Sand, Spice, and Half a Movie: Dune Review

Let me just come right out and say it: If Dune had not gotten approved for a sequel and just remained as a single, giant half-told story, that would have been a major case of blue balls.

Hi.

It’s me, your Below Average Blogger who hasn’t posted in about a month and is belatedly talking about Dune.

But that’s okay. My Below Average Blog, my Below Average rules.

If you don’t want to read any more about Dune because you haven’t seen it yet, all you need to know is that it is very much made for Dune fans. It’s also made for fans of sci-fi films that focus on atmosphere, i.e. Blade Runner or 2001: A Space Odyssey.

That’s not to say it isn’t a fairly nifty experience for newcomers, but this is clearly the Dune movie that fans of Frank Herbert’s novel have been waiting for for decades.

Spoilers ahead!

(Even though the movie came out, like, a month ago, and god, I am so sorry for covering it so late, I shouldn’t apologize, but I can’t help feeling guilty, work has been piling up and now the holidays are here, but I still feel so ashamed for not keeping up with my blogging, guilt is my ever-present companion in life.)

I summarized the first Dune novel pretty concisely (i.e. not concisely at all) in my post about the book a few months ago. So I’m not going to waste anybody’s time in summarizing the plot here. However, you should know that the movie only covers half of what’s in the book. It covers the events from the beginning to right after Paul has his duel with Jamis.

And then it just ends.

This is by far the movie’s biggest flaw. If you were following the sinister plots of the Harkonnens and hoping to uncover the mystery of Paul’s burgeoning powers, then the manner in which this movie ends will leave you reeling. It doesn’t feel like a cliffhanger a la The Empire Strikes Back, so much as it feels like someone cut The Empire Strikes Back in half and said that the movie ends right when Luke has that vision in the tree-cave thing.

It’s strange because the movie covers so much. It has to. World-building, galactic political maneuverings, and genetic manipulation take time to properly explain to an audience. But even though the movie is jam-packed with this kind of exposition, the way it ends leaves the whole thing feeling unfinished.

The second flaw of the movie in my Below Average opinion is how little time is spent developing characters. (Yikes, doesn’t that sound like a dime-store critic’s opinion?) So much of the movie is spent showing the world, which is great, because the world of Dune is so mesmerizing, but it comes at the cost of character development.

For example, Gurney Halleck is this gruff soldier type who stands alongside Duke Leto during the move to Arrakis, but you actually don’t know much about him beyond that. In point of fact, he disappears halfway through the movie and is not seen again; you don’t even miss him when he’s gone.

‘But wait!’ the angry Dune fan might shout at me. ‘Gurney’s a side character. He’s not meant to be developed.’

All right, angry fan. What about Jessica, Paul’s mother? She’s a pretty pivotal character. Would you say you know her motivations?

Of course, if you’ve read the books, you know that Jessica is an ambitious woman who hopes to see her son become the Kwisatz Haderach. She does a lot of things most would consider unseemly in order to achieve this goal.

The movie follows this same plotline, but your understanding of what she gains from it is dramatically lessened.

And Jessica and Gurney are not the only ones who get shafted when it comes to development. Thufir Hawat, who played a prominent role in the book, is largely absent from proceedings. Dr. Yueh, a key player in the fall of House Atreides, only pops in a couple of times before this betrayal. And Rabban’s job in the film, apparently, is to just walk around menacingly without actually doing or saying much.

All of this character development is sacrificed at the altar of sci-fi world-building, and while I do miss it, I’m not actually too torn up about it. Why?

Because the world of Dune is just that fucking cool.

The intricacies of Landsraad politics, the dark training of the Sardaukar, the spice harvesting on Arrakis, the mental powers of the Bene Gesserit, these are all things that interweave to make Dune’s universe a fascinating place. And say what you will about the lack of time spent on character motivations, the clear investment in creating a riveting atmosphere is well worth it.

From the visual designs of hard-to-imagine objects from the books to the musical accompaniments to mostly silent scenes, everything in Dune harmonizes to make you feel like this place exists. It’s not just some fantasy story created in someone’s overactive mind. It’s a real place somewhere out in the unknown reaches of our universe.

And what makes the whole thing even more staggering is the fact that Dune is one of the forefathers of the sci-fi genre. Frank Herbert created concepts that might seem like par for the course these days, but you have to remember that he wrote Dune in 1965. So even though we lucky audience members are seeing Dune realized in all of its glory, we’re reaping the benefits of Herbert’s creativity.

The first half of this post might make it seem like I abhorred Dune, but I actually loved it. It’s one of those movies that makes you forget you’re watching a movie. All too often, now that I’m an adult, whenever I watch a movie, I am laser-focused on the fact that this is a narrative product that someone is trying to sell me. It has become rarer and rarer that I can truly sink back and forget that fact while sitting in a theater.

Dune immersed me more fully into its world than a sandworm immerses its prey into its mouth.

The ending left me hanging so badly because I wanted to stay immersed for a while longer.

I worry a bit that non-Dune fans will be left scratching their heads in puzzlement after the credits start rolling, wondering what on earth they just saw and if they even want to return for a sequel. But I went to go see it with two of my D&D buddies, one a die-hard Dune fan, the other a complete newcomer to the series. Both of them adored it, so I have hope.

I rate Dune a mind-blowing-sci-fi-experience-that-feels-more-immersive-and-astounding-than-a-half-finished-story-ought-to-feel-and-it’s-all-worth-it-in-the-end.

I Love My Old Movies

I have a small VHS player/TV in my bedroom.

I have access to a pretty large amount of movies through streaming services on other, more modern devices.

But that doesn’t stop me from popping in an old VHS tape and watching something in my room every now and then.

The sound quality is quite terrible, and the volume button is broken (all the buttons are broken in some way). If you press it too much, it starts to rewind the tape, so the volume is stuck at 14 (unless you want to fiddle with it). The speakers are also tinny-sounding, like the movie characters are literally stuck inside the boxy TV screaming at you.

The screen is small, probably 10 inches by 10 inches, a puny square. It practically demands you watch your movies fullscreen instead of widescreen.

My bed is situated on the opposite wall from the TV, but the head of the bed is blocked from directly viewing the screen thanks to a large dresser. I have to lie down with my head at the foot of the bed to properly watch things.

Sometimes I’ll watch a movie while I fold clothes in my room. I’ll push a tape inside and the player will seem to accept it gladly. If I’m packing for a trip to see Alya, a movie will help speed the time it takes. Or if I’m doing some much-needed stretching, a brief story on this sad, square screen will occupy my mind while my body is just protesting.

Other times, I don’t want my mind to be occupied. I’ll lie on my bed and put on a movie just so I can ignore it. I’ll stare at the ceiling and zone out for a good hour and a half.

I have a collection of classic Disney animated films courtesy of my mother’s assiduousness when it came to keeping me and my sister entertained. I also have a pile of rom-coms that my mother was gifted (that she forgot about), a handful of random 90s movies (for some reason), and The Ten Commandments (the obvious jewel in my movie collection).

Recently, when Alya took me to a used bookstore that also sells VHS tapes, I bought The Matrix Reloaded and The Last Crusade. I bought them specifically so I could watch them on this cruddy little TV.

I’m terrified it will break down one day, and I will be unable to fix it.

But for now, it’s one of the best things I own.

Pixar Still Surprises Me: Luca Review

Pixar has an almost unparalleled pedigree of success. I struggle to think of a franchise, brand, or company that equals Pixar when it comes to churning out quality content on a consistent basis.

Am I figuratively gobbling Pixar’s knob right now?

Maybe, but can you blame me?

Year after year, movie after movie, Pixar releases touching stories about the importance of family, getting in touch with your emotions, and the meaning of life, to name a few themes.

So whenever I hear a Pixar movie has come out, I make it a goddamn point to watch it because we all need some heartfelt stories in our lives.

Luca, Pixar’s latest film that released on Disney Plus, surprised me in many ways. While I wouldn’t rank it up there with my all-time favorites (Wall-E, Up, Toy Story 3), it was far better than I expected it to be.

Luca is a young sea monster who spends his days herding fish. His parents warn him about going up to the surface, but Luca’s imagination, curiosity, and chance meeting with a free-spirited fellow of the same age spurs him to seek adventure above the waves.

Luca and this newfound friend, Alberto, spend days on the surface, reveling in the freedom they can experience as humans. The only catch is that if water is splashed on them, they revert to sea monster form, and the people living nearby have a hankering to hunt down monsters.

But Luca and Alberto have big dreams to own a Vespa and travel the world, so they sign up for a contest that could earn them some money to pay their way to freedom. What then follows is a hilarious adventure that drives home what the real meaning of friendship is.

Even more so than the typical Pixar movie, Luca is gorgeous. I would rank it up there with Finding Nemo in just how beautiful the world looks. Plus, Luca daydreams an awful lot, which means these imaginative sequences where he touches the moon or travels the world on a Vespa are wonderfully realized. These images coupled with the stellar soundtrack make the narrative twice as uplifting as it already is on its own.

True, the story follows a predictable path, but just because you can guess what will happen next does not mean it isn’t satisfying. I mean, I still teared up regardless when conflict arose (and when it was resolved).

Luca also features plenty of Italian cultural quips that probably went right over my head. I would almost compare it to Coco in how steeped the movie is in culture. But while I could easily comprehend the humor (the true and real and accurate humor) of Miguel’s grandmother ensuring he ate more tamales than his stomach could handle, I think some of Luca’s went over my head.

And while following your dreams is a fairly tired theme narrative-wise, Luca is less about the pursuit of your dream and more about the people around you who see you reach it. Luca hammers home that true friends and family will be the support you need to accomplish anything, even if they get left behind in the process. Acceptance is also a huge part of Luca, from accepting your child’s choices in life to accepting the differences that set us apart.

When I first approached Luca, I thought I was going to get A Bug’s Life level movie, which is by no means bad. But after watching it, I would actually place Luca a step or two above that, closer to Ratatouille, after finishing it.

Side note: None of these comparisons and rankings will make any sense unless you agree with my taste in Pixar movies. I am so sorry.

I rate Luca an endearing-story-about-friendship-and-dreams-that-will-have-you-silencing-your-inner-Bruno-and-have-you-leaping-after-your-own.

What Is the Point of Zack Snyder’s Justice League?

I get it, okay?

Sometimes, a movie comes out, and you’re not happy with the results. I have more than once been irked by a movie that got on my nerves for how awful it was. For your reading pleasure, here is what I thought of Wonder Woman 1984, here is what I thought of Cats, and here is what I thought of Alita: Battle Angel.

As you can see by these examples, I am no stranger to vitriol.

But never in my life have I thought to myself, “Hmm, that movie was so bad. I hope it is redone, made twice as long, but still retains the same plot points.”

That’s basically what Zack Snyder’s Justice League is.

When Justice League first came out, there were good bits and there were bad bits. I enjoyed the movie for what it was (a rushed attempt to capitalize on the Marvel Cinematic Universe trend of mashing up heroes in one movie) and got on with my life.

But then I started hearing whispers about how “the Snyder cut is the true vision of what the film could be” and other such stuff. I never thought anything would come of it.

And that’s right around when the Snyder cut was announced.

I like 300 and Watchmen as much as the next person, but some of Zack Snyder’s fans talk about him like he is the filmmaking equivalent of Jesus. And I just don’t understand it, especially after watching the four-hour-long version of a movie I already saw.

The plot remains largely the same. For those of you who saw Justice League, rest assured that the Snyder cut only offers a few meaningful differences. The one aspect worthy of attention in this bloated movie is Cyborg’s story. Man, this character got shafted in the first one if this was his original intended storyline. I appreciated the expansion of his history and his inclusion in moving the film along. He actually plays a more important role and gets some much deserved screentime.

However, the rest of the film felt stuffed with unnecessary chaff.

I don’t need to see someone’s disturbed expression for thirty seconds after something upsetting happens.

I don’t need to see measured stares between characters that last way longer than they should.

And I don’t need to see slow-motion walking for no goddamn reason.

I mean, criminy, a quarter of the Snyder cut is made of slo-mo scenes. I don’t even think I’m exaggerating. And it’s one thing if I saddle myself up for a stylistic movie like 300, where I am aware of what I’m getting myself into.

But it’s like Justice League tried to be both stylistic-artsy-fartsy and MCU-generated-popcorn-fluff. PICK A LANE, PEOPLE.

And don’t get me started on the “ancient lamentation music” that played nearly every time Wonder Woman was on the screen.

Snyder fans might hate me for not liking this massive movie, but I swear, I like other films he has done. It’s just…

This one feels so unnecessary. I can’t comprehend why people were so hyped for it.

And I guess maybe part of my displeasure stems from that. If people hadn’t been praising the heck out of it like it was the neatest thing since sliced bread, maybe I wouldn’t be so irritated after watching it and finding out it was as absurd as canned bread.

I rate Zack Snyder’s Justice League a zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

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.

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.

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.