Gloria Bell

I had a couple passes for the movies that were gonna expire very quickly. Since I’m usually pretty hooked up with A list, I offered to share them with a friend. I let him pick the movie. He came to me ready to defend his choice of Gloria Bell and did not expect me to respond with an unenthusiastic “okay”. I wasn’t really interested in this movie, but I do love Julianne Moore and this was getting positive reviews. That’s worth taking a chance on with free tickets, esp if it meant a fun night out with a fave movie buddy.

Right so Julianne Moore plays Gloria Bell, I think we’ve established that much. Gloria is a divorcee in her 50s trying to find her joy in life now that her adult kids don’t really need her any more. One of her joys is dancing at discos, which is where she meets John Turturro’s Arnold. Could this potential suitor be the key to that happiness? Or is there more to life out there for her.

It probably goes without saying but Julianne was incredible. She brought this character to life with such dimension that I absolutely loved her. I cared about her and wanted to her to win at life. When she would sing in her car, I was her and she was me. (Actually yeah, I was almost uncomfortable with how much of myself I saw in Gloria at times). Without her, this movie would have no merit to it.

I didn’t care for how the story played out. To me, the only thing worse than a film that’s completely predictable is one where you really have no idea where it’s trying to go. There was a point about halfway thru where I was like “Soooo, what’s next? Are we done? There’s more? What more?” Movie buddy disagreed and said that dwelling on the seemingly mundane makes it feel like everyone’s story is worth telling. But I want more happening.

What I didn’t care for was John Turturro. I love him as an actor, but his character creeped me out from the getgo. The super seductive trying too hard look that he’d give when he was coming on to Julianne set off alarm bells for me. I just couldn’t get behind his storyline, and I did not like him as a love interest.

One thing that really stood out in this film was the music. Lots and lots of disco. At times, it was hard to take seriously, but at other times, it was utilized beautifully. There was more than one instance of me and movie buddy lip synching with full gusto in our seats along with Gloria. Still, I think I woulda preferred to watch Captain Marvel again

Gloria Bell – \m/ \m/ \m/

Apollo 11

One of my recent movie resolutions is that “documentary” is no longer a dirty word to me. So when I heard that this documentary that restores footage of the NASA mission was something worth seeing, I planned it into my weekend. Initially meant to see it as my usual Friday night, but then I had an opportunity to meet Andy Grammer, so I pushed it to Saturday. Thankfully there was a showing at the Universal City Walk right around park closing time (which was where I intended to spend my day). I almost even cut my day short and switched up my time, but that’s a whole other story. Let’s just say Disney >>> Universal.

When I think of a documentary, I think about a collection of footage and interviews and maybe some renactments all put together to tell a story. That’s not how this worked. This really was just pure archival footage (with a few illustrations) put together to form the narrative story of the Apollo 11 mission (and if I need to explain to you what the Apollo 11 mission was, just GTFO now, you’re beyond my help). The footage was so stunning, you’d think it was filmed yesterday. IDK if they’re showing this on IMAX or other large formats, but it’s worth seeking out there if possible.

For me though, when I think of a movie, I think of something with more narrative action. This felt a little slow and stunted, not helped by the fact that I knew how it’d all play out. So I didn’t experience this like I would any other movie I’d see in theaters. This felt more like something you’d see at a science museum (but on a legit IMAX, where again, it’d look effing gorgeous). That said though, I felt like I learned so much watching this. Obvioiusly I knew the big picture steps, but there were so many details I was oblivious to. I think had I been in a better mindset (and not tired and annoyed) I may have liked it better. I think 16 year old Dawn who wanted to be on Mission Control would have EATEN. THIS. UP. Current Dawn would rather watch Apollo 13.

One quick word though about 16 year old Dawn who wanted to be on Mission Control. That legit was my goal for a long time. It’s why I only applied to colleges that had aerospace engineering (whole other story why that didn’t work out). Watching this, I realized something. Mission Control (at least at the time) were all dudes. That’s not something I even noticed before, but I don’t think it would have phased me. I wanted to do science, and I intended to do science. Male, female doesn’t matter. And that’s how I was raised, to believe I could be or do anything I wanted. I could feel my very proud Daddy watching this movie with me because if there was ever anyone who instilled that attitude in me, it was certainly him.

Apollo 11 – \m/ \m/ \m/

Captain Marvel

She’s here!!!! I have been waiting for this powerful lady to hit the big screen. I even broke my rule of “no merch before you’ve seen the movie, just in case it’s not as good as you think it’s gonna be” and have been carrying around her purse for a couple months. While she may be receiving some criticisms, that I can mostly understand, for me she was absolutely worth waiting for.

The film opens and we meet her as Vers, the Kree warrior who is battling with the Skrulls. Stuff happens and she ends up back on Earth, where it turns out she’s been before. She teams up with fledgling SHIELD agent Nick Fury (I shouldn’t hafta tell you who plays him) and we get a roundabout origin story that’s bigger than anything she expected.

Obviously, I was ALL ABOUT the girl power in this movie. By the time we reached the end, I knew that Thanos does not stand a chance against her in a few weeks. But besides that, there were so many strong ladies in the film. Before the whole Kree thing, Carol Danvers is an air force pilot, as is her bestie and her commanding officer. This is what I’m talking about. This is what I wanna see.

I’m hearing some people say that Brie Larson may have been misdirected or not used to her full potential. Personally, I adored her. She had these great expressions that humanized her in a way that superheroes often aren’t, and it added to the humor of the film. And the humor of the film was on point. It’s one of the signatures of the MCU, and that was as strong as ever here. Plus add in her buddy chemistry with real life buddy Samuel L Jackson, and this made a great comedy (on top of being a great action movie). Oh and if you know your 90s pop culture, there’s even more easter eggs and in jokes for ya. I think we know that’s heaven for me.

But the real star of the movie is Goose, the cat. I darenot say too much lest I spoil it, but he owns this.

The common criticism you hear against MCU movies is that they’re too formulaic, and my common response is that it’s all about how you dress up that formula. While taking a somewhat not linear approach to change it up may or may not be effective, dressing it up with strong humor and even stronger women is enough to make this stand out (plus some bonus 90’s nostalgia FTW). Again, Thanos is so fuuuu—

Captain Marvel – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/

Greta

Told ya it was a gonna be a slow movie month. This week picked back up to more normal rates. I finally made it back to the Tuesday night movie meetup since I had a freebie bday ticket to use. I do love a good thriller and can very much appreciate a film where the main characters are ladies, I just wish it was better overall.

Chloe Grace Moretz finds a bag on the subway, which she returns to its owner Greta, Isabelle Huppert. Ignoring the plausibility problems with that part of the story (does nobody See Something, Say Something anymore?), the two start to form a friendship that fills their respective mother/daughter voids. When Chloe’s Frances finds a stash of identical green bags with women’s names and phone numbers on them, she realizes that Greta has been planting these bags across town for clearly some nefarious purpose. She attemps to end the friendship, but Greta ain’t gonna go quietly into the night and begins to show her true psycho stalker colors.

This film had a few things going for it. The initial stalker escalation felt like a very real this-could-actually-happen-to-me type of horror. And there was this sense of powerlessness that went with it. Cops and other potentially helpful people couldn’t or wouldn’t actually help. All of that was terrifying. But the thin plot then got stretched to the point of ridiculousness and the escalations got less and less plausible.

Even worse, the moments that were meant to be scary or threatening instead elicited laughs from the audience. Not just from the meetup dudes, but throughout the whole auditorium. I don’t exactly think that’s what they were going for.

Isabelle Huppert is wonderful (I still woulda voted for her when she was Oscar nominated for Elle) . She chews scenery like a boss, is clearly having the time of her life, and she is such a menacing villain. If she had better material, she’d go down in the crazy psycho hall of fame, and I’d love to see the movie where she does have better material. This one will be more forgettable.

Greta – \m/ \m/ \n

Fighting With My Family

March looks like it’s gonna be slow for me movie wise. A couple big tentpoles, but slim pickins otherwise. Well, there’ll be things opening, but I’ve promised myself not to see things without genuine interest, and little of it interests me genuinely. Unless Stardust raves about something I need to see that I was gonna skip. That was the case with Fighting With My Family.

The film tells the story of real life professional WWE wrestler Paige, and how her family raised her and her brother to train and love the sport their entire lives. When the WWE holds tryouts in her home country of England, only she advances to the next stage, leaving her brother behind.

I have zero interest in wrestling. As a kid, I thought it was too violent and fake. Now I see it as a form of theater. I respect it, but it’s not my kind of theater. I love John Cena and The Rock, but I have no interest in their sport. Therefore I had no interest in the film until I heard that it was too good to miss. And I’d hate to miss a good underdog sports film.

And this was more than just a good underdog sports film. It was a good family film. Wrestling was just a backdrop for the family dynamics and the drama that it caused. Without the relationship between Paige and her brother and her parents, we don’t have a movie. It was moving and it was so funny. Stephen Merchant wrote and directed (plus had a perfect bit part in the film) and I loved how bitingly clever some of the dialog was.

I also really connected with the outsider aspect of her character. In the words of Good Charlotte, this was for “everyone who’s ever been called a freak”. Lord knows I have. But Paige let her freak flag fly and it flew her to victory. That kicked me right in the gut and brought me to the verge of tears a couple times.

One thing I love about a good underdog sports film is that it makes you fall in love with the sport, even temporarily. Mighty Ducks gave me hockey. Warrior gave me MMA. I don’t even remotely follow them now, but there was some temporarily piqued interest. This at least had me looking up Paige’s debut fight on YouTube when I got home. And I may have paused writing this to watch her 10 Best Moments compilation. That’ll prolly be the last time I watch, especially since she’s retired due to injury, but it was a fun deviation from my norm. And a good movie does that.

Fighting With My Family – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/

AMC Best Picture Showcase 2019

Remember a few years ago when I talked about how I did a 24 hour marathon of the best picture nominees? Guess what. I did it again! Finally! I’ve missed the ones in between since it usually falls on my bday weekend and I’ve already had something else planned. So this year I figured, why not make this the bday celebration? Turns out, it’s kind of a tough sell to get people to commit to sitting in a movie theater thru that many movies. But since when has the prospect of doing something alone stopped me? I did have a few friends who rotated in and out tho, so that was cool. Oh and we had to haul all the way down to Orange County for it. Kinda weird being so close to Disneyland and not stopping in to say hi to the Mouse. Anyways since my previous write up on the experience is pretty famous, at least in my family, (Hi Uncle Phil!) of course I’m gonna document the whole thing over again. I’m feeling very pressured to make this funny, but I do at least have some delirious Stardust reactions from throughout the day to help document things. Okay here we go

Approximately one month before the big day 6:55 AM – It’s the day tickets are supposta be on sale. I check the website as soon as I wake up. Nothing yet.

Same day 8:45 AM – Tickets are on sale, and everything I would have identified as the best seats are taken. I obsess for five minutes about which ones I want, mainly debating between center (better view) or aisle (better bathroom access). And what’s with this auditorium looking like it has 3 tiers? I pick middle tier center.

I proceed to spend the next month or so trying to convince people to come with. I eventually get 3 people, none of whom can be there for the whole thing, but we’ve secured a couple of seats in my row which eventually fills up.

Morning of 6:55 – I wake up. The alarm is actually set for 7:30, but I’m too antsy to sleep. Shower, breakfast, assuring the cats that I will be back some day. I’m wearing the Pulp Fiction shirt my BFFF got me for Christmas. It’s kinda like he’s coming with, plus it’s an awesome shirt. Also opted for my Ready Player One pajama pants. I’ve got a bag packed with my Aladdin magic carpet blanket, neck pillow, and water bottle. I wonder if they’re gonna be weird about bags, but I forsee picking up more items along the way so I chance it. I go back and forth on what outerwear to bring. It’s cold (for LA) so I take the Alien chestburster hoodie and my Donnie Darko jean jacket. I’d initially wanted to buy a bunch of party hats or other fun bday things, but since the group’s on the small side, I figure it’s not worth it. I grab a previous year’s Disneyland birthday pin and a Happy Bday necklace. That’ll do this time. I don’t know that anyone actually cares about these details, but let’s just say I thought about them for way too long. I pack up my truck and set the GPS while waiting for Friend 1’s Uber to get him to me

8:50 – Friend 1 arrives with a present: a tshirt and gift card to Trejo’s Tacos. I’m thinking about how much I love Trejo’s donuts that it isn’t until the next day that I realize I haven’t ever had his tacos yet. I make a mental note to wear the shirt on my actual bday on Mon. We hop in my truck. Most of the ride is spent speculating about who’s gonna win the next day. I hate committing to one pick, since I can usually guess the favorite and the upset but I never know which one is gonna prevail, but I LOVE having full conversations about all the possibilities. I actually have to grab a couple cough drops because I’m talking so much my throat is hurting. At one point, my buddy stops the conversation “What is that playing?” (Because of course my driving mix is blasting) “I have never heard so much bass coming from your truck” “That’s the Grinch” *quizzical look* “Tyler the Creator’s version for the new movie”. Buddy laughs hysterically because this is a completely on brand moment for me.

9:40 – We get to the Outlet mall that holds the giant AMC hosting the marathon. I’m not sure what end of the theater to park at which will get me closer to the entrance when I’m walking back to my truck alone in the wee hours of the morning. We get down and I’m loving how many people I’m seeing walking ahead of us also carrying pillows and blankets. We get into the theater and it’s surprisingly busy. I realize that they’ve actually got a bunch of showtimes starting this early. We’re waiting in line to get our tickets scanned and I’m starting to get giddy.

9:50 – We got less than ten minutes and I’ve got some running around to do. Check in and pick up lanyard. Bathroom. AMC Stubs gives you a free large popcorn and drink on your bday month which I’ve strategically saved for today and need to cash in. Turns out getting those two at once qualified as a combo which currently came with free gummy candy. Score!! I film my first Stardust reaction giving the lowdown on what’s about to go down while Friend 1 gets his mozzarella sticks. I’m frantically trying to add captions to the video as we walk into the auditorium. Uh oh. It’s not recliner seats like I’d just assumed would be in room they picked. They are very tight rows and I’m right in the middle of a bunch of people I will be scooching past many times today. We sit down and I’m trying to upload my Stardust reaction. Announcers come in to intro the movie (that didn’t happen last time). In a surprise move, they tell us we’re gonna be allowed to bring in outside food. In another surprise move, film 1 starts exactly on time, and I hafta wait to get my video uploaded until the first break.

10:00 – The Favourite – This is the movie I’m most looking forward to watching again. The first time around, I was digging the first half, but then bored for the second. I hoped I’d enjoy it more when it wasn’t two hours after going Black Friday shopping. And I did enjoy it better, but I still found the second act to be weaker. Still, the screenplay really impressed me with its smart humor and I hoped it would take original screenplay (tho the actual best original screenplay of the year for me would be Blindspotting, which wasn’t nominated because they chose not to compaign). When comparing Best Actress nominees, a friend had commented that Olivia Colman isn’t in The Favourite much, so I keep an eye on her. Her time is only slightly more than the ladies up for supporting, but the story revolves around Queen Anne, so it makes sense. During the draggy parts of the film, I figure out my food strategy. Chicken tenders now. Nothing in the next break. Outside food during the dinner break. Ice cream later. The popcorn will never run out.

12:00 – The movie is out and we’ve got 20 minutes. Friend 2 should be arriving any minute now. While making a bathroom run, I notice someone is wearing a full animal pajama onesie and I’m jealous. Next time I’m going full pj’s. I get my intro reaction posted while I’m in line, and also post an obligatory lanyard photo on my Insta. I then run over to order my chicken tenders(in a combo with fries and a cookie!) and record my reaction for The Favourite while I wait. I get my food and wait with Friend 1 at the bar, while I’m trying to get my captions on the video. We see the announcers walking out of the theater a couple minutes before the film’s supposta start. Guess that’s our queue to go in. My video’s not uploading. Friend 2 isn’t here yet. But I have my chicken and cookie and we take our seats.

12:20 – Bohemian Rhapsody – Just as I finish eating, Friend 2 arrives. The timing works out because now it’s possible for me to hold giant popcorn because we no longer have an extra empty seat for stuff. This is my favorite movie on the list (tho I will admit, not the best one). With this watch, it officially because the 5th movie I’ve seen 5 times in theaters (after Ready Player One and all three LOTRs). The Live Aid sequence is a big part of why I saw it so many times, and regardless of your feelings towards the rest of the film, you can’t deny the power of that scene. And that’s all I have to say about that

2:35 – Break time. The Favourite still won’t upload to Stardust, so I try the one without captions and it works. I get the feeling that this won’t be the first one of the day where I forgo that addition. I record a video for BohRap and that uploads fine. I refill my giant soda with lemonade. Thank the Lord Jesus for freestyle machines. The caffeinated options are gonna be handy later. I’m not sure that anything else remarkable happened during this break.

2:55 – Black Panther. I get teary when I see the Marvel logo appear. I’ve been watching these movies for 10 years–never missed one in theaters–and to see that this beloved franchise actually has a Best Picture nominee is incredible. As I watch the movie, I’m soaking in all the culture. That’s what makes this movie special. The represenation and the way that Wakanda is brought to life. As we get to the climax of the film, I realize that on the first watch I dozed off for longer than I thought because none of this looks familiar. It’s kinda cool essentially getting to experience the film for the first time a second time.

5:05 – Dinner break! Friend 3 appears as we say goodbye to Friend 2. I am in search of something green to eat. I’ve been trying to eat a salad every day, and this will be my one shot at it. I don’t know where the food court is at this mall ,so we wander and find a couple of restaurants next to each other. There’s an italian place that looks okay and has no line. The Mexican place beside it has a line out the door. Italian it is. Pasta with a double helping of salad as a side. Saving the breadstick for later. I record yet another Stardust reaction while Friend 3 orders food. Friend 1 takes his leave while me and Friend 3 eat our dinner.

5:45 – Back to the theater. I run back into the auditorium to grab my popcorn and soda. The popcorn has barely had a dent made in it, but I bring it out to add more butter. I fill half of the soda with something caffeinated, half without. I put a plastic bag over the popcorn to keep it safe as I make a bathroom run. Once the popcorn was wrapped up, I never touched it again for the rest of the night. Too much effort.

5:55 – I’m back inside in time for the last of the trivia questions. They ask how many nominations did Black Panther get and what were they for? The host encourages people to look it up as no one answers right away. Well, I at least know some of them, so I raise my hand “Picture, Score, Song, Costumes, and Production Design, so five?” “You missed Sound Editing and Mixing, but we’ll give it to you” Clearly she just didn’t wanna deal with waiting for someone who’d looked it up and prolly already won something earlier. The second host hands me a pen with a chewed cap. I assume I’m meant to exchange this for a real prize.

6:00 – Green Book – First of all, I’m glad that I opted for Italian for dinner because I otherwise would have craved it while watching all the gorgeous food they eat throughout the film. Second, I laughed harder watching this film than any other point in the whole day. I know there’s a ton of controversies around this film, especially after its big win. Yes it’s kinda problematic and no it’s not the best nominee to tackle race relations. However for me, I view this film as taking on a micro issue: an initially fraught relationship between two people that becomes a true friendship. Not a macro issue trying to save the world. Yeah it’s a weak and fluffy Best Picture, but I still enjoy watching it.

8:10 – The movie’s over and I go and exchange my pen. They have a whole box of swag to pick from with some pretty great options in there. I pick a tshirt that says “I Bested The Best” and has the year and name of the marathon. Friend 3 wants a photo at the little photo op spot they set up. I was starting to get sleepy and it’s starting to show in my Stardust video. We’re over the hump tho, and it’s all downhill now, right?

8:30 – Vice – As the movie goes on, I’m drinking more of that half caffeinated soda. I’m still not really feeling the effects which may or may not be a good thing. I’m more into the movie on this watch than the time before since I knew what to expect. I wasn’t comparing it in my head to The Big Short, and I knew everything was gonna make me angry, so I really zeroed in on the details that flew over my head before. I pay close attention to Amy Adam’s performance, and yeah, ,this isn’t gonna be the win that finally equals Oscar gold for her (though she very much deserves it). I’m too familiar with Christian Bale’s other work to fully see him lose himself in Cheney. Instead I continue to see bits of Batman and Patrick Bateman sprinkled throughout. Or maybe I’m just trying to confirm in my mind that Rami’s gonna win that race. The credits are rolling, but the lights haven’t come up yet. Um, why? That question is quickly answered when we find a mid-credits scene that I’d missed before. It’s a nice punctuation mark on the movie.

10:40 – I’ve been awake for all 12+ hours of film, but we’ve just crossed into the danger zone: it’s passed my usual ten o’clock bedtime (during the week, weekends are 11). I go to refill my giant soda at the Freestyle machine, intending this one to be fully caffeinated and I remember it’s the rare occassion when I can have a Dr Pepper. Except they only have Mr Pibb. Hopefully it’s been long enough that I don’t remember the difference. I also realize that in the entire day, I’ve only had a couple of sips of water in between all the soda (not very like me at all(. I grab a tiny cup from the bar and fill it up and chug it. That may prove to be a mistake, as we’ll learn in a bit. Stardust reaction goes up, and my ability to talk coherently AND work the caption app goes down. I do manage to acquire an ice cream sandwich. Trivia lady confuses everyone by first asking to name a role besides Vice where Bale gained weight, but then changes her question to a role where he changed weight. The girl behind me is upset that she was yelling The Machinist, but stopped when she realized the question was “gained weight” but it woulda been valid for “changed weight”. Trivia lady then asks what tour Lady Gaga was on when she filmed a scene of A Star is Born at the Forum. I’d already decided I was only gonna try to answer questions that didn’t have a million hands go up, and I’m surprised no one else’s does for this. I raise mine and correctly answer “Joanne”. Now I’m given what looks like a raffle ticket instead of a chewed pen.

11:00 – A Star Is Born – The caffeine finally starts to hit as the movie starts, timed well with the electric music. I’ve got just a bit of jitters and a sudden burst of energy that carries me through it. It’s the third time I’ve seen this movie, and I STILL get chills when they perform Shallow on stage. About halfway thru the movie, the thing I’ve been dreading all day happens. The soda (and water cup) have caught up to me and I’ve really gotta go pee. Except I’m stuck in the middle of the row. I thought the herd would thin out, but that doesn’t appear to be the case. I’m counting how many scenes are left in the film. Bradley Cooper pisses himself on stage at the Grammys and I feel jealous. I want to drink more soda to keep the caffeine vibe going, or more water to counteract the jitters, but I hafta carefully measure how much I do so vs how much more movie is left. The lights go up, and Friend 3 is ready to say her goodbye and I race past her to take care of business.

1:10 – I bid adieu to Friend 3, then go cash in my prize. The once full box of swag now only has a book about the production design of If Beale Street Could Talk, a mysterious lamp thing, and about six blind boxes of Fantastic Beast toys. I opt for the blind box and don’t even wanna see the options it displays because knowing my luck with these things I’ll be disappointed. I throw up my penultimate Stardust vid, and don’t even attempt to caption it. All I’m thinking about is how much I want kitty snuggles in my bed right now. But there’s still one movie and a long drive between me and that. I get back into the auditorium. I now have three seats to myself, but the rest of the place still looks pretty full. Or at least all the seats in front and beside me are still accounted for. It occurs to me I never looked behind me. There’s a final round of trivia, but the slim pickins in the box don’t make it worth the effort.

1:30 – BlacKkKlansman – I move all my stuff into one seat, and lift up my legs into another one to curl up and get comfy with the extra space. I decide that if I start to drift off, it’s not worth fighting. Even though it’s the one I consider the best out of the bunch, and the one that would get my vote for Best Picture, I’ve already seen it a few times. I don’t NEED to pay full attention. I’m with it for a bit, but then sleep thru pretty much the entirety of the second act. When I am awake, I’m paying pretty close attention to the editing. Spike Lee had been campaigning for his editor to win, saying that he was mostly responsible for the perfect tonal blend of drama and comedy, and I notice other artistic flourishes he’s added in. I also notice the poignancy of the Harry Belafonte scene mixed in with the Birth of a Nation viewing. I also want so badly for Spike Lee to pull an upset for director. That’s not likely, but I take comfort in knowing he’s a strong front runner for screenplay.

3:45 – We get to the epilogue of the film, and I feel as disgusted and sick as the first time I watched it. But it’s finally time to drive home. I’d mostly packed up my bag when I got into position to watch this last movie, so I only need to do a quick sweep and put on the jackets that I barely touched throughout the day. I decide to wait on the Stardust reaction until I get home. I feel wide awake now, but I don’t wanna push it any more than I have to.

3:55 – I’ve reached my truck, set the GPS and begin the drive back. Funny how much faster it goes when there are zero cars on the highway. I’m still careful not to speed since fewer cars equals fewer targets for the cops. I’m determined that once I wake up in the morning and get my chores done, I’ll watch Roma on Netflix for completion (spoiler alert: I don’t).

4:40 – I’m home! I record my final Stardust reaction, the only one where I’ve been able to take my time and do multiple takes just because. I wait until the last possible moment before crawling into bed to text Mom that I’m back and will be sleeping in past our usual call time. Somehow this marathon felt less magical than the previous one. Maybe because the theater was so generally busy (and we weren’t snowbound), it didn’t feel like such an isolated event. Still, lots of fun, and something I’m looking to do again next year. It feels much more accessible now. And now I can’t fall asleep, so these are the things I think about as it takes me too long to drift off.

5:30 PM – The Oscars start. The two wins I want most happen: Rami Malek takes home best actor (tho I could have done without him gushing about his girlfriend that he couldn’t stop kissing when he won), and Spike Lee wins screenplay (not the award I most wanted for him, but now he’s officially won one). This also becomes only the second year since the Best Picture pool has been expanded that every nominee takes home at least one. The last year that happened? The same year I did the previous marathon. I’m seeing a connection.

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World

I have loved this series from the moment Hiccup first laid eyes on Toothless. The first one surprised me with its stunning animation and heartwarming characters, plus major bonus points for Viking jokes. The second is a beautifully crafted sequel that logically expands the universe and story. Nearly a decade later, we’ve reached the conclusion of this magical trilogy.

Hiccup has grown up just a bit more and is now chief of Berk. The village has made it their mission to be a dragon sanctuary, as he and his pals have rescued as many winged creatures as they could find. Unfortunately, this high of a concentration of dragons has made them a prime target for dragon hunters, including one with a penchant for killing night furies like Toothless.

To be completely honest, the story was completely predictable this time. I could easily guess what was gonna happen at almost every turn. It didn’t entirely matter. This is another instance where I love the characters so much that I was happy to just spend the time with them. This is a franchise that has really shown tremendous growth for each of them as the films have progressed, and I was enjoying seeing that. Each of the side characters I adore had their own moments to let their quirks shine thru, and I appreciated that.

The animation is as stunning as ever, even seeing it on a plain ol’ 2D screen (the very first one I saw on a full size 8 story IMAX). The Viking jokes I love were still there. Everything that has made this a great series.

When I said I could predict everything that was going to happen, there was one thing I didn’t forsee, which was that I would be absolutely bawling for the last ten minutes or so of the movie. The way they concluded this trilogy (likely for good) was so moving and beautiful. I’m a big animal lover, and to me these creatures are no different from any other (hell, Toothless has basically the same personality as my cat Nosferatu, at least in the first movie). I cried so hard, and then there was an epilogue that tied everything back to these beloved characters and I cried even more. There are few films that can maintain such a level of quality over such a spread out trilogy, and Dragon nailed it.

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World – \m/ \m/ \m/ \n

Happy Death Day 2 U

I absolutely love the first Happy Death Day. It was one of the biggest surprises of the year, and such a blast to watch. How on earth is a sequel gonna measure up?

Okay stay with me here. In the first film, sorority girl Tree finds herself reliving the same day over and over again, which always ends the same way: killed by a psycho in a baby mask. She’s able to break the loop once she figures out who the killer is and kills them first. Happy Death Day 2 U begins with the loop passed on to another student. They quickly figure out the connection to that student’s mysterious science project, but an attempt to put things back in order sends Tree back to her original loop. Except something seems a little different this time….

Where the first was a horror/comedy, this one is more of a scifi/comedy. Yeah there’s still a psycho in a baby mask, but the focus isn’t on trying to not be killed but on trying to fix the science. It’s less Groundhog Day and more Back to the Future Part II.

Honestly, I’m still not sure how I feel about this movie. Some of it felt very different, but some of it felt very familiar. I appreciate them trying something new because you need that to move a sequel forward, but it was the familiar bits that I enjoyed most. Tree is still the best part of the film, but it took a while to get to her and thus took me a while to get into the story.

I guess I really don’t know what I wanted out of this. Did I want to see more of the same, or did I want something completely different? Mostly because I know that giving the audience the same experience will never be as good, but I still don’t know if I liked this new direction. Rumor has it there’s a third on the horizon to complete a trilogy, so maybe I’ll need to see the whole picture before I can really get what’s going on.

Happy Death Day 2 U – \m/ \m/ \m/

Isn’t It Romantic

Oh God I hate romantic comedies oh so very much. I think we’ve long since established that about me. This movie promised to be the Scream of the genre, the one that points out all the tropes and makes insightful statements about it, but still being a part of the genre. Okay, I’m intrigued. Maybe I can handle this one?

Rebel Wilson (yay!) stars as a woman who hates rom-coms (good so far) who suddenly finds herself stuck in one. As she calls out all those details that often make me want to claw my eyes out she realizes that she has to give in to them in order to get herself out of this altered reality. Enter love interest Liam Hemsworth, the gorgeous billionaire who is more than eager to play that role.

I could get behind the concept, but I wish this went further. For one, though it was infinitely more watchable for me than those atrocious films it parodies, I still didn’t find myself laughing enough. And I think that they could have taken the concept even further. It did a good job of pointing out all the pitfalls of those films, but instead of truly subverting them, it fell victim to all the same plot points. Kind of a missed opportunity.

But I did absolutely adore Rebel Wilson as a leading lady, and I want to see more from her. I also appreciated the positive message of the film, although it looks like that’s starting to become the new cliche of the genre. A much needed positive message, but still cliche territory.

I think I’m gonna still keep avoiding rom-coms, but hopefully this is a sign they’re gonna be more tolerable in the future

Isn’t It Romantic – \m/ \m/ \m/

Alita: Battle Angel

Robert Rodriguez where have you been? It’s been too long since I’ve seen that Troublemaker logo on a new movie in theaters. Word on the street is that he was a big fan of the Alita manga, and he’d asked James Cameron (who had the rights) for a status update. Cameron of course is busy with Avatar, so he told Rodriguez that if he could write it, he could shoot it. Thus, Robert got his first $100+ million budget studio film.

Set in the far distant distopian future, a doctor (Christoph Waltz) who specializes in cybernetic prosthetics finds the remains of a female cyborg. He revives her and they soon find out that despite her missing memory, there’s something powerful about her and her mysterious origins.

I kind of loved this. The film looks incredible. With Cameron and his incredible technology as a mentor, the special effects here are stunning. Despite being all mo-cap, Alita looks very real. The world around her looks real. The fight choreography is breath taking. I was absorbed in this world immediately.

The other thing that pulled me in immediately were the characters. I fell in love with Alita and her pseudo father and her love interest, basically all within their first few minutes on screen. The doctor is just so compassionate and smart, plus any movie is always better when it has Christoph Waltz. And Alita’s big eyes were full of such wonder and joy and goodness, I couldn’t help but feel it all with her.

I did have a few issues with the writing. The dialog was a little cheesy and parts of the story were predictable or a little too rushed. I didn’t care though. The previous things I mentioned were strong enough that I was in.

Oh and as a bonus, while this may be a little different from Rodriguez’ usual scrappy and gritty style, there were a few of his signatures. The one I was happiest to see: minority representation. He had a beautifully colorful cast. Pay close attention, and you might also notice some of his previous collaborators in unexpected roles.

This film was predicted to be the first mega million bomb of the year, but I sincerely hope that isn’t the case. The word of mouth has been good, and I truly do think this is one that’s worth your time. Something fun to tide you over until summer blockbuster season

Alita: Battle Angel – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/