is driving her to despair. Jon is also unhappy because, for one thing, he doesn’t want the goddamned Iron Throne. For another, he hates causing Dany this kind of distress. But he can’t seem to understand how the truth of his birth imperils Dany’s claim. I think he cares more about how it is affecting their relationship.

After this gut-twisting conversation, Dany leaves the room and Jon unsatisfied.

So the plan to fight against Cersei continues after the Night King has been finished. Dany plans to return to Dragonstone with her forces by sea, while Jon Snow takes what is left of his Northmen south by land. Sansa isn’t happy about this, and she isn’t shy about letting it show. However, since Jon is King of the North and subservient to Dany, Sansa has to swallow her objections.

Well, she swallows her objections to Dany directly. Both she and Arya do not hesitate to pull Jon aside and say, “Dude-bro, what the fuck is your new queen’s problem, and why aren’t you siding with us?”

Side note: I’m paraphrasing.

This is the moment when Jon decides to tell them that he is not actually a Stark, but is instead a Stark-Targaryen hybrid. He makes them promise not to tell anyone, but Sansa breaks that promise almost instantly to tell Tyrion. I believe we’re meant to assume that she’s trying to cause strife in Daenerys’ home team.

And it fucking works. On the sea voyage back to Dragonstone, Varys and Tyrion have a godawful conversation (godawful because it hurts me to see Dany portrayed as a bad guy) about whether or not Jon would be better suited to the Iron Throne. Tyrion remains loyal to Dany, insisting she be given a chance. Varys seems to have lost all confidence in her though.

And this sea voyage only gets worse.

Tragedy strikes when, while flying in the sky, Rhaegal is struck down by scorpion bolts.

This moment sucked.

Big time.

It always hurts me when the dragons get hurt, and it was particularly hard to see Rhaegal go down for several reasons. For one thing, he was wounded in the Battle of Winterfell, during his fight against undead Viserion. While flying back to Dragonstone, it was clear that Dany was keeping a special eye on him from the back of Drogon in order to make sure he was keeping up. To see him taken down when he was already hurting hurt me.

And the worst thing about it was that it came right out of the fucking blue. At least when Viserion died, you saw the Night King aiming his spear at him. You thus had a little warning.

We as viewers did not know that Euron had brought a fleet of ships up to Dragonstone to lie in wait for them. Well, we didn’t know until Rhaegal was bleeding from his scorpion wounds and falling from the sky.

Euron, the stupid-looking, hateful, wannabe pirate, doesn’t stop with murdering Dany’s green dragon. He fires his scorpions on Dany’s small fleet of ships and sends most of them to the bottom of the ocean. He is somehow able to capture Missandei, one of Dany’s closest friends, and deliver her to King’s Landing too.

Dany, Tyrion, Grey Worm, and Varys head to King’s Landing to try one final time to get Cersei to surrender. Cersei answers with executing Missandei in front of them.

This episode was a major downer. I honestly would rather watch “The Long Night” again than watch Dany, one of my favorite characters, streak down into a pile of piping hot rage. Because that’s where she’s headed, and you can’t really blame her.

Her destiny, the one thing that has kept her going all these years, is threatened by the man she loves. Her children, the dragons, are now down to one. Her armies of loyal Dothraki and freed Unsullied have been decimated. Two of her most trusted advisers, Jorah Mormont and Missandei of Naath have been taken from her.

What else is left to her but fire and blood?