Captain America: Civil War (2016)

I enjoyed Captain America: Civil War overall. The major theme is choice, taking responsibility for one’s own actions and their consequences.

Some people seem to be reading implications about the role of America in international politics and policing into it, but I mostly think they’re missing the point.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/captain-america-civil-war/id1104040170

SPOILERS below, including a detailed plot summary in the form of a beat sheet in the style described in Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat.

Continue reading Captain America: Civil War (2016)

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

I was expecting Sylvia Plath’s Bell Jar to be depressing, and it was—just not as depressing as I’d expected.

I don’t think I’d read anything by Sylvia Plath, but I had the impression that she was famous for poetry relating to depression and death, and that this famous book had some kind of morbid theme. I also had the impression that Plath was the author of “Resumé”, a memorable and oddly charming poem about suicide that turns out to be by Dorothy Parker.

The novel tells the story of Esther, a nineteen-year-old college student in the US who has been sent to work at the office of a New York City fashion magazine for one month. The story follows her anguished personal struggle with others’ expectations of her and with her own professional and romantic ambitions.

The novel did not impress me favorably overall, but I attribute that judgment to my personal taste for happier content.

For more about when and why I read the novel and what stood out (including a detailed plot summary in the style described in Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat), see below.

Continue reading The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

The Jungle Book (2016)

Disney’s live-action / cgi adaptation of its own animated classic, The Jungle Book, is similar in tone to its live-action / cgi adaptation of Cinderella. It was earnest and straightforward, and the technology that brought all those talking animals and jungle landscapes to life was amazing.

The theme seemed to me to be extremely American, or at least Western, in its individualism.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/the-jungle-book-2016/id1098066757

SPOILERS below, including a detailed plot summary in the form of a beat sheet in the style described in Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat.

Continue reading The Jungle Book (2016)

How to Train Your Dragon 2 (2014)

How to Train Your Dragon 2 has a surprisingly straightfoward plot, but it was pretty enjoyable.

Premise: Dragons, formerly a menace to the people of Berk, are now a cherished part of Berk’s peace-loving culture. Menace lurks on the horizon, however. Dragon trappers are hunting dragons to sell to a warlord who is building a dragon army, and they’re not about to let a bunch of dragon riders get in their way, attacks from a mysterious giant ice-spitting dragon notwithstanding. Can Hiccup accept his role as future chief and protect his people… and the dragons? He and Toothless are going to have to fight that warlord, obviously. With help from an almost totally unexpected source…

Frankly, even if the plot had been a lot worse, the dragon joyrides would have made it totally acceptable. You know, kind of like The Rescuers Down Under. I’m a sucker for friendships with flying animals. (Free Willy, on the other hand, you can keep.)

Looking forward (waaaay forward, to 2018) to the third and final movie in the series. Considering reading the books, but I understand there are a lot of them and they’re only loosely related to the films. Not interested in the TV show.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/how-to-train-your-dragon-2/id875611049

More about this movie, and only this movie, since apart from the tame-the-injured-beast montage I don’t remember much about its 2010 predecessor, below. There are SPOILERS, including a detailed plot summary in the form of a beat sheet in the style described in Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat.

Continue reading How to Train Your Dragon 2 (2014)

Shaolin Soccer (2001)

I was eager to see the Chinese fantasy sports comedy Shaolin Soccer because I’d already seen and enjoyed Steven Chow’s Kung Fu Hustle. I think I liked Kung Fu Hustle better, but this wasn’t bad.

Steven Chow (writer, director, star) is a poor boy named Sing who has five brothers and who wants to bring Shaolin martial arts to the masses by packaging it in a unique way. He tries kung fu singing, but that doesn’t really work, and gets him and one of his brothers into trouble with some local rabble-rousers. Luckily, a crippled ex-soccer star is interested in teaching him to combine his kung fu with the game of soccer. Half the movie is gone by the time our protagonist has successfully recruited his brothers, seemingly unsuited for soccer, to form a team. Will this strange team be able to defeat the Evil Team, owned and managed by the cripple’s former rival? Yeah, probably so. And will our protagonist also win the love of the woman who uses kung fu for baking? Yep, that’s kind of a given, too. How do those two goals come together? That’s worth seeing.

The seams between the live action filming and the special effects are generally obvious, but the CG effects are amazing for 2001 and still pretty enjoyable. The best is when the Puma soccer ball turns into a puma.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/shaolin-soccer/id669315509

SPOILERS BELOW, including a detailed plot summary in the form of a beat sheet in the style described in Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat.

Continue reading Shaolin Soccer (2001)

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 (2013)

It had some repetitive, unsubtle dialog, but on the whole, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 was better than I was expecting.

Premise: The protagoscientist (Flint) and everyone else on the boring fishing island that got covered in too-big food items falling from the sky in movie 1 gets evacuated to California while the mess gets cleaned up by Live Corp, a high-tech company headed by Flint’s childhood hero, inventor Chester V. After working thanklessly on inventions for the company in a tiny cubicle for six months, Flint then gets suckered into returning to the island to deactivate his device, which has gone haywire and has apparently created food monsters. His father and friends return with him to the island, where they discover that it has turned into a jungle inhabited by foodimals.

If you can stomach the dialog, some of which is funny and some of which (like I said) is repetitive, then it’s actually a lot of fun. You get a technicolor eyeful of lovable, inventive creatures and an earful of food- and animal-related puns. The plot is rather tidy and satisfying, and the demise of the antagonist is particularly fitting. The end credits are really weird. The informative special features shed light on some things you might overlook while watching the movie.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/cloudy-chance-meatballs-2/id699011844

SPOILERS BELOW, including a detailed plot summary in the form of a beat sheet in the style described in Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat.

Continue reading Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 (2013)

Zootopia (2016)

I do not know how, but Disney made a fantastic cartoon mystery about gender, race and law enforcement. Oh, wait, I do know. They made it about animals instead of people, they did an amazing job of fantasy world-building, they got all the plot points in place, and they somehow made the theme explicit without—in my opinion—letting it get sickeningly didactic.

Premise: In a world where anthropomorphic mammals live together in harmony regardless of whether they are predators or prey, a bunny from a carrot-farming family becomes the first bunny police officer in the big city. Her victory turns to ashes when she’s merely made a meter-maid and tricked by a fox who’s as sly as a—well, as a fox. Meanwhile, fourteen mammals have disappeared in the city and no one knows why.

Zootopia is another full-on American movie about freedom of choice, but in this case the “be anything you want” message is tempered with uncannily realistic reminders that nobody—and no melting-pot, not even one with a utopian reputation—is perfect and that people will surprise you in both good and bad ways.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/zootopia/id1084138493

SPOILERS BELOW, including a detailed plot summary in the form of a beat sheet in the style described in Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat.

Continue reading Zootopia (2016)