SCK Adventures in DC: Link Roundup

Really sorry that I have been failing miserably at staying on schedule here. A lot of things have been going on but I’m excited to get back on track!

Why make new memories when you can look back fondly on old ones? Just kidding, keep making new memories, folks, you won’t regret it in the long run.

BUT, I thought it might be handy to have one big post here with the blogs from Karen & Christine‘s recent visit to DC since we all blogged about the trip. Everyone has different photos and perspectives, and I think it’s fun to see what we remembered and wrote down about each day.

Starr: Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 (just me, don’t get too excited)
Christine: Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 (she includes a lot of great, hilarious, personal details in her posts)
Karen: All 3 Days (she’s the real-deal photographer in our group, so be ready for great photos!)

Relive the memories with me, friends!

Photo credit: Christine on Karen's selfie stick!

Photo credit: Christine on Karen’s selfie stick!

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

I have never watched any of the original Mel Gibson Mad Max movies. Since the last movie came out in 1985, I had assumed that the new one was a reboot.

However, it is a sequel. (And also a reboot…?) They don’t spend much time on world-building at ALL for this movie, which is really confusing because we are only given little hints about what the context for everything is. Here are some answers that will not be answered during the course of the movie:

  • What is “guzzoline”?
  • But really, who killed the world? Did someone or something “kill” the world?
  • What happened to make Max hallucinate a creepy little girl?
  • What about the other creepy hallucination people?
  • Why does half the cast speak with an Australian accent but the other half with an American one?
  • Why is everyone’s name so creative, but then you have Max?
  • Why are viable babies so difficult to come by now?
  • How is everyone so pale/why is everyone painted white? Is this related to the viable babies thing?
  • What does the silver/chrome stuff on the teeth do exactly?
  • What is Joe’s deal, exactly?
  • What is EVERYONE’S DEAL???

In fact, my big question for this whole movie was “What is the story?” What motivated these characters? Why were they in their situations? There was no real plot to this movie, it felt?

(In case you were wondering, I’m about to continue with more reasons I did not like this film.)

It was a big adrenaline rush but with no story to provide structure. Like if you took the race scenes from The Fast and the Furious franchise movies, set them in a weird post-apocalyptic steampunk desert, and took out Vin Diesel talking about family. That’s how this movie felt.
And I hate that.

In fact, just the color composition felt really tired, even though I understand why they made that decision. It was just all that orange/tan of the desert sand and then blues. I just feel like orange/blue for action movies feels really cliche now and it felt ESPECIALLY trite and exhausting for this movie. There were some instances where they made good use of the orange/blue contrast, but mostly it felt tired. Even the posters were some of the MOST orange/blue ones I’ve ever seen.

Honestly, the highlight of this movie was completely random but a nice little tongue-in-cheek joke. (I think. I actually don’t know if it had significance in past movies or whatever.) When our primary villain has his giant convoys rolling through the desert, we hear an intense electric guitar riff playing. In a cute little meta twist (you know I like these meta things), it is actually a dude strapped to the front of a truck wailing on his guitar as this offensive convoy goes busting about, setting war music. Think military drummers, but instead of drums you have sick electric guitar riffs. It was great but really had nothing to do with the movie besides sort of tell a story about what kind of mindset and culture is going on here, I suppose. It was hard not to smile whenever he showed up though, because you often forgot that he was there, just taking the soundtrack for granted.

(You know what, I liked the soundtrack. It was good at setting the tone and easily did more storytelling than most of the rest of the movie.)

The whole movie just seemed so… unnecessary? Especially without any context from the previous films but still……. the dialogue was painful, the visuals were interesting but why were they happening?

I liked Nicholas Hoult’s performance here, as it’s pretty different from a lot of stuff he’s done in the past. Charlize Theron did a pretty incredible job, although she wasn’t given much to work with given her kind of badass-and-therefore-quiet character. Folks like Zoe Kravitz and Rosie Huntington-Whitely didn’t really get to do much either, other than sit, wear ever-dirtying white dresses, cry a bit, and hose each other off. (This was a real scene. It wasn’t even terribly sexy, so I don’t know why any of this happened.)

They TRULY wasted Tom Hardy here, however, since he has almost no lines, his face is barely visible for most of the movie, and he is tied up/incapacitated for a good portion of the movie so we can’t even see him acting with his face or body. Serious waste of his talent here.

I don’t know, you guys. Just… the character dynamics and relationships weren’t really fleshed out properly. We have such interesting characters (with such bizarre names) and I didn’t feel like we really explored any of the relationships they had with each other! You KNOW how much that frustrates me. It was easily the biggest disappointment in this movie, as the lack of story is directly correlated with the lack of strong relationship building (and character building).

One good thing about the movie that I recently learned was that they really tried to minimize use of CGI. A lot of the stunts that you see are real. This is a pretty impressive feat, given how intense this movie was as far as stuntwork, pyrotechnics, etc.

I DON’T KNOW WHY THIS MOVIE EXISTS or why they made these choices??? I left the movie really relieved that it was finally over. SO relieved. I have never left a movie theater feeling that relieved that a movie was over, I think. It was just so painful. Nothing made sense. They wasted this great cast and a really successful movie franchise on this. And I don’t think you can call it a reboot if you don’t set the scene as if audiences had never seen the original movies!

So what did I think of Mad Max: Fury Road? No. Thanks but no thanks.

Mad Max: Fury Road comes out in theaters tomorrow, May 15.

(The editing on this trailer is top-notch, by the way.
But it basically includes all that we need to know about the movie.)

Pitch Perfect 2 (2015)

The first Pitch Perfect movie was a surprising hit, to me. I didn’t think much of it when it was released, but people couldn’t stop raving about how hilarious they thought the movie was. And of course, who could escape Anna Kendrick singing “Cups (When I’m Gone)” on the radio… in the mall… in restaurants… I even did a cover way back when. (Oh to be so fresh out of college that I filmed that in my college apartment.) Anyway, let’s jump right into it, shall we? Our story begins with the Barden Bellas being suspended after Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson) accidentally shows her lady bits to President Obama, Michelle Obama, and a large audience at the Kennedy Center. (This scene is in the trailer and is literally the opener, so I’m not spoiling anything for you there.) They lose their champion tour to German group Das Sound Machine (featuring YouTube star Flula!) and have to win “Worlds” in order to be reinstated. (Because every show/movie about show choir/a capella revolves around a big competition that is usually “regionals” but taking it to Copenhagen for that international flair is nice, too.) Also everyone is a senior, so there’s that. If you’re unfamiliar with the humor in Pitch Perfect movies, let me first warn you: The humor is often offensive. But the movies are fully aware of this and basically make fun of how offensive they are. Examples of running gags that are off-color in this movie are:

  •  Flo (Chrissie Fit), the undocumented (???) immigrant from Guatemala, who doesn’t care too much about if the Bellas get reinstated because of the horrors she endured
  • Announcer John Smith (John Michael Higgins), who frequently makes extremely sexist comments about women, minorities, non-Americans, anyone really

Even though the humor was definitely NOT politically correct, I didn’t find it to be crude, but rather drawing attention to how wrong these jokes are, if that makes sense? I don’t like crude, off-color jokes, but within the script, the sexist joke ITSELF is the joke. It’s a meta-joke, if you will. And I appreciated that level of self-awareness a lot.

“You know you’re setting women back like, 30 years right now, right?”

What was great is that there were so many of these jokes but they never felt too tired. I think the writers did a great job not milking a joke dry. For example, there is a running gag where Becca (Anna Kendrick) says she is intimidated and also sexually confused by Kommissar (Birgitte Hjort Sørensen) so our already adorably awkward Becca has some funny interactions with her. But they didn’t overdo it with this one. THEY CAME CLOSE but they didn’t. I was really surprised that Hailee Steinfeld was in this movie? It made sense once the shock wore off that they would introduce a freshman since, as I mentioned, everyone on the Bellas was graduating. She has her own little storyline and she fit in pretty well as far as being a weirdo. I didn’t love her romance subplot, even though it was pretty cute, and I thought that some elements of her character were sloppily done, even though they made sense in the scheme of the whole movie. I just thought that her character could have been written into the story more smoothly. Can I also say that Keegan Michael Key was amazing in this movie? I’m a huge huge fan of his Comedy Central show Key & Peele, so I was really excited that he would be joining the cast. All of his scenes were really funny because he is really great at playing off other people, reacting to them and eliciting certain reactions. I did miss Utkarsh Ambudkar, aka hot Indian guy from Pitch Perfect, because I really liked his character and what he brought to the cast and to the whole movie. There aren’t that may people of color in the Pitch Perfect movies. Some people take issue with the fact that the few that are in the movies are weirdos. Ester Dean — who is a real-life songwriter for artists like Rihanna — is both token black friend and butch lesbian trope, and well, Hana Mae Lee’s character says really unsettling things very quietly. But the nice thing about how Pitch Perfect does this is that EVERY CHARACTER IS TOTALLY WEIRD. Some are weirder than others. (Am I mad that the Asian girl is clearly waaaaaay weirder than everyone else? A little, it’s okay, I’m just salty because it hits too close to home for me.) But the point of the movies is that these kids are all really weird and that’s okay because they have each other. They might even make an occasional joke about how there’s just one black girl on the Bellas. Still, it doesn’t make it okay to drop their one South Asian guy and to replace him with a black beatboxer and a blond Asian who both have no lines at all. While I’m not the biggest fan of Rebel Wilson’s brand of humor, I think fans will really appreciate her own subplot in the movie. She gets a solo and drives a lot of the movie, whereas Anna Kendrick was the very clear star of the first movie. It seemed like the sequel kind of forgot that Anna Kendrick was the star of the first one, or maybe it just didn’t care. Part of Becca’s story is that she begins to detach from the Barden Bellas as she prepares to graduate but the rest of the girls are having a much harder time letting go. (How is Brittany Snow’s character still there if she was supposed to be a senior in the first movie? Because she has been intentionally failing classes for the past 3 years to put off graduation. Yep.) For comedy movies like this, I don’t think spoilers are necessary. Just know that Pitch Perfect 2 delivers all of the insane but hilarious personality that the first one did with its characters. There’s a really great sing-off scene (another classic show choir/a cappella movie/show trope) that features a great guest star. (Those of you who have been following the movie more closely probably know about this.)  It was easily one of the highlights of the movie, during which I laughed out loud and frequently. And of course, it’s a movie that features a female ensemble cast that everyone enjoys.

ALSO I got a yellow cup (because CUPS) and a flashlight (there’s an original song in the movie called “Flashlight”), which I thought was some pretty nice and clever branding. (Although I didn’t love the lyrics for the song “Flashlight”. They were kind of dumb.) Are you going to see Pitch Perfect 2? Did you like the first movie? Do you like movies/TV shows about competitive singing? Pitch Perfect 2 is in US theaters May 15.<

Please excuse the dust

Things are going to be shifting around a lot around these parts. I’m going to start a big housekeeping project on the blog that will include some host shifting (if things go as planned…..) and also other personal projects that will be taking up some time.

BUT.

I hope when the dust settles, everything looks nice. In the meantime, please don’t be alarmed if you are having trouble with sipofstarrshine.com. When in doubt, go back to sipofstarrshine.wordpress.com and that should still be working fine.

Thanks for your patience and wish me luck! (I’m not good at website things…)

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

Here it is. I’ve been waiting for this movie ever since seeing the first Avengers, and I’ve been hoping for access to an early screening to the sequel ever since, well, I’ve been going to early screenings.

Here it is. I was able to catch Avengers: Age of Ultron in theaters yesterday at an early press screening. (Thank you, YelpDC!) I got there 2 hours early and I was SO excited in my lazy Scarlet Witch-bound.

I am of the firm belief that I photograph so much better when the top of my face is excluded.

I am of the firm belief that I photograph much better when the top of my face is excluded.

MANY spoilers will be following the trailer, so please be aware of this! I’m not sure how much you all know about the movie already (some things have been revealed over the past few months) so I’ll try to keep it as vague as possible with regards to actual plot points.
Note: I wasn’t sure where in the MCU timeline the events of AOU were meant to take place. Right after Winter Soldier? How does Agents of SHIELD factor in, especially since I don’t watch AoS so… I had to do a little bit of research afterwards since AoS does have tie-ins with AOU.

(Abbreviations I will be using in this review: AOU = Age of Ultron, aka this movie; AoS = Agents of SHIELD; MCU = Marvel Cinematic Universe)

You know what, I’m likely going to watch this in theaters again at a later time. The problem with seeing it with zealous fans this early on is… they’re very excited. Someone kept clapping during the screening, a girl fangirl-screamed at one point. Full-on squeal/shriek/scream with delight. (Maybe it was horror, who really knows.) Sometimes you miss dialogue because the audience is laughing too hard at a joke or because there is applause throughout the theater. It makes for a fun experience, but you miss things in the movie as a result.

Of course, the movie was spectacular. It was fun and exciting to watch, and it delivered on many of the things that we have come to expect from Marvel films. This review will sound nitpicky, and that’s likely because I have just been anticipating this for so long and it’s easy to nitpick at a sequel, you know? But I loved this movie, I did. It isn’t perfect and no movie is.

It kept with the tone of the first Avengers film, which was easy since director Joss Whedon returned for this one. However, when the Russo brothers were announced to be coming onboard for the 3rd film, I remember being really confused by the response from some parts of the MCU fandom that went “Good riddance!” Wasn’t everyone so excited that Whedon directed the first one? Wasn’t a really good portion of the MCU fandom also Whedonites? I didn’t really understand when people became so anti-Whedon and/or pro-Russo brothers?

Here’s Joss on the set of the first Avengers film. Hey, it’s good that he makes work so fun.

But by the time AOU was over, I kind of understood the decision to go with a different directing style for the next Avengers film. I felt a bit burdened by Whedon’s one-liners and quips by the end of the movie. It felt like when the class clown — who everyone knows is funny — makes just a few too many jokes during a class presentation. It’s not that the jokes don’t land but it feels like he is trying a bit too hard to make you laugh when you’re not there to laugh your butt off. Did I find Whedon’s jokes funny? Sure. But did I want to be laughing at these quips every 5 minutes? Not really. I was pretty tired of them, to be really honest with you all. Still, the quality of Whedon jokes is good; it just felt like the quantity was a bit excessive. And I think it is strange with regards to the tone of the MCU as a whole. Iron Man movies are pretty snarky, because Tony Stark is Tony Snark. Every Avenger movie has its share of jokes and quips. But this one seemed to try much harder than the others, and to me, it seemed to slightly disrupt the overall tone of the MCU. Is that a strange thing to say?

STILL a fan of a Whedon, just to be clear. And I did like the jokes, I did! It was just more than I expected.

AOU starts off in the middle of action, and it was a little disorienting for me for the first 15 minutes or so. I would later find out that watching AoS would probably have helped me out a bit. We begin immediately with the Avengers kicking butt and taking names to find Loki’s staff (yep, the same one from the last Avengers movie). Like I said, I was a bit disoriented about what was going on and who this Strucker fella was since I didn’t remember him from any of the other Marvel movies. We definitely weren’t picking up after Cap 2, and I knew that Agents of SHIELD had handled a lot of the Hydra fall-out, etc.

So for folks who also don’t watch AoS and/or need a refresher on previous events: Baron von Strucker is a doctor who has been experimenting with human enhancement. SO, when we first meet the twins — who moviegoers last saw at the end of Captain America: Winter Soldier, and who are the only surviving subjects — they are referred to as “enhanced”. As in like “there’s an enhanced here”. (This is Marvel Studios’ way of avoiding the word mutants because 20th Century Fox owns the rights to the X-Men and all mention of mutants.) This is how we enter the “Age of Miracles” and step into real superpowers within the MCU, which until now only had Asgardian pseudo-godliness and some superserum-induced abilities in addition to highly trained operatives and whatever you would classify Tony Stark as.

From their post-credits scene in Captain America: Winter Soldier — the twins.

ANYWAY. Thanks to the Scarlet Witch, we are able to explore some of the things that haunt the Avengers. It’s a nice way to see what motivates Tony, Natasha, Steve, Bruce, and Thor a bit. One of my favorite things about the Avengers movies is that you don’t lose sight of each individual character, their individual nuances, their individual motivations. As we move forward in the Marvel timeline, it’s important for us to see the very crucial differences in their worldviews and how those differences affect their actions.

Of course, it isn’t really an Avengers movie until they fight each other a bit. Their harmony as a team is only rivaled by their dissonance in conflict. The dynamics between the Avengers is really nice. Tony and Bruce science-bro-ing it up. (SCIENCE!) Tony and Cap’s ideological differences. Steve and Thor’s excellent chemistry in battle (Chris Squared forever!). (And okay, there’s one dynamic that I really didn’t like how they executed in this movie, I’ll talk about that in my spoilers.)

Clint isn’t in this shot because, well, you’ll see.

Avengers movies excel in bringing together these heroes and showing us how they play off each other. Half of them have their own film franchises now, and each one has their own style and ego. My favorite thing about the Avengers is the relationships between the characters. It’s especially fun because we see characters from individual franchises that get introduced to the mix, like Rhodey (War Machine from the Iron Man franchise) and Sam (Falcon from Captain American: Winter Soldier).

Also thank goodness there are some PoCs in this one. Don Cheadle and Anthony Mackie and Claudia Kim (I’ll talk about her character in the spoilers section) added some much-needed diversity to the cast.
Even though they’re barely hardly in the movie at all. It’s a start, Marvel. It’s a start. But you can do better and you know that.

With regards to our new characters, the twins, I liked their dynamic a lot. They don’t really look anything alike, but it was a pretty convincing sibling relationship. I am always very wary when brother-sister duos get announced, because sometimes the actors play off each other with far too much sexual tension for sibling relations. Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen did nicely in this regard.
HOWEVER (no one is safe), their accents were a bit wonky. Elizabeth’s sounded decent, but she wouldn’t consistently speak with it. You could hear a very distinct American accent slip out pretty often. Aaron’s seemed like a bit much; I got a bit of a Borat vibe from his accent. Luckily for us, the two of them didn’t have that many lines, but I do wish they worked with their dialect coaches a little bit more.

Not sure how much I liked Ultron as a villain. He seemed a bit shallow for a Marvel villain, so it was disappointing. It just seemed like we don’t really delve very deep into his motivations and his thought process as a villain. He jumps so suddenly to villainous intent, and we don’t really explore how he got there or get a glimpse of how he’s doing the right thing from his perspective.  It’s hard to sympathize with him as a villain, which makes him a weak villain. Marvel is better than this, so it was disappointing. I guess the true villain(s) of the movie are their inner demons blah blah whatever. Andy Serkis has just the tiniest presence in the movie and that was disappointing, too, although I am guessing we’ll see more of him in the future?

I can’t really complain too much about the action sequences. Marvel delivers wonderfully on action movies, but with Avengers movies, you often have so many important characters on screen and there were so many cuts within any given fight scene that it was easy to just get lost. I kind of tuned out a lot of the action sequences because it was easier than trying to watch a flurry of arms and legs and guns and robots in IMAX 3D.

I was confused about Natasha’s TRON-esque catsuit. Why were there lights running through it? It was pretty cool but I didn’t understand the tactical reason for this. And she didn’t seem to have a set weapon or anything. I mean, her skillset is her weapon, I suppose, but she had guns, she had cool electric… dagger… things? No signature weapon and, seemingly, no assigned weapon? I loved that Clint (Hawkeye) got a lot more screentime compared to his brainwashed self in the first movie, although his personality is still not really fleshed out at this point. He was on screen and even got lines, but he was still not really an active character in the movie. (Do you see how small he is on the poster?)

It’s getting a bit dicey for me to talk about this movie without any spoilers, so let’s just jump into the spoiler section below the trailer!
Warning: It’s a lot of critiquing in this section. My big issue was that a lot of things happened in this movie that I thought there wasn’t enough of a build-up for: new characters, new situations, new relationships, etc.

Are you planning on watching Avengers: Age of Ultron?
Do you like watching MCU films? What did you think of the last Avengers movie?

LOTS OF SPOILERS COMING UP. DON’T SAY I DIDN’T WARN YOU! I MEAN IT.


Here’s the latest trailer, and spoilers below the jump.

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