Summer 2017

I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted. Honestly, I have a whole pile of half-finished articles sitting on my hard drive, but for some reason I’m having a hard time finishing anything. Motivation is hard to come by.

I figured I’d take a chapter out of someone else’s book and just write some short thoughts on various things I’ve been thinking of.

Raven’s Home:

Disney Channel has an unofficial tradition of releasing new shows in tandem with their new original movies. It’s not a bad idea; people will tune into a movie and then right after a new show will appear. Chances are pretty good that people will not bother to change the channel and therefore give the new show a try. It definitely helps with initial ratings. Well, the big Disney Channel Original Movie event this year was Descendants 2 and right after was the airing of a new Original Series: Raven’s Home.

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I was a fan of the original That’s So Raven, so I immediately took notice of this series. And, of course, its predecessor has ensured that I will give this series a try. Raven Symone is back as Raven Baxtar, and she hasn’t really changed all that much. She still can see into the future, she’s still best friends with Chelsea, and she still is a bit over-the-top (in a lovable way) about things. A few things have changed though: she has two kids, she’s divorced, and Chelsea is now her roommate.

ThatSoRavenCastI may just be old and nostalgic, but Raven and Chelsea are really the ones that carry this show. Raven’s two children and Chelsea’s child don’t really have the same charm as young Raven and Chelsea. Before the end of the episode, we learn Raven’s male child, Booker, has inherited his mother’s psychic ability; which is interesting to me, because I feel like I remember an episode from the original series where someone from Raven’s extended family comes and they tell her that the psychic ability is passed down through the females in Raven’s family, which means it should be Nia who’s psychic, not Booker. But whatever, I’m not even sure if I’m remembering that episode right, and I’m not invested enough to do any research on the topic.

Nonetheless, the episode isn’t bad. Raven and Chelsea are fun to catch up with and watching Raven act in her flamboyant manner is always a blast. Although I enjoyed the pilot, I don’t really see myself keeping up with the show every week.

Descendants 2:

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Okay, I had originally wrote this bit like 4 different times. Each time it was just too long to include. So, I decided I will just do a bulleted list here and then post a full article on Descendants 2.

So here’s my bulleted list:

  • What an unoriginal title. Doesn’t hint at all what the movie will be about. All it does is solidify to the watcher that there was an original Descendants movie.
  • Characters: they kept a lot of the old, introduced some new, and got rid of a few. They reinvented a lot of the character personalities such as Chad, Jane, and Lonnie.
  • The original Disney villains don’t make any appearance with the exception of a really small cameo of Ursula.
  • There were two climaxes, and frankly I didn’t appreciate the second one. I think the whole movie should have taken place on the Isle of the Lost.
  • The Isle of the Lost should have been developed better as a setting. Not much was revealed there about the daily life there.
  • Songs were okay, though it took more than one watch for them to grow on me. I really liked Chillin’ like a Villain, mostly because I like Sofia Carson. Though, I think Chillin’ like a Villain could have been the perfect opportunity for the Isle of the Lost to be explored more thoroughly.

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Cars 3:

Again with the terrible titles!

This movie to me can be summed up in one phrase: great trailer, subpar movie. There were some funny parts and I was particularly fond of the training center scene, but at the end of the film it just felt like a rehashing of the first movie. It did give me the feeling that this would be the last Cars movie focusing on Lightning McQueen, just because the ending really did feel like an ending. Not only has Lightning reaffirmed his love of racing, he’s found a purpose in his old age: training someone from the new generation. It almost feels like the series has gone full circle. In the first movie Lightning gets trained by Doc Hudson, who needed closure from being forcefully ejected from the racing world, and now Lightning is training Cruz Ramirez to help make her dreams come true.

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I originally wanted to see this movie because I saw the early teaser trailer in 3D while watching a different movie in the theaters. The trailer was so impressive on the big screen; the dust, dirt, smoke, and sparks looked so amazing I immediately wanted to see more. The full trailer makes the movie seem as if it will have a very dramatic plot. When watching the trailer, you get the feeling Lightning is struggling to keep up with the younger rookies of the new generation. With this plotline you expect there to be a lot of character development; in fact, I almost expect a complete redefinition of the character. Not a retcon, but an evolution. Throughout the movie there is the underlying feeling of sadness about growing old but still wanting the glory of the younger days. However, this movie never quite reaches the point where you’re on the edge of your seat waiting to see what happens. Even the ending race isn’t quite up to par. It just seemed a little too far-fetched to substitute Cruz for Lightning halfway through the race. Nonetheless, the ending is truly an ending. Lightning, realizing how Doc felt, chooses to train Cruz but also to keep racing. I guess Hannah Montana was right; you really can have the best of both worlds.

Despicable Me 3:

Two words: terrible title. A real trend this summer (see: Cars 3 and Descendants 2).

The most memorable thing about this film is that it was a complete disappointment, at least for me. The first two Despicable Me movies had great stories, great characters, and great humor. Although there were mostly the same characters from the previous installments, it just isn’t the same. Similar to other Illumination works, I fear this movie suffers from too many characters not enough characterization. Not only that, there were way too many side plots, and those side plots lead nowhere. Margo with the little cheese boy had nothing to do with the rest of the movie and was basically introduced and then solved all in the span of 5 minutes. Agnes and the unicorn, although cute at times, really had nothing to do with the rest of the movie. And Lucy’s feelings of inadequacy at being a mother felt very un-geniune. Speaking of un-geniune, the relationship between Lucy and Gru has completely lost the charm from the second movie. Yes, I know the side plots are supposed to provide characterization, but really they just seemed to take away from the main plot.

Despite it all, there were still some good lines and the villain had some moments as well. However, the best part of the movie was the first few minutes when Lucy and Gru are initially facing off against Balthizar Bratt. It’s just as well, considering that was the scene that the trailer was composed of. The best way to draw people in to see a movie is to put all the best parts of the movie into the trailer.

Overall, this movie wasn’t actually that terrible it was just a massive disappointment, which made it seem worse than it actually was. I don’t know if there will be a Despicable Me 4, but after this movie I’m not really dying for more.

Star vs the Forces of Evil: The Battle for Mewei:

The_Battle_for_Mewni_posterI’m not a particular fan of Star vs. the Forces of Evil, but I’m invested enough to watch the episodes that sounds interesting. Really, I’m only interested in the budding relationship between Star and Marco. And honestly, that’s why I kept an eye on the release date for this. The season 2 finale saw Star leaving Earth permanently due to the return of Toffee and the subsequent defeat of Queen Moon and the high commission. This T.V. movie opens with Marco moping around about the loss of Star, but he still is unsure how to respond to Star’s feelings toward him.

To be honest, I didn’t actually finish this movie (really just 4 full episodes—6 parts—combined). I finished the first five parts (Return to Mewni, Moon the Undaunted, Book Be Gone, Marco and the King, and Puddle Defender), but I didn’t watch the last two parts (King Ludo and Toffee) The reason I didn’t finish the show was because I sort of lost a little interest. The first two parts were really good, especially Moon the Undaunted, but I guess I just expected the rest of it to be a bit more plot heavy. I wanted more of Toffee and more of Moon and Star fighting him. I know it was working up to that and the last episode, Toffee, would probably hold all that stuff, but I guess I didn’t really want to watch all that in-between stuff. Although now, I also really want to know more about Eclipsa, such as her past, her alignment, and what sort of role she’s going to play in the future of the series.

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Another reason I sort of gave up watching this movie was because Star and Marco don’t interact at all. There’s no Marco and Star moments and they certainly haven’t figured out their feelings for one another. Although, that’s really understandable considering Mewni is under siege by Ludo and Toffee and Star is trying to save her kingdom. Still I wanted more Marco and Star. And even though I didn’t finish (I may go back and finish it when I’m bored), I will still keep an eye of the series for more Marco and Star. After all, their souls are bound together for all eternity courtesy of the light of the blood moon.

Applewhites: Coast to Coast:

appleswhitesThis won’t be released for a while, but I’ve been anticipating it since I read Applewhites at Wit’s End. The first two books were cute and I really did enjoy them, but what’s really gotten me hooked was the relationship between E.D. and Jake. I’m a sucker for juvenile romance. I think it’s because it’s so innocent and cute. Needless to say, I want to know what happens between them! (I just want them to live happily ever after!!)

Rick and Morty Season 3:

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After a long wait we finally get new Rick and Morty episodes. The first episode of the season was aired unannounced on April 1, a total Rick move. It managed to efficiently explain away the situation Rick managed to get himself into in the season 2 finale. And as a nice side quest, Rick manages to topple the entire Galactic Federation. Just a typical day for Rick. The second episode, Rickmancing the Stone was enjoyable, but not my favorite. The third and fourth episodes, Pickle Rick and Vindicators 3: The Return of Worldender, were absolutely fabulous and hilarious. Pickle Rick, a fan favorite, is probably the most ridiculous Rick but incredibly entertaining. I loved seeing totally trashed Rick in Vindicators 3: The Return of Wordender; he is quite the force to be reckoned with. And watching Morty be the somewhat hero was quite the change from what we’re used to. The Ricklantis Mixup (or really Tales from the Citadel) was as good as a Rick and Morty episode can be without focusing on the Rick and Morty from C-137. It was nice to see Evil Morty again and I’m kind of excited to see what will happen when C-137 Rick and Morty go against him.

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Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie:

Back in 1997, the first Captain Underpants book was released and it was quite the hit. This series took potty humor to the max and was frequently challenged as being inappropriate for kids. Naturally, my brother and I both ate up the series (my brother more so than I).

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This movie wasn’t really on my radar for the longest time; however, when it came into the cheap theater I had a free afternoon so I decided to spend my $4 on the 3D experience and I don’t regret it at all. If you’ve ever read the original books you know they aren’t strictly comic books but they have a very comic book feeling to them. This movie does a great job of emulating the comic book feel on the big screen. Most of the movie is CGI, but somewhere in the middle there’s a little sock puppet scene of the “future” and there is even a flip book scene (which if you read the original books you know there was plenty of).

The plot is typical for Captain Underpants. Basically Professor Poopypants wants to steal the world of laughter because they all laugh at his name. And somewhere in there George and Harold (who have the biggest laughter organ) defeat Professor Poppypants using their laughter which is infectious and everyone is saved. The (thin) moral of the story is that laughter is good for the health. Nonetheless, this movie was hilarious (in its own crude way) and I enjoyed sitting through it. I wouldn’t call this a cinematic masterpiece, but if you’re an adult with kids you probably won’t fall asleep watching it with them.

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Of course, the title suggests there will be more in the series and it did well enough at the box office to probably at least consider adding another installment.

Leap! (Ballerina):

leapContrary to its low rating on Rotten Tomatoes (and most other critic sites) I actually really enjoyed this movie. I wasn’t oblivious to all the faults and yes, I could go on for quite some time about what it lacked; however, I’m deciding to focus on the positives. I know what you’re thinking: I’m just a hypocrite. I point out every little flaw in well received movies and then I defend poorly received material. I suppose it can be seen as hypocritical, but I like to think it’s not really about how good a movie/book is, instead it’s about my expectation of the work. I expect a lot out of movies like Cars 3 and Despicable Me because I get hyped up for them, their trailers are awesome, and I love the preceding material. For movies like this one, I don’t expect nearly as much. What I really think it boils down to is that I can enjoy the work for what it is. When I walked into the theater to see Leap I knew I wasn’t going to be blown away. The point is, if you were to ask me whether I liked Cars 3 or Leap better I would, without hesitation, tell you Cars 3. But! That doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy Leap.

ballerinaThe plot was relatively well paced and the characters, although not deeply developed, were easy enough to follow. I enjoyed the dancing throughout the movie and I almost wish there was a more complete scene of the dancing of Swan Lake. The contemporary music felt a little jarring considering the movie takes place before the Eiffel Tower was even built, but what can you do? Speaking of the Eiffel Tower, I did really enjoy the background settings of Paris. I loved how they included the half built Eiffel Tower and they did cameo’s of the architect, Gustave Eiffel. Not only that, but the ending chase scene takes place on the unfinished Statue of Liberty the French were building to send to the US at the time. It was little things like that which greatly improved the setting and made it feel a bit more genuine.

Overall, this movie won’t be winning any awards and it certainly won’t withstand the test of time, but it was well worth the watch, especially, if you have little ones.

 

Conclusion:

This has been the summer of sequels. And it wasn’t even that great. The movies I highly anticipated didn’t turn out as good as I hoped and aside from Rick and Morty and the first half of Star vs. the Forces of Evil, television wasn’t that exciting either. The only super exciting thng was I learned Applewhites: Coast to Coast is going to be released, and this book could be just as big a disappointment as the rest of the sequels. I did really enjoy Captain Underpants and Leap, though I think that was mostly because I went in with such low expectations. As long as those movies didn’t totally suck (which they didn’t) then I would be satisfied.

I think the biggest takeaway from this summer was that with sequels I place much too high of expectations on already built franchises. I expect them to just keep getting better and better, but there has to be a plateau somewhere. Cars 3 and Despicable Me 3 (LAME titles) were not bad movies in the slightest. They just weren’t better than their predecessors (Cars 2 being the exception). Nonetheless, I’m still glad the movies came out and, regardless of what it sounds like, I did enjoy them all to some extent.

Despite it all, one thing I can say for sure was that this season had the worst sequel titles. I’m actually a little surprised they didn’t call Raven’s Home, That’s so Raven 2.

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