The Princess Switch Review, or thank you Netflix for another gem

Yesterday I had to day off, so naturally I sat on my couch to watch a little Netflix. To my great joy, I saw a new Netflix original Christmas movie had been released. A couple of weeks ago, I noticed an online ad for The Princess Switch featuring TWO Vanessa Hudgenses and I was instantly excited.

This movie did not disappoint.

Basically, The Princess Switch is the plot of every movie you can imagine where two characters share an uncanny resemblance to each other and decide to switch roles. In this case, they aren’t separated at birth twins, but connected probably through a distant cousin. Vanessa Hudgens 1 is Duchess Margaret of a made up country, a duty bound princess-to-be who’s marrying Prince Edward of another made up country. Margaret isn’t made for the spotlight (which we learn through clunky exposition) and wants to know what it’s like to be a regular girl. She bumps into Vanessa Hudgens 2, Stacey, who’s visiting the made up country for a baking competition. Shenanigans ensue.

In typical fashion, I’m just going to bullet point the rest of my thoughts and they definitely contain spoilers:

  • Within the first 20 minutes, John Lennon’s quote ‘Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans’ is mentioned THRICE. Clearly, our characters are going to realize some amazing truths while their plans are disrupted.
  • Aside from that, the real highlight of the movie is at one point toward the end, Margaret-as-Stacey is at home with Kevin, Stacey’s baking assistant and father to Olivia, a little girl who said at her dance class, they danced The Nutcracker as if that’s a casual dance you can do in 45 minutes. Anyway. They go to watch a Christmas movie and Kevin turns on Netflix. The self-referential nature doesn’t stop there. HE CHOOSES TO WATCH A CHRISTMAS PRINCE BECAUSE IT’S STACEY’S FAVORITE MOVIE! LEGITIMATELY THIS HAPPENS! By the end, Maragaret is crying and Kevin is tearing up because who doesn’t love a happy ending. The most unbelievable thing is probably that it’s Stacey’s favorite movie – she’s been set up as a non-sentimental person who doesn’t seem like she has a lot of time for nonsense. And as much as a I love A Christmas Prince, it’s complete nonsense. Can’t wait for the sequel.
  • Everyone falls in love with each other in two days. Kevin and Stacey have been friends since high school, but there’s never been a spark. He’s too go-with-the-flow and she’s too, what he calls, ‘intense.’ As an intense person, this offends me. Once Margaret, somehow a free spirit despite her upbringing, pretends to be Stacey, the sparks begin flying like crazy. Stacey and Prince Edward fall in love because they both love making and keeping plans.
  • Both Stacey and Margaret master perfect accents in the matter of an hour maybe? Margaret is from a fake country that fortunately has a British accent, which Stacey immediately masters. I know we’ve all tried to speak with an accent, and maybe we’re okay for a few words, but it’s a really complex thing. You have to learn the different sounds for all the words. Stacey is Chicago based which in real life means she’s got some hard vowels in her pronunciation, but Margaret immediately drops her royal tone of speaking and sounds just like her.
  • Stacey wears heals while baking all the time and during the five-hour baking competition. More power to you, but also no.
  • At one point when the prince is telling Stacey he wants to be with her, she’s looking at him and tearing up and I really wanted her to start singing any of Gabriella’s sad love songs to Troy, preferably Gotta Go My Own Way.
  • When Kevin finds out he didn’t kiss Stacey but actually Margaret, he’s not immediately sure about everything which makes perfect sense. Unlike Edward and Margaret who were basically strangers, Kevin and Stacey have been BFs forever. He thought he was falling in love with his best friend, someone he knows everything about, but it was actually a stranger. That changes things.
  • There’s a scene where Stacey-as-Margaret and Edward are riding horses and the green screen is so terrible I’m pretty sure I can see the guy dropping fake snow on them from the rafters.
  • Also at one point they go to this really nice toy store and there happens to be a Twister game on the floor so of course they play. Stacey’s in a short skirt and a duchess but that’s no big deal.
  • What I legitimately did like is the conflict resolution. The king and queen find out about the doppelgängers and are wondering what to do when a kindly old magic man who’s helping moving the plot along in every scene convinces them it’s fine. They’ve seen Stacey and their son together and they want him to be happy and in love and don’t care if he’s marrying a duchess or a peasant baker. They convince Margaret (now switched back into her real life) to go with Edward to the baking competition. Before they leave, she explains everything to him. So he’s not surprised at the appearance of both of them (sorry Kevin) and knows he’s in love with her. I really appreciate the more rational, non-dramatic ending of things.

This movie is cheesy and ridiculous but I say two thumbs up watch it now.

There’s always a herd of pigs for you

Have you ever watched a movie and noticed a lingering shot on a seemingly inconsequential object and immediately thought ‘that’s going to be important later?’ Or maybe it had the opposite effect where you didn’t think about it until suddenly it all made sense.

In the 2009 reboot of Star Trek, we get a shot of James Tiberius Kirk staring at the U.S.S. Enterprise as it’s being built. For those who know the story, you understand the importance of this moment because soon James T. will become the famed Captain Kirk of the Starship Enterprise. We’re shown the ship because it will play an important role in the story later.

Sometimes a director can cleverly insert details that seem normal until the end when your mind is blown. Let’s consider Signs. If you haven’t seen the M. Night Shyamalan classic (yes I’m sticking to that description), I’m going to spoil it for you. Throughout the whole movie, we see Mel Gibson’s daughter Beau reject glasses of water because they’re contaminated. His grief over his wife’s death apparently makes him a terrible housekeeper because these full glasses are left all around the house.

It’s likely some people immediately predicted the importance of these glasses, but I didn’t. On some level, I knew it was more than a quirk, but I didn’t anticipate that Mel’s wife’s dying words telling Merrill to “swing away” would lead to defeating the aliens as Joaquin Phoenix knocks one around into the glasses all around the house.

I still get chills when I think about this moment in the movie. Suddenly, as an alien is holding one of the Culkin’s, everything for Mel focuses into place and we see how all these conversations happened for this exact situation. For me, it was just a powerful reminder of that’s how life actually works.

It’s easy to be cynical in movies when people keep colliding in random places or someone has a conversation that somehow solves the whole problem. Maybe it’s not quite as obvious in our lives, but it works the same way. I believe that things fall into place in strange and unusual ways if you just take the time to think about the details.

In the Gospels, we learn about this demon-crazed man who lived naked among some tombs outside of the town. Turns out, this guy didn’t just have one devil on his shoulder convincing him to live wild and naked. He had a whole gang of bad guys named ‘Legion’ using him as a host. As soon as they see Jesus, they panic and ask that they aren’t thrown into a bottomless pit. That does sound awful, tbh.

The next verse is a lot like story foreshadowing:

“There happened to be a large herd of pigs feeding on the hillside nearby, and the demons begged him to let them enter the pigs.” Luke 8:32 (NLT)

Imagine if you were watching this story play out on screen. It would show Jesus and his disciples walking outside of town, with a sweeping view of the tombs and the herd of pigs standing near a cliff. You’d probably think ‘what a strange place for a herd of pigs.’

Jesus lets them enter the pigs and then the “entire heard plunged down the steep hillside in the lake and drowned.” (Luke 8:33)

We need the clever cinematography of movies to show us what’s important and what will have consequences for the plot. It helps tell a better story and keep the viewer engaged. In real life, we don’t get these zoom shots or dramatic pauses to tell us what’s an important detail or person or situation that will affect us later. We don’t see everything, but Got does.

He’s our master Director, orchestrating every scene of our life and placing everything we need if we don’t notice it. He hasn’t forgotten a prop or detail that’s going to keep you from reaching the end of your own story.

Think about your own life. Trace every decision back a decision. Consider every encounter you’ve had. I guarantee in most cases, you can see some movie-like situations. The difference is we don’t see our resolution in under two hours.

Maybe you have already met the person you’re going to marry, but it’s going to take a few years for both of you to figure out. Maybe he or she is just a scene change away. It could be you’ve already made the connection with someone that will lead you to a dream career some day. Or maybe it’s as simple as one person speaking life into you and helping you realize all that you’re capable of.

This is a big area of struggle for me. I want a montage, movie life. I want to get through the awkward times with a humorous combination of scenes featuring an upbeat song. I want the sad times to pass with some Sia song playing overtop so that in two minutes I’m all better. I want to meet someone and know within two hours that he’s the man God set aside for me.

God is the greatest storyteller of all time, and Hollywood is just a cheap imitator of what he does in all our lives. Movies show us a glimpse of the magic and convince us what we think we need, but we’re already living something so much more amazing than any story humans can create.

Even when it feels like you’re story isn’t moving along, remember God has set the scene. Your herd of pigs is waiting to come into play. I hope someday we can all look back on the details that didn’t seem unimportant and thank God for the way he placed everything we needed in our lives.

When I try to control my own life and make things happen in my time, I want to remember my plot is written. Taking control is a disaster. Think Suicide Squad level of disaster. God is my director and writer with the best vision possible, and I’m pressure from the studio to create something entirely different. Together, we just create a hot mess.

I want my life to be the story God wrote when he told Abraham his descendants would be as numerous as the stars knowing I would be one and knowing how important my story would be.

I want that for you, too.

An alternate title for this post is “God uses the unexpected around us,” but I felt the one I used was more mysterious.

I don’t hate Valentine’s Day

 

As a single person, sometimes I feel like I’m expected to hate Valentine’s Day. Or maybe we all feel like we’re expected to hate it. Think about it – how many people do you know who actually like the holiday? Single people hate the reminder they’re alone. Coupled people complain and say it’s a fake holiday to sell chocolate.

For your consideration, I actually like Valentine’s Day. No, scratch that. I love it.

For as long as I can remember it’s been one of my favorite holidays. I loved decorating the bags with doilies in elementary school and picking out the perfect valentines to give to my friends. I love red and pink and hearts and sparkles, and just the idea that one day a year we all get a little extra love.

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Valentine’s Day circa 2016. Clearly I had an obsession with this shirt/sunglass combo before I lost the shirt. RIP shirt

Historically, I can’t find a logical reason why we celebrate. Some quick Wikipedia research revealed that stories say Saint Valentine was recognized for performing marriages for soldiers, but other stories say he was killed for refusing to renounce his Christian faith.

Both stories could conceivably be true, because Valentine’s Day isn’t just the celebration of one saint, but several from early saints called Valentinus. Some speculate the timing was chosen to convert a pagan holiday to one accepted by the church. In the Middle Ages it was believed the birds mated in mid-February, adding to the legend. Romantic, right?

Ultimately it was the 14th century and Geoffrey Chaucer who made Valentine’s Day the symbol of love and devotion we now embrace (or endure) today. Next time you grumble about it being a holiday created by Hallmark to sell cards, remember this:

Valentine’s Day has been a thing for like, 700 years.

While it is technically a day for romantic love (thanks birds from the Middle Ages), I choose to view it as something better. Beyond the cliche heart necklaces that clearly say your boyfriend didn’t know what to get you and waited until the last minute, there’s a beauty to Valentine’s Day, if you choose to see it.

In high school, I started a tradition with one of my best friends. It was in the time before ‘love yourself’ and ‘treat yo self’ became the anthems of a generation, but somehow my friend and I figured it out. Every year, we would go to the movies and eat Taco Bell on Valentine’s Day. Instead of letting the pressure to have a date bother us, we automatically knew we would spend the night with someone we loved. To this day, if I see one of the movies we saw, I smile because of what it represents.

This is a tradition I now carry on alone. Every year, I take myself to the movies. I usually sneak in food (Chinese, mostly) because eating while at the movies is one of my favorite pastimes. There is no drama, no pressure, no worry. Only me enjoying my own company.

For 10 years, I’ve been my own valentine, and I have no regrets.

Beyond self-love, Valentine’s Day presents other opportunities for expressing love. Leslie Knope introduced the world to Galentine’s Day, where we ditch our men and choose to celebrate with each other and breakfast food. Last year, I spent the night with my family and we had a heart-shaped pizza. I see my nieces and truly think that there are no better valentines in the world.

We can’t change the fact that Valentine’s Day is a thing, but we can change our perspective. For Pete’s sake, we take a whole day to be thankful based on lies about how we made ‘peace’ with some Native Americans, but one day about love with over 700 years of history is unfathomable.

We show love every day, but like Thanksgiving, this is a day to be extra aware, and extra loving. To everyone, not just your significant other. Remember the value of loving yourself, and remind yourself of how valuable you are. Hug everyone you know and spread a little love. We have enough anger and resentment without bitterness over a holiday.

I don’t hate Valentine’s Day, and neither should you.

That time Wonder Woman became my new favorite superhero

Like many people, I thought the first trailer for Wonder Woman looked really good. I loved the music and her theme that plays when the logo is shown at the end. But, like many people, I was hesitant to believe this one would be good.

Remember how we were fooled into thinking Suicide Squad would be good? To be fair, that movie should’ve been great, and I think there’s a great movie buried somewhere in it, but it’s really garbage. Even Batman V. Superman seemed promising, even through the opening scene showing Bruce Wayne’s perspective of the showdown from Man of Steel.

Essentially DC promises a lot but so far hasn’t delivered. Until now? We’ll see.

Basically the plot is simple. Diana (Gal Gadot) and the Amazons live in a paradise called Themiscyra where they endlessly train for the return of Ares because he wants to destroy the world and it is their sacred duty to protect it. One day, a plane crashes through the protective wall and Diana rescues the pilot – a very dashing Chris Pine – named Steve Trevor. The Germans are following him and bring a brief battle to the island, and while the Amazons win, it is not without casualties. Upon learning of The Great War (WWI), Diana realizes she most go and help, seeing as it’s likely Ares orchestrating everything.

Before I get into spoilers, I’m going to say this is the best DC movie so far. It wasn’t perfect, but it also wasn’t a steaming dumpster fire like the others. More importantly, I think it gives hope that this universe can be a good one, contrary to what its predecessors have tried to prove

Ok.

Spoilers.

Stop if you don’t want to know.

For a long time I rejected Wonder Woman being my favorite hero because it felt so on the nose for a feminist and also I hadn’t really seen a good Wonder Woman in my lifetime. Until now. Gal Gadot’s portrayal made her my favorite. Not only is she a total BOSS, she’s kind and empathetic. She believes in the good of humanity and more importantly, love.

Yes, I know the latter is a lesson she learns after great loss and her faith in humanity is understandably questioned, but it’s still there. Steve gives her perspective when telling her it’s not because people deserve being saved, because humanity doesn’t under any circumstances. But you still have to try.

As a Christian, I loved looking at the flaws of humanity and how yeah, we don’t deserve a savior, but it’s never a question of what we deserve, any one of us. That is the definition of our actual Savior and while obviously this movie (featuring Zeus mentions), doesn’t follow that route, I liked it nonetheless.

Quick thought but Chris Pine must have it in his contract to always randomly discover an out of place motorcycle he can ride. I’m not complaining, but it’s definitely a thing.

Now back to love. Diana easily has the best luck in meeting an attractive and brave man her first time out. I’ve been trying for years with no luck, but whatever. She had also never seen a man before, so maybe she deserved it more than me. Moving on. I really enjoyed how their relationship played out. There was obvious instant attraction, but the movie didn’t really shy away from it. She sees him naked and just looks and he just kind of owns it without quickly scrambling to cover up.

I think this is an important point because while the movie hit the points of propriety at the time, you never felt that between Diana and Steve. Diana was raised in a world where the women are warriors and hardly dressed and yeah Steve is respectful, but he’s also really cool with Diana not following the norms of his time.

The entire scene on the boat, where they discuss a lot about relationships and sex, was improvised, allowing the audience to feel the chemistry behind a genuine interaction.

After saving a village on the other side of No Man’s Land at the front, the townspeople are celebrating with their liberators and Steve decides to show Diana how to dance, or as she calls it, swaying. They share an intimate conversation about regular life and you can feel the heat between them. But not as much as what happens in the next scene.

You see a lot of actors on screen together who maybe make you feel the passion or maybe you feel it’s strange or rushed. That was not the case with Pine and Gadot. I think the movie did an excellent job of setting up their relationship without making it strange.

I nearly blushed at the passion they created.

It happens after the dancing. He walks her to her room where they’re staying and goes the walk out and shut the door. He looks back and she looks VERY expectant, but in too many movies this would turn into the male lead stumbling over his words, panicking and leaving. Honestly, it’s what I thought would happen.

Instead, he walks back in and closes the door behind him. He walks over to Diana and this is where my blushing began. You can just feel how badly they both want to be together. At first, they just stare at each other and do the face touching thing until finally and perfectly, they kiss. We don’t see what happens next, but it shows us the room from the outside and as adults we can assume what happened next.

Obviously, as I’ll discuss in a moment, time was of the essence for their storyline, but I still loved how it wasn’t so drawn out. In The First Avenger, Steve and Peggy play the will they won’t they game for way too long with stupid plot points separating them. They were two people who clearly liked each other and they went for it without worrying about one being in danger or complicating anything. Life is too short for excuses.

Sadly, they had to have their moment because Steve Trevor wasn’t going to make it through. This was one of the clearly telegraphed points found in Wonder Woman, but also a point that was clear as early as BVS. This world had scorned Diana by taking Steve, making her unwilling to step in again. Plus, he was mortal and as we learned, she was an immortal god so it would make certain things a little more complicated.

Early on there was speculation that maybe Chris Pine was actually playing Hal Jordan, or at least a Green Lantern character, which would help solve some of the problems with aging that might plague their relationship (I think). Part of me is sure we’ll see Chris Pine again, maybe as a descendant from Steve Trevor and this time he is Green Lantern, making him a part of the Justice League. His role in this movie was a big one, but it still seems strange to cast Chris Pine with no ongoing plans to use him, so we’ll see.

Anyway, back to his death. While Diana is fulfilling her destiny as the god-killer (turns out she wasn’t made from clay but an actual creation from Hippolyta and Zeus), Steve realizes he needs to fly the plane away and blow it up. He gives his dad’s watch to Diana, says he has to go and wishes they had more time. As he runs away he says I love you, words she remembers in the climax of her fight with Ares.

I’m tearing up writing this. I read spoilers so I knew how he would die, but it still made me cry in the movie. Just like I’m crying now. As you’ll learn, I want movie people to have happy endings. This life is hard enough and I need things to work out in my fictional worlds. It’s the same kind of sadness I felt watching Rogue One. When a movie properly crafts these relationships, you feel the loss.

As much as I enjoyed this movie and loved the characters, there were definitely points that were so obvious.

  1. Diana being the god-killer

It was clear based on all the comments from the Amazons that Diana was not like them and had a greater purpose. I did enjoy how they made it seem her birth was like one of her origins where she crafted from clay, only to learn she was the daughter of Zeus and Hippolyta, making her a god. I also loved when she called Ares brother right before destroying him.

2. David Thewlis being Ares

I don’t even remember his character name and I’m not going to look it up. As soon as I saw him softly arguing for peace, I knew. There’s no way you cast him for that kind of role. He clearly had a greater purpose. However I did enjoy the realization that he whispers the keys people need for war, like giving Dr. Poison the right formula

3. That German general not being Ares

Those gas pills Dr. Poison gave him were clearly just plot devices so Diana would think he was Ares because he was strong enough to fight him. Both things really annoyed me.

4. This movie was kind of The First Avenger

Different World War, same plot, down to discount Howling Commandos and sacrifice via plane by hero. Saying that, I enjoyed this one way more that the original Captain America film. I didn’t mind the similarities, but they were there.

5. Too much slowmo

Don’t get me wrong – I thought this was a cool effect to really focus on the incredible things the Amazons can do, but it just felt a little overused and back to back in certain scenes.

Most importantly, more than any complaint, I loved the statement this movie makes. Diana is from an island of strong women. Coming into our world in the early 1900s, she’s facing a world where women have little to no rights. Etta even makes a comment at one point about fighting for the right to vote. She distracts an entire meeting of men because she’s a woman and she shouldn’t be there. Despite the fact that she knows the languages to decode Dr. Poison’s notebook, the general still wants her to leave.

While the world is different now, women still face those kinds of situations where what shouldn’t be ridiculous is made that way by backwards people who don’t believe we’re actually equal. Diana doesn’t see anything other than people and it was a really beautiful thing.

One of the high points, praised by people all over, is when Steve is explaining No Man’s Land and how no man can cross it blah blah blah and she just throws off her dress and does it. This is her attitude all the way through, any time Steve tells her to stay. She’s Wonder Woman after all, why should she listen to some man? It was beautiful.

Let’s not forget all the women of Themyscira. I saw this pointed out via a tweet before watching which allowed me to notice it – when the women battle and kill, they live for it. Robin Wright Penn is SMILING in battle. Our other heroes are so hesitant to kill, but Diana and the Amazons don’t care. It’s what they do. I didn’t realize I needed a BA heroine storming into battle with a smile on her face, but now I do.

Most importantly, when this movie went into reshoots, Gal Gadot was FIVE MONTHS PREGNANT. They cut a hole in her costume and green screened her belly, but her being Wonder Woman five months pregnant is such a great representation for how tough women are I can barely stand it.

Basically, this movie made Wonder Woman my favorite and reinforced how incredible women are, a point rarely made in movies. Hopefully this is only the beginning of female heroes we can look up to.

Plus, I have a little more hope for Justice League. Maybe Zack Snyder learned from BVS and is giving this a lighter tone with a more sensible plot. I am cautiously optimistic.

Manchester by the Lion or maybe A Long Way to Manchester by the Sea

Last night I saw two movies because the first left me so broken I needed a pick-me-up. Manchester by the Sea was the third great movie I’ve seen in a row, but it was also the third movie in a row where everything is sad and a little too real for my heart that longs for escapism.

I went into Manchester knowing it would be sad. Clearly Casey Affleck is tortured and struggling in the trailers and I know something horrible happened in his hometown of Manchester, causing his desire to take his nephew away instead of move back. In the words of my best friend, “I sobbed no less than six times. God.”

Casey plays Lee, a janitor for a company that rents apartments. He isn’t particularly personable, but you learn why later. He receives the call his brother has died, and returns home to take care of his nephew. Through flashbacks, we see the relationship between the brothers, Lee and his wife as well what led to the downfall of them all. We see them as Lee is tortured in different moments, presented with truths and struggling with the demons of his past. It’s quite compelling. Essentially, it is a story about how weird and deep love can be (also the words of my best friend) and the lasting effects of a truly broken heart.

Because my heart was broken, I wanted to end the evening on a brighter note. The theater was showing Manchester by the Sea, Jackie and Lion. I think I made the right choice with movie number two.

Lion (aka A Long Way Home) also explores the relationships that define us and our need to find out who we are and where we come from. Saroo, played by Dev Patel, is lost as a young boy in India and after months of surviving on his own is taken to a home for lost children and eventually adopted by a lovely couple in Australia. His life seems full and nice, but while taking a hospitality course in Melbourne, he suddenly remembers details of his life and is presented with a method to trace his way back home.

This one gave me major Slumdog vibes, and that’s not a bad thing. The young Saroo, played by the delightful Sunny Pawar, is so cute, even when he’s filthy and begging for food. Though we see him with his family for only a short time, the relationships established seem so real and touching that you feel his heartbreak at being lost. Also, Dev Patel is a total babe. I loved him in Slumdog, and I like him better with a little more meat on his bones and that luscious mane of hair. Before we get to the point that explains the name ‘Lion,’ I was convinced it was because of his hair.

Both movies are excellent and total awards bait. We see a tragic backstory and tortured present and a long lost boy tracing his roots back to his poverty-stricken village in India. What more can you ask for? I recommend both, but with the understanding that if you’re emotional, you should probably see Manchester and then do something cheery or have someone with you to hug.

Okay enough of this

Time for the real show and spoilers

HERE WE GO

I figured Lee had done something horrible that led to his self-imposed exile and separation from Michelle Williams. I picked that up from the trailers alone. I assumed, based on his alcohol consumption, he was in a terrible car accident while drunk and maybe someone died.

And then we meet his children in a flashback.

There is no indication he has children in the trailers. I was thrown. He had three, to be exact. Two girls and a baby boy. When they slowly revealed all of them and their happy little life, I panicked. This was not good. He lives in a one-room apartment in Boston now. Best case is he isn’t allowed to see his children because of what happened? Maybe he got drunk and was abusive? I don’t know, there isn’t a best case scenario.

Turns out, it was worst case scenario. All of the comments about his drinking were going to catch up to the story. That’s why I thought car accident. I wished for a car accident. Basically he was partying one night with all his friends at home like he frequently does, drinking and doing drugs, and decided to watch some TV after they left around 2 a.m. He lit a fire because it was cold and decided to go to the store for a few things, including diapers which we sadly see in the top of his bag. We learn he thought about if he put the screen up before he left, but decided it was fine and continued his walk. When he returned less than an hour later, the house was in flames.

He sees his wife screaming her kids are inside, but it’s too late. She was on the first floor and they pulled her out before the furnace blew, trapping the three children upstairs. Lee breaks down as they pull the body bags out of the wreckage and again we see the diapers in the bag, never to be used. His brother is right there with him, holding him up.

This was terrible, but I think the worst part was later at the police station where he’s telling the story, admitting to the horrible mistake he had made that killed his children. Because it was an accident, he’s free to go, and understandably this doesn’t sit well with him. Casey did such a great job conveying all these emotions while not over-selling it. You could tell he wanted to put away. He wanted punishment for what he had done. As he left the interview room, he pulls a gun out of a police officer’s holster and tries to shoot himself in the head before he is thwarted by the officers and his brother.

You can see the anguish in his eyes and perfectly understand his feelings. Watching his performance as he processed everything made you think yeah, that is what you would do. Also tragic: he has to see his ex-wife really pregnant with her new husband and they hug and all I could think was how sad was it for him to feel her belly and remember everything and see everything he lost.

One of my favorite details from the movie was the three photos Lee took from his apartment in Boston and brought to Manchester. We never see them outright, but it’s clear they’re his children, his only external reminder of the love and joy he once knew.

The ending was unsatisfying for me because Lee realizes he can’t stay because he can’t beat this and he doesn’t want to take his nephew, Patrick, away. Always the optimist, I wanted Lee to confront his demons and become a guardian again with Patrick and begin to heal. Instead we get a real look at the brutal honesty of love and heartbreak and making the hard choices you know are right.

This drama packed its humorous moments as well, particularly in most of the character interactions. They were all very stereotypical Massachusetts residents, throwing the ‘f’ word around and yelling over each other constantly. It added levity to a very heavy movie.  

Okay so now Lion or A Long Way Home, depending on who you ask. I like that this story was told chronologically, not through flashbacks. I think flashbacks can be effective, but sometimes it’s nice to watch the story unfold in a linear way. This movie was well-acted all around, and filled with the word ‘mate’ because it was very Australian.

Both Dev Patel and Nicole Kidman are nominated, and I think one of those makes sense. Dev is engaging and you can see his slow decline to madness and how haunted he is by his desire to let his family know he’s fine. Nicole, who plays his adoptive mother, is great, but I wasn’t like wow this performance is award-worthy. If she wins, she did a good job, so I won’t complain.

What else can I say about this movie? It was very touching and sad and again reminded me of some of the horrible things that go on around the world. The worst part, I think, was learning his beloved brother Guduu had died before he made it back. In fact, he died the night Saroo got lost. He was hit by a train after he left his brother to find work and was never going to return. In a way, getting lost eventually saved Saroo, even though it was a long journey home.

See what I did there?

Quick thoughts

  • Didn’t Michelle Williams get burned up with her family in Shutter Island? Her affinity for tragic fires is like Rachel McAdams’ for time traveling husbands
  • Casey Affleck, let me save you.
  • Everyone always looks so cold in this movie. Never moving to New England.
  • This movie is trying to break my heart. It’s official.
  • Why are Christians always portrayed so weirdly in movies? We don’t all wear our Sunday best to dinners. We are normal people. I don’t care if you say Amen after we pray for our food.
  • I feel like Patty’s storyline with his mom wasn’t fleshed out enough. We clearly learn it isn’t a good fit for him, and that he fiancé is crazy, but we see a glimmer of her current unstableness. Did she go to the kitchen for a drink? I NEED ANSWERS
  • How did Patrick balance both those girls, and why did he bother with Sylvie in the first place? She seemed like the worst and Sandy seemed great because she wasn’t trying to protect his feelings.
  • Do Australians really say ‘mate’ this much or is it simply something we Americans assume they do? Kind of like shrimp on the Barbie? I don’t know, but I like Australians
  • Dev Patel has nicer hair than me. I would kill for his hair.
  • I’ve never wanted to go surfing but seeing him in that surf suit makes me want to try
  • I’m focusing a lot on Dev’s appearance so yeah his acting is great too

 

Rogue One and the time I left the theater crying

When I first heard about the expanded Star Wars Universe on top of the new trilogy, I was STOKED. I love all the intertwining stories and couldn’t wait to see backstories expanded. In a good way, though, not the terrible prequel way.

Rogue One, however, suffered what I like to call ‘Captain America fatigue’ for me. Information and trailers kept trickling for so long it reached a point where I lost interest. It wasn’t as bad as The First Avenger, where the trailer was released A WHOLE YEAR in advance, but in a similar way my excitement waned.

I purchased my Force Awakens tickets the day they went on sale and arrived at the theater early to guarantee a good seat among my fellow nerds. I even took Chinese food and a book with me to entertain myself in line. I was all in.

For Rogue One, however, I waited and waited. I heard good reviews and my friends loved it but I couldn’t muster the enthusiasm I needed to actually take the time to see it in theaters. Finally, under the lure of reclining seats, I decided to go after a late shift at work.

Briefly, it was great. Yes, a lot of it is rushed and you might find yourself missing character development, but overall it flows nicely. Even though you know the mission is successful (A New Hope is based on its success), you still feel the tension throughout. Most importantly, it intelligently answers one of the biggest questions in the Star Wars Universe and that makes it worth your time.

Felicity Jones continues the delightful trend of Star Wars featuring incredible female leads who are tough and independent. Her Jyn Erso fits well with Princess Leia-turned-General Organa and Rey. Diego Luna plays Cassian Andor who shows you the less glamorous side of the rebellion that feels very real and adds weight. I’m trying to think of other people to talk about but they all feel like spoilers so I’ll just move there.

DO NOT READ BEYOND THIS POINT

FOR REAL

HERE WE GO

Basically, Rogue One should’ve been called the one where everyone dies. I had a suspicion in the back of my mind this might be the case, but I wanted to be wrong. If they lived, surely they would’ve shown up in the original trilogy. You can’t steal the Death Star plans and then disappear away from the rebellion. They probably would’ve received medals with Han and Luke (not Chewie for some reason although he was there too) for their involvement in stalling the Empire.

I figured one of the temple guarders would go, but when they both went minutes apart from each other, that’s when I knew. I thought Chirrut’s last reminder of being with the Force would carry Baze to survival and he would continue to spread the word about the Force, but nah. He’s mowed down a few feet away after taking down a few more people.

Maybe the defector cargo pilot, Bodhi, would live but I never thought he would. I assumed he would die some valiant way showing his true dedication to the rebellion after being a part of the Empire. No, he makes communication happen (very important) and then someone throws a grenade where he is and he looks sad.

All of this to say, I appreciated the realness. Sometimes too many main characters live when everyone dies and if a main character dies, there’s weight to the sacrifice. Perhaps this is the strongest selling point. Yes, everyone dies, but they’re on a suicide mission and they severely tick off the Empire who now possess a weapon that can destroy planets.

With most villains, they talk too much and give the good guys a chance for escape. In Star Wars, the Death Star takes an entirely too long to prepare itself almost as if it read the script and knew how long it needed to take so everything worked out for the best. In the final blow to the planet that kills all the characters we’ve spent two plus hours rooting for, Governor Tarkin doesn’t hesitate. He simply says destroy the city and boom the Death Star is powered and up the city goes.

I cried as Jyn and Cassian embraced on the beach because IT WASN’T FAIR DANGIT! They’ve had hard lives! Give them some happiness together! But I also felt in that moment, they were comforted by the presence of the other, and recognized the weight of what they had just done. I scurried out of the theater so no one else saw me crying because I was a little embarrassed. After this and La La Land, I just need to see two people who love each other can be together OKAY?!

Sorry.

Mads Mikkelsen played Galen Erso, Jyn’s father. I was sure he was going to be bad because I didn’t think Mads Mikkelsen could play a good guy but I was wrong. He defects from the Empire, only to be found again. Eventually General Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn), whose power climbing annoyed me and Vader the whole time, finds him and kills his wife. She went down like a BA though, telling him he would never win and refusing to be quiet. Jyn sees this and runs until she is safe, but Galen is taken and forced to create the Death Star.

This brings Jyn into the fight, after she avoided it for years. Her apathy is exchanged for passion as she helps in the search for her father and his secret message. I’ll skip through a lot because here is the exciting part – they are the reason there’s a weakness in the Death Star and people know about it! Ever wonder how the rebellion knew the one weak point and how to find it? Galen put it in and told his daughter how it could be destroyed, even calling the secret plans Stardust (his nickname for her), so she could find them. So haters, be quiet. It all makes sense now.

There were a lot of great moments, including K2 trying to say “I have a bad feeling about this” but being quieted by Cassian and Jyn. I particularly enjoyed the Vader moments, especially seeing he lives on the planet where he basically lost all his limbs and has to spend time in a recovery tank. It’s interesting because for someone so powerful, our old pal Anakin is also pretty weak. He also sees through Krennic’s BS and calls him out with the best dad joke about choking on his ambition WHILE force choking him. Classic.

When we see him again, he’s coming for the rebellion to stop the plans from falling into the right hands. He lands on a ship and you see why everyone was afraid of him, not just because he mowed down all the child Jedis like a real coward. He’s throwing people and swinging his lightsaber and yeah he’s on the bad side but HE’S SO COOL. You see the poor people on the ship desperately passing off the plans from person to person as they are all killed until finally it lands in the hands of our dear Princess Leia as she escapes Vader and perfectly segues right into A New Hope. She literally says the plan gives them hope which is like the perfect segue as I said.

So all in all, pretty great. Very sad. It’s probably good there wasn’t a lot of character development because it was hard enough watching all of them perish with minimal knowledge. It was a very real story that I loved in a world where the good guys always make it out relatively unscathed and everything is great now. It kind of parallels well into The Force Awakens where we see how broken these people are.

Quick Thoughts:

  • They flash to a lot of different planets in the beginning and all I could think is am I supposed to remember these? They can’t possibly expect that
  • Governor Tarkin looks like Jim Carrey in that animated Christmas Carol movie and that is not a good thing. Just recast. Fans of the series will understand and no one else will even notice.
  • I thought Leia looked pretty great though.
  • When I first saw Jimmy Smits at the rebel base I was like maybe he wasn’t on Alderaan when Vader blew it up but then fatefully he says he’s going back and I had to resist shouting ‘no’ in the theater
  • Jyn has really practical hair. I appreciate that in a female character. Star Wars is great with practicality.
  • Did Cassian shoot that other guy in the rebellion so he could get away? What a rough gig
  • I really didn’t think our pilot friend Bodhi friend was going to have any significance past delivering the message. I thought Saw would kill him. I’m pleased I was wrong. Riz Ahmed is delightful and I hope he wins the Golden Globe.
  • Why can’t people get beamed up in Star Wars? They have holograms. I know it’s a Star Trek thing, but beaming would be really helpful and maybe Jyn and Cassian could live happily ever after. Maybe only in my mind. It’s fine.
  • Jyn is climbing a lot in this movie. Her arms must be really sore. She must be pretty strong.

 

La La Land that knife right in my heart

So it’s Christmas and right now I’m still too emotionally raw to write a lengthy review of La La Land, so here’s the best I can do for you.

It’s visually delightful. I love the aesthetic and colors and the presence of tap shoes. Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone have incredible chemistry, which we all know, so I spent two hours wishing they could be together IRL while respecting his life with Eva Mendes. It seemed more musical heavy at the beginning and as the story progressed, the joy almost left, which paralleled well.

It’s time now

Stop reading if you don’t want spoilers

HERE WE GO

They. Don’t. End. Up. Together. Obviously, this is a very realistic look at two ambitious artists in Hollywood trying to find their careers and love each other. I appreciate a story that feels real, like two people who clearly want to be together but can’t right now for various reasons.

Their first interaction comes in LA traffic where Seb (Ryan) honks at Mia (Emma) as she’s going to work. He is a jazz enthusiast and purist and she is an aspiring actor. After a Hollywood party, she is pulled into the club where he is (reluctantly) playing. His original melody, well infectious, isn’t allowed and he is promptly fired by J. Jonah Jameson. She walks toward him to tell him she loved his music, but he shoves by her. Months later, they’re at a party together, she a guest and he a member of an 80s band. To add insult to his apparent injury, she requests for him to play ‘I Ran.’ This leads to delightful hate-flirting and a wonderful tap dance between two people who definitely don’t like each other (they do).

He finds her, they make plans, she has a boyfriend, she leaves boyfriend at restaurant to see a movie with him and then they kiss and we see a whirlwind of romance and happiness.

Mia writes a one-woman play and Seb joins John Legend’s band playing fake, new-age jazz to have a stable income. Obviously, this tears them apart because plot and life. He’s gone all the time and misses her one night (poorly attended) performance because of a work responsibility. They fight, it’s sad, Mia moves home.

Later, Seb receives a phone call for Mia from a casting director and finds her in Colorado to bring her back (is Boulder in Colorado? Too lazy to check). She does well in the audition, they have a nice talk and acknowledge they have to live their lives and I started crying basically.

It gets worse.

We jump five years later. We see Mia is now a very famous actress with a child (!) and a husband (!!) who is not Seb. I would like to say I was noble here, but immediately I thought most celebrity marriages end in divorce so there is still hope. She ends up at Seb’s club, he sees her and plays the beautiful melody that connected them and the audience is shown their lives had they stayed together. It’s an awful tease.

So there it is. Two ambitious people who follow their dreams and find success and ultimately sacrifice their love to make it happen. Real, but sad.

I give it two thumbs and a broken heart.

Quick Thoughts

  • Do you think Seb and Mia ever realized they saw each other on the highway that day? Probably not
  • Am I translating my hopes that Mia gets divorced to Ryan getting divorced so they can be together in the movie and IRL? Hopefully not
  • I need to watch Crazy, Stupid, Love to see them together for real
  • I really hate jazz music. Ryan Gosling makes it seem cool, and maybe I appreciate the feeling behind it more, but I will never seek it out
  • THESE COSTUMES
  • Ryan Gosling won’t win any singing awards but he already tapped his way into my heart so I don’t care
  • Why can’t all movies have happy endings? We deal with enough reality every day

Some brief thoughts on movie trailers

I think this is a subject I’d like to expand on later, but right now it’s late so I’ll keep it brief. 

Well. Brief for me. 

I love movie trailers. I love the music and glimpses of greatness, the low notes that lead to the heartwarming conclusion. It’s my favorite part of going to the movies. In fact, sometimes I’m against seeing a movie if I don’t think it will provide me with entertaining trailers. 

Tonight I saw a movie for which I had never seen a trailer. I was against it. Sure, I had heard about it and heard the praise, but I didn’t know what to expect. I like knowing what the expect. 

As the opening credits began after the gentle rocking of the trailers, I felt anxiety race through my veins. I wanted to run instead of stay. I realized this was so silly. I also realized what an analogy for my life. 

I like trailers because I like high points. I like the overview. I like knowing everything is going to be ok. Without the trailer, I didn’t know. 

That is how I get. I need to know details. I need to be able to see the good and bad set to a great song knowing it will all end for the best. 

Unfortunately, that isn’t life. God doesn’t give me a highlight reel. I have each day, one at a time. And that’s so terrifying. 

Sometimes I think our lives in rhythm are similar to trailers. We expect how each day will go, and anticipate some level of better and worst. When we’re knocked out of rhythm, the gameplan is gone. 

That’s how I feel. I used to have guaranteed salary paychecks and a schedule and career and I knew the most important details were figured out. I was like a giant ship on the ocean. I might get rocked around, but I’ll be ok. 

The only problem? My ship was the Titanic. It wasn’t an external iceberg that sunk me; it was the inner voice I didn’t listen to for years. 

Now I’m floating on a door in the ocean. I can’t see the safety, but I know it’s coming. My trailer is stuck in the low point and I’m looking for the miracle I can’t see yet. 

The movie was really great. I didn’t need to know the main points to enjoy the experience. Who would’ve known.