Alice Through the Looking Glass is a Nonsensical Journey

Alice-through-looking-glassAlice has to travel through time while being chased by Time and his aggressively associated puns in order to save her friend The Hatter. He is literally fading fast and the only one who can save him is Alice.

Meanwhile, back at home Alice is faced with being deemed cray after Haymish takes over his father’s company and relegates Alice to the role of clerk, even though she had spent the last year captaining her ship Wonder.

If you were hoping for a movie true to the original Through the Looking Glass story, this is not it. However, if you were looking for a whirlwind adventure with overwhelming and beautiful detail, this is a good place to start.

Full disclosure, I loved the first one of these movies and I am a major Alice buff. That being said I love the feeling of Wonderland and the idea that anything can be possible.

The storyline of this movie wanders like an untrained dog and somewhere in the middle it gets a little lost, but it finds its way back to us by the end. In true Disney fashion all works out, which if that’s a spoiler I’m concerned for you. However, while the storyline is less than convincing the new places we discover along the way are mystical and combine everything we love about Wonderland. It’s one part fantasy and two parts madness, combining ideas from the first movie, the book, the original Alice animated film, and even a hint of Alice: Madness Returns in a steampunky-dark locale.

I can look past the slightly drunken storyline for how incredible the ideas, puns, and artistry are in this movie.

Sadly, our favorite side-kick characters serve as part of the artistry and not part of the real story. But, at least we have Time who is great and not at all what I expected.

Our main character Alice has really come into her own and when her belief in the impossible, something that has always gotten her through, is questioned Wonderland comes to her aid to remind her of what she is capable of. I love that. Believing in impossible things is a tenet of my life goals. I additionally love her transformation into a feminist icon. Alive at a time when women weren’t allowed to do anything, she’s fights against the establishment and makes me want to jump on top of a very tall rock and yell FIGHT THE PATRIARCHY!

But, Alice can still make mistakes and she makes several big one, but of course there are lessons to be learned in all this, just how every Wonderland story should be.

And thanks to Wonderland, there is love, adventure, friendship, puns, family and most of all wonder.

Procrastination and Giggles,
The Red Queen

P.S. FIGHT THE PATRIARCHY…Also, did I mention how much I love the puns in this movie?

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Captain America: Civil War Takes on Another Adult Theme & Nails It

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#TeamIronMan all the way!

The Captain America movies have really impressed me. They went from being my least favorite of the Marvel mini-franchises to my favorite in the space of two movies (even though Cap is still not my favorite Avenger), and they’ve done it primarily through the incorporation of much more adult themes.

The Winter Soldier tackled the problems with secret organizations, power and surveillance; Civil War takes a step beyond that to look at what happens after the earth-threatening events are passed. Once the world is saved, how do you deal with these superbeings? Who watches the Watchmen?

Yeah, it’s not a new theme. (The Incredibles did it too, actually). But Civil War does it really really well and frames it around the relationship and emotional turmoil of Cap and Bucky. Bucky is fighting to regain the identity and memories that were stripped from him by Hydra. After struggling with the loss of personal freedom inherent in the Sokovia Accords (supported by Iron Man), Cap defies them to strike out on his own and save a framed Bucky.

All of this is great, but the movie really shone in three subplots:

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#badass

  1. Everything around Black Panther. This movie served as his introduction, and it was a doozy. He was my favorite part of the film, every time he came on screen. He didn’t bother to hide his identity, and he spends most of the film trying to take down Bucky as revenge for his father. His suit is simply badass, and he has a quiet power that doesn’t need to be shouted from the rooftops like that of Iron Man and many of the other heros. His words serve as the framework for the climax of the film, and it’s in his words that we see hope for the resolution of the Civil War.
  2. The interactions between Vision and Wanda. I’m a HUGE fan of Vision and his dedication to peace. In my opinion, he is the most godlike Avenger (and I said that to mean not only in his power level, which is on par with Thor and Hulk, but also in his demeanor). His strong desire to help and protect Wanda, especially after she accidentally kills several people in the opening scene, makes for a beautiful subplot – especially when the movie spends a lot of time vilifying her. It’s almost reminiscent of Doctor Manhattan and Silk Specter in Watchman, except with the relationship going in the reverse direction.
  3. Spiderman. We got 30 minutes of Spiderman, and they were better than all the previous Spiderman movies put together. This Spiderman is an awkward, gawky teenage boy who just wants to do some good. He’s starstruck by the other Avengers, but he’s doing his best. And I SO cannot wait to see him return in another Marvel film.

The film’s not perfect. There are some obvious plotholes (like why didn’t Vision shut down Wanda during the big hero v. hero confrontation?) but this is definitely top three Marvel film material. The fight sequences are beautifully executed, particularly the climactic battle between all the superheroes. Each Avenger is paired with the perfect opposite number (e.g., Hawkeye & Black Widow), and there are several excellent team-up moments, not least of which was everything involving Ant Man. Between new Spiderman and Ant Man, you ought to be falling out of your seat laughing.

The final beautiful thing about this film is how well it gives you both sides of the story. Regardless of whose side you’re on, the film will give you a lens to view the other side with sympathy. No one is wholly wrong, no one is wholly right. Iron Man is haunted by the people who have died as collateral damage and wants to protect those people in the future, while Cap, spurred by Peggy Carter’s death and the possibility of rescuing Bucky, stands firm against the loss of freedom the Sokovia Accords necessitate.

I initially thought this felt more like an Avengers film than a Captain America film, but the core of it really does center on Cap. The final confrontation between Cap and Iron Man is brutal and gutwrenching, and even though I was fairly certain I knew the outcome, I still flinched at one moment.

You need to see this one. It’s a 5/5 star Marvel film, and you can make an argument for it being the best one they’ve produced to date. Oh, and obviously – don’t leave after the credits.

-Regina

Originally appeared on Regina’s personal blog

What The Huntsman Lacks in Story it Makes Up in Artistry

The-Huntsman-Winters-War-2.jpgThe Huntsman has easily been one of the most obnoxiously advertised movies of the year. It’s everywhere. But, it still only produced modest numbers opening weekend.

Rather than being a prequel to Snow White and The Huntsman, this movie really spanned the story of before and after Snow White with a focus on Emily Blunt’s character, Queen Freya. Freya is the younger sister of the evil queen Ravenna. Her ice-based powers were unlocked due to tragedy and she has spent the days of the first movie conquering the kings of the north in her battle against love.

Eric, the huntsman, was taken as a child to become one of Freya’s soldiers and served her faithfully until he lost his wife. Enter the Snow White story. Now, the magic mirror is missing and Snow White has charged him with the task of finding it. This classic quest brings him in contact with several humorous dwarves, goblins, and finally Freya.

We can all be thankful that the acting in this movie is astounding. Brought together are some of my favorite actors playing striking characters in killer outfits. That’s my favorite part of this movie. It is truly beautiful. Each outfit has an amazing attention to detail and there are several per character. The scenery, monsters, and castles all live up to this high standard (see the poster above). With great detail, seamless special effects, and just generally beautiful composition.

Often times, I feel fantasy movies miss the mark (LoTR being an obvious exception). They don’t quite transport me to a new world the way a book does. It’s all too similar to just being in the woods or the outfits seem medieval with nothing unique. In this movie, I felt my inner fantasy geek was satisfied. I watched a tale of magical adventures in a far off place. It is clear that the producer ( who did this movie and Maleficent) knows a bit about world creation. But, that doesn’t mean it was perfect.

While the acting, scenery and outfits were on point, I was disappointed in the story line. It felt like I was watching a large number of disconnected plot points with limited character development. It was like watching the outline of a story and not the story itself. This was frustratingly emphasized with sudden changes in moods and tones of Eric.

There were some great battle moments that were awesome feats of special effects, but I didn’t quite feel the epic-ness of the boss fight due to odd camera angles and unnecessary close-ups. And these final scenes lacked tension and build the way any good epiphany should. I fully believe that is a fault of the writers and not the actors, however.

Overall, I enjoyed this movie. Was the plot masterful? No. But, I got to spend a little while in a place that wasn’t here, and really, that’s why I like movies.

Procrastination and Giggles,
The Red Queen

P.S. The best decision they made was keeping Kristen Stewart far away from this movie even if it did make for some awkward transitions. She’s the main reason I didn’t love the first one.

Zootopia Supplies All of the Life Lessons

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Disney has done it again. It is impossible for me to name my top five animated movies because I love them so much, but this probably makes my top 10.

Judy Hops is a spunky bunny from small-town Bunnyton who has reached her dream of being a cop in the booming metropolis of Zootopia. And, there has never a bunny cop before. Judy battles on even though many doubt her along the way. When some of Zootopia’s residents go missing, Judy takes it upon herself to save them…even at the risk of losing her career. She finds herself with an unlikely ally in a tricky fox who introduces her to the seedy underbelly of Zootopia.

While not quite as good as Inside Out, I group them together because of their power. Inside Out was a groundbreaking kids movie that approached mental health. Zootopia widely tackles racism with the undervalued prey vs. the authoritarian predators. It approaches sexism by having the first bunny cop. It explains the damage of stereotypes and how we can rise above them through a fox who is as brave as he is sly. It even briefly shows that forgiveness goes a long way even when it come to childhood bullies.

On top of that, it is adorable, funny and full of surprises. The amazing part about Disney movies has always been that they make kids movies that are fun for adults and Zootopia is no exception.

This movie is a classic coming of age, rooting for the underdog, reaching for your dreams, action-packed hero, godfather, conspiracy theory movie. Really, I mean it. We get a little bit of everything. It’s even better because I love Judy.

Judy Hops, is a wonderful role model in that she fights for her dreams. Judy still makes mistakes though. She is far from perfect, but she teaches us that you can make mistakes as long as you try to set them right.

The jokes in this movie are top notch too. There is a host of hilarious side characters that provide a bulk of the comedy with jokes like the ever growing population of Bunnyton and the elephant in the room named Francine.

Additionally, the attention to detail lives up to Disney expectations. Zootopia contains many districts that we get to visit. Each of which is a different habitat providing homes to the great variety of residents in Zootopia, which boasts it’s own pop star and mafia. Not to mention how sneaky and perfect the big plot twist is. It’s so perfect, that you see it coming and don’t even notice, hidden in plain sight.

Overall, it is a wonderfully written and designed movie but the best part about it is the lessons and the heart. These classic themes of doing your best, fighting for your dreams and, maybe most importantly, that no one should be judged by the color of their fur or the shape of their ears.

Procrastination and Giggles,
The Red Queen

P.S. Red Panda…is the best part of the movie even though he’s only in it for about five minutes with a total of three lines.

Guest Review: Batman vs. Superman – Dawn of Justice

It was a dark and stormy knight….

Seriously, and literally, it is a dark and stormy night here in Texas, where I’m sitting at 12:11 a.m. on Thursday, March 24, 2016.  The thunderstorm warning/hail has finally passed us for now, which is good as I don’t really have the financial wherewithal to support my laptop- and my person- being struck by lightning and short-circuiting as I write this review for Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice.

Say whaaaaaaa?  How can she be writing a review for Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice on Thursday March 24 2016 at 12:11 a.m. if Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice doesn’t come out until this evening?!

I’m a mega-nerd.  I saw an advanced showing.  By the way, there’s nothing at the end of the credits; I checked.  You’re welcome.

Some facts about me: I am not Danielle (aka Regina), normal queen of this blog.  My name is Mary.  Did I knock Danielle out and stuff her in a closet in order to take over her blog?  Yes, but that’s not the point.  No, fool!  I was invited!  I’m one of Danielle’s good friends from college, and since I’ve already seen BvS, she asked me to guest appear on her blog.  I’m sure she will extend her most fervent apologies soon.

Some of my biases- some of which will become very relevant- follow.

I’m a devout Roman Catholic.

I majored in Theatre, where my Honors Thesis was in directing.  Oh, so you’re a professional movie critic?  No, I’m a substitute teacher/bartender.  Not at the same time.  Still not a professional movie critic.

I less than three Batman with a big chunk of my less than three.  However, I do not pretend to know absolutely everything about the character, so there are counterpoints that could be made to most of the points I’ll make.  My Superman love and knowledge is much less.

I’m human, and I make mistakes.  I’ve only seen the movie once, and if I don’t remember something, then please chalk it up to my humanity, rather than willful deception.

*Spoilers below*

Continue reading

The One Where Lucifer Gets Naked and Then Gets Shot (“Manly Whatnots”)

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Mmmmm.

Oh, sorry, what?

This episode is all about struggles. We’ve got the struggle to rescue a kidnapped girl – and Lucifer actually gets called in because he has an invite to the suspect’s conference (a pickup artist convention).

Lucifer struggles with his inability to seduce Claire. Claire, meanwhile, struggles with all the strange things she’s seen from Lucifer – still teetering on the edge of the Lucifer-is-actually-the-devil cliff.

And we got SO CLOSE. SO. CLOSE. [Spoilers coming, skip to the next paragraph if you don’t want to see them!] There’s a moment at the climax where Lucifer is getting ready to punish this week’s culprit. Claire comes in and sees his demonic reflection wavering in the mirror, which throws her into a panic. Lucifer finally sees her coming around and asks her to shoot him as proof that he really is the devil. So she does – and Lucifer bleeds. I’m crazy sad that the show didn’t finally throw her off the cliff, but crazy intrigued as to where they’re taking this.

Lucifer is really trying to get with Claire though. There are several jokes about him using the pickup artist’s techniques to try to seduce her. And he’s getting there. The best moment, and the closest he probably was to winning her over, comes when he’s naked (the scene pictured above). She, and we, see the scars on his back for the first time – the scars left behind by his wings where he had Maze tear them out. His sensitivity about those scars breaks down his normally suave exterior and makes him oddly vulnerable for the first time – and you can see Claire responding. Again, SO CLOSE.

Meanwhile, Amenadiel is finally back – this time looking to strike a deal with Maze to get dear Lucifer back into hell. She refuses this time, but I don’t think she will after the end of this episode. Interestingly, she seems to strike a nerve with Amenadiel by licking the side of his face. He clearly struggles with something when she does, and I’m excited to see where that goes next week.

All in all, this was a good episode, perhaps my favorite of the show thus far. It covered a lot of ground, and it introduced a lot for the characters to react to. I have a very strong theory on how the next several episodes are going to progress, and I both hope that I’m right and hope that the show won’t be that predictable.

Here’s to next week!

Other Assorted Thoughts:

  • It’s nice to see an episode where Lucifer doesn’t have to barge his way into the crime scene.
  • I really like the psychologist. A lot. She adds a great dynamic to the show by providing a method to externalize Lucifer’s thoughts and, yes, his desires. Most TV shows can’t get that deep into their characters’ heads, but it works really well here.
  • When Claire tells Lucifer she’ll sleep with him when hell freezes over and he yells back, “I can arrange that actually!” OMG. Dying.
  • “The berries are ripe and ready to be harvested.” One wonders if they didn’t miss a blueberries joke there, but damn. Well played writers.
  • Claire’s kid is seriously too cute, and all her interactions with Lucifer are amazing.

-Regina

Image courtesy of Screencapped.net. Originally posted on Regina’s blog.

Mr. Pool: We Love Him For More than Ryan’s Butt

Deadpool had enough curse words to make a sailor blush, fight scenes to rival any other action movie, and more Easter eggs than at the community park on that weird weekday, afterschool event that’s somewhere around Easter.

I’m going to have to watch this movie at least two more times to catch all of the jokes and shout outs. In fact, there are so many that we can entirely justify three separate reviews about this movie. I’ll be honest with you, all of our reviews will amount to the same thing: GO SEE THIS MOVIE…but don’t take the kids. That being said, I still have to share with you my favorite elements from this comedy extravaganza. Continue reading

Hail, Caesar – Too Many Stories, Not Enough Time

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I feel like I have to start this review with my biggest complaint about this movie – I didn’t get what I expected to get.

I went to see Hail, Caesar! for two reasons:

  1. It looked funny.
  2. I really like several of the actors in it (namely, Ralph Fiennes, Scarlett Johanneson, Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum).

It was definitely funny, though not nearly so much as the movie I saw immediately after. But after getting excited to see four of my favorite actors in a film together…they basically weren’t in the movie at all.

Ralph Fiennes was in two scenes; likewise, ScarJo only had two. Channing lucked out and got three, while Jonah Hill had only ONE. These big name stars were basically nothing more than cameos.

Then there’s the other thing that contributed to the feeling of being shortchanged: the plot was not what I expected. The trailers led me to believe that this movie was going to be primarily about George Clooney’s character Baird Whitlock getting kidnapped.

That’s not the case at all. This movie is really about a day in the life of Eddie Mannix and his decision to either stay at the studio or take a job offer from Lockheed Martin.

It’s not a bad story by any means, but the plot jumps around ever so much. It’s a rare case where the movie would have benefited from a longer run time, simply because there were so many characters and mini-storylines to juggle.

There were moments too where it really shone. Channing Tatum’s opening scene, with the sailor song-and-dance number, was really fantastic. It was very classic Hollywood and a complete joy to watch. Likewise, Tilda Swinton’s twin reporters were extremely amusing, and I wish there had been more time to explore Hobie Doyle’s transition from westerns into dramas and his budding romance with Carlotta (I could have watched a whole movie on just that). In fact, Alden Ehrenreich as Hobie was probably my favorite part of the film – he stole every scene and was both captivating and incredibly believable.

I wanted to like this movie, and I did like parts of it. But those parts didn’t make up for the jumping around to get it beyond “meh” for me. I’m not upset I saw it, but I probably won’t buy it when it comes out either.

-Regina

Originally posted on Regina’s blog

Deadpool Kicks Ass, Takes Names, Unfortunately Does Not Eat Tacos

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Look, when you go to a Deadpool movie, you don’t expect a fancy, original plot with surprise twists.

You go to watch Deadpool kick ass, rattle off profanity-laden one-liners and then kick some more ass. Preferably all at once.

So while my biggest quibble with the Deadpool movie is its tired, un-original plotline, you kind of can’t be mad at it.

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I mean, just look at that face.

The first two acts of the story are told largely in flashback, revealing how Deadpool came to be Deadpool while he simultaneously fights off a horde of “badder” guys (with only 12 bullets). We see his love for Vanessa, his cancer diagnosis, Francis/Ajax’s experimentation and finally Deadpool’s quest for vengeance. From there we proceed through the obligatory “girlfriend-gets-kidnapped-by-bad-guy” to “save-the-girl.” I haven’t really spoiled anything at all here because this was basically all in the trailer/in two out of three superhero movies featuring male leads. There are no shocking twists, and it really is that simple.

All that being said – Ryan Reynolds knocks it out of the PARK.

If the actor playing Deadpool wasn’t into it, this movie would have fallen apart. But Reynolds is all over the role, giving 110%. His love for the character shows in every scene, and it more than makes up for the plot’s failings. He would even make you forget about the tragedy of that OTHER superhero movie he was in (with a green, animated suit) if it weren’t for the movie’s quippy references to it. He snarks, he shoots people, he isDeadpool.

And the excellent casting doesn’t stop there. I have loved Morena Baccarin since her Firefly days, and she’s always a treat on-screen. Her introduction is well-handled, and the chemistry between her and Reynolds is definitely there, as evidenced by the hilarious holiday sex montage. I wish we could have seen more of her (and I wish she’d had more agency rather than just being the object of Deadpool’s love), but I’ll pin those hopes on the sequel.

Also in the “excellent casting” corner is TJ Miller as Deadpool/Wade Wilson’s best buddy. Miller has been all over the place of late, and he’s well cast here as a character that enables much of the witty dialogue. Somebody’s gotta be on the receiving end of those one-liners, and Miller’s Weasel gets off several of his own too.

I was less impressed with the villains. Ed Skrein did OK as Ajax but wasn’t menacing enough for me to feel he was a real threat to Deadpool. Part of that fault lies with the writers as well, but it never felt like the stakes were particularly high, even at the final fight.

The movie is loaded with jokes and gags, some of which will actually take you a second to catch as they fly by; even though the writers didn’t do great in the plot department, they nailed the dialogue. Montages are put to fantastic use, and the special effects don’t suffer too poorly from the relatively low budget. And that R rating could have been independently earned by either the sex, the violence or the language – let alone all three.

But what else would you expect from a Deadpool movie? It’s exactly what I hoped it would be and what itshould be – two hours of snark, sex and ass-kicking. I can’t wait for the sequel.

Other Assorted Thoughts:

  • My single favorite joke of the movie came during a montage of Deadpool tracking down Ajax – a scene where he rides a zamboni down an ice skating rink while his injured victim tries to pull himself to safety. It’s as funny as it sounds.
  •  My second favorite would have to be the moment during Deadpool’s countdown of bullets on the freeway when one of the bad guys comes around the car only to discover that his gun is out of ammo – and Deadpool, lying comfortably on the ground, chides him for not counting bullets too before killing him.
  • Oh my God, Dopinder. All ten for you, buddy.
  • “Hakuna his tatas” was such a great line.
  • So many jokes about the budget! And apparently the reason Deadpool forgets his weapons duffel bag twice is due to budget cuts that forced changes to the big action sequences.
  • Nice cameo, S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier.
  • Nice cameo, Stan Lee.

-Regina

Image courtesy of IMDB and, ultimately, 20th Century Fox. Originally appeared on Regina’s blog.

The Force Awakens, A Brief Analysis

I am the first to admit, that I bow down to Amidala and Regina as the Star Wars experts and as such I have a short review of The Force Awakens.

1)   Yey female characters!

2)   Paying homage is Pitch Perfect’s love of The Breakfast Club. This was more like Avatar/Dances With Wolves/ Pocahontas.

3)   What they said.

Procrastination and Giggles,
The Red Queen

P.S. That’s not how science works.