Marvel: New Disney+ Trailers

Screenshot of Tom Hiddleston in ‘Thor: Ragnarok’. Copyright goes to Marvel Studios and Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.

Hey! Hallie here!

Yesterday Disney dropped a bunch of their upcoming releases for investors. This included a large amount of animated feature films and Disney+ shows, some more Star Wars content for Disney+, and, of course, a whole lot of Marvel news. A lot was released, all in varying stages of development, but the three live-action Disney+ shows that are farthest along caught my eye. Mainly because we received new trailers for all three upcoming series. I had some thoughts on each trailer, so I’m going through each of them to talk about what we saw and what might be in store for us when these shows finally drop. If you haven’t watched the trailers, I highly recommend going to watch them before this deep dive. Let’s go!

‘Loki’: This one was my favorite trailer. But I’m a little biased because Loki is my favorite Marvel character. This trailer started out with the exact scene we saw in ‘Endgame’. Present day Tony Stark and Scott Lang manage to steal the Tesseract while Loki is being arrested after the battle of New York. Except Tony gets completely bowled over by the Hulk and the Tesseract case flies out of his hand and directly towards Loki. Loki sees an opportunity to escape and takes it. This is where we get new content. Loki wakes up in a random desert with his hair already miraculously shorter and in the next shot, he’s in an elevator with Owen Wilson. I have to say, Owen Wilson didn’t seem as out of place to me as I thought he would when I heard he was cast. He definitely looks older with his short hair and bushy mustache, but he looks smart in his suit. And you kind of have to look somewhat refined if you’re standing next to Loki. Loki is clearly a prisoner judging by what appears to be a shock collar and a very unfashionable uniform, but Owen Wilson promises not to kill him.

In their banter we’re introduced to the TVA which, in the comics, stands for the Time Variance Authority. They monitor all of the different realities and timelines in the multiverse, and keep tabs on everything to make sure nothing is out of place. Which lines up with the time-hopping storyline we were promised. We get a brief scene of a hooded figure wreaking some havoc and then a few scenes of Loki going through a trial and questioning from the TVA. Loki is next seen in a suit, newly equipped with some throwing knives and obviously part of the TVA’s ranks. Then Loki’s in a plane looking very reminiscent of Tom Hiddleston in the Jaguar commercial he did a while back. We see him fighting in a few different realities and then he jumps out of the plane and right into what appears to be Asgard’s Bifrost. Hopefully in a reality where Asgard isn’t completely destroyed. The trailer ends with a very interesting image paralleling Loki’s 2016 comics look. This trailer was packed and it made me very excited for what’s to come. Loki looks as delightfully mischievous as always, which is all I really want out of this series. It’s impossible for me to say no to this one.

‘The Falcon and the Winter Soldier’: This trailer starts out pretty straightforward. Sam Wilson stares at a bunch of Steve’s stuff, including his shield, and comments on how daunting the legacy of the shield is. You can’t really blame him. We get a few random shots, some soldiers running and a large explosion, plus a shot of Sam and Bucky walking through a city. And then our first look at what appears to be a main villain in the series placing a mask over her face. Next Bucky and Sam can be seen on a boat with some gear, but strangely, no shield. Nor any Captain America colors. This series seems pretty adamant that Falcon and the Winter Soldier are going to stay the way they are. Neither appear to be the “new” Captain America despite Steve passing the shield on to Sam. Which is certainly an interesting choice. We get a lot more random shots in this trailer. Some fight scenes, what appears to be a grave, Zemo is back of course, and what looks like a football game honoring Captain America. Then we finally get back to Bucky on his motorcycle and Sam fighting this masked villain on the back of a truck with a helicopter hovering above.

There’s a lot of action in this trailer with only a few scenes of Sam and Bucky talking to each other. There isn’t much plot to be revealed here, but at least it looks like they’re getting along now. Although, I wouldn’t mind another squabble over how far back Bucky’s seat is. What strikes me as interesting are the suits that Bucky and Sam are wearing. Bucky is wearing a completely black, leather suit. It seems pretty plain to me, but we’ll see how it looks when the series airs. I do like the silver and red look for Falcon. It looks very sleek on him. We do get a prolonged look at Falcon flying from a helicopter after Bucky comments on their lack of a plan with a very annoyed look on his face. It’s strange to see Bucky be the sensible one, but that seems to be their dynamic here. And then we get a really awkward scene of Sam teasing Bucky about his “cyborg brain”. I can tell it’s supposed to be funny, but it just came off as odd. There was a lot in this trailer, but not a lot of it was meaningful. There were things I felt were just put in for filler and nothing clued me in to the story. I have no idea what this series is even about at this point. I guess I’ll have to wait and see.

‘WandaVision’: This series just looks weirder and weirder as each trailer comes out. We start out with the black and white look we saw in the first trailer. A woman comments on Wanda’s status as single which she seems confused about. She conjures wedding rings for herself and Vision and tells the woman that she’s married to a very human man. A laugh track plays (I’ll have to get used to that) and Vision suddenly walks in the front door. We see Wanda use her powers for various household chores, Vision as a human for some reason, and then color comes in. Now we have the 70’s look we saw and Wanda’s pregnant. We see the nursery and Wanda and Vision preparing for the babies. Probably twins, like in the comics. Also some looks at their neighbors who seem unrealistically happy. Finally we get our first look at Monica Rambeau, who greets Wanda like she knows her. Wanda is confused, asks her who she is, and then the trailer gets kind of chilling. Monica replies that she doesn’t know who she is in a very scared voice, but the screen glitches and Wanda and Monica are suddenly smiling again.

Both Wanda and Vision start seeing glitches in their town. A voice through a radio asks if Wanda can hear him and questions who’s doing “this”, whatever “this” is, to her. Their neighbor tearfully asks Wanda if she’s here to help them and then glitches so that she’s laughing as if she had never asked. What look like military vehicles come in and Wanda and Vision resolve to protect their “home”. We get a singular shot of Darcy Lewis amongst the chaos, who I am very excited to see again. In a moment that makes me somewhat hopeful for Vision’s possible survival, we see Wanda staring transfixed at the mind stone, but it shatters. The trailer ends with Wanda and Vision holding hands and another shot of a comical scene with the laugh track. I’m very weirded out by this trailer, but also intrigued at the same time. I will definitely watch it, but I’m not sure if I’ll find this just the right amount of weird, or a little too over the top.

That’s it! I’m excited to see all of these, but for completely different reasons. ‘Loki”s trailer was by far the best trailer to me. It gave us a lot of new content, a clear storyline without spoiling anything, and some good Loki moments. I’m excited to see him back in action. ‘The Falcon and the Winter Soldier’ mainly excites me because of Anthony Mackie. He’s a hilarious guy and I can’t wait to see him in a leading role. I’m also excited for the Bucky and Sam Wilson banter, but the last scene of the trailer made me skeptical, unfortunately. Hopefully the other banter scenes don’t fall as flat. ‘WandaVision’ is promising because I love both characters and because I know that Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany had such a good time making it. But I have a feeling I’ll have to keep a very open mind going into it. ‘WandaVision’ is coming first. It’ll hit Disney+ this January. Fingers crossed that it’s the start of a long line of good Marvel content.

Don’t do anything fun until I get back!

Hallie

Books: Winter Recommendations

Screenshot of Florence Pugh, Saoirse Ronan and Emma Watson in Greta Gerwig’s ‘Little Women (2019). Copyright of Columbia Pictures and Sony Pictures.

Hi! It’s Annie!

The weather’s getting even colder so you know what that means! Time for getting cozy under the covers and reading more books! I really wasn’t expecting that many people to be interested in my Fall reading list, so I really hope this one also lives up to expectations. I’m still going somewhat thematically, so these are all ones that I hope you can connect to the holiday season through. Christmas is a time for families and gatherings, which are both things we are sorely missing in these times, so maybe these will let you escape into times where meeting up was more common. Hopefully there will be a few on here that you haven’t gotten around to reading yet or, better yet, that you’ve never heard of!

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott:

Most of you have probably already read this one, either for pleasure of because your school forced you to read it. I know that the first time I read this one was because it was on my school reading list. But I will say that I have read it several times since because I loved reading it so much the first time. I find that a lot of books like this can be pretty boring, but there’s something about how this family was written. The sisterly relationship between Jo, Meg, Amy, and Beth is realistic and beautiful and their relationship with their mother is just as good. You really care for these characters and I don’t think there was one point of this novel that I found boring. It’s not because the plot is so dramatic, it is simply because the characters wrap you up in so much of their world. You also can’t get out of reading this book without comparing yourself to one of the sisters. When I was younger, like everyone, I was absolutely convinced I was a Jo. I mean, she was also a writer. But as I’ve grown up I’ve come to realize that I’m the Meg of all my friend groups. Funny how that works out, huh? Also, this one actually covers Christmas in it’s plot!

Fawkes by Nadine Brands:

If you’re looking for a real escape, I have to mention this one. This book focuses on the fictional son of the one and only Guy Fawkes and him eventually having to join the infamous Gunpowder Plot. When I first heard that this book would have a magical twist, I was pretty skeptical. But the magic elements weirdly fit in and almost feel real. There wasn’t anything that took me out of the plot of the novel. More importantly, the characters were amazing and if you’re looking for a great female character, this book has definitely got you covered. I was familiar with this author because of her book ‘Romanoff’, and I can’t say I’ve found anything of hers that I dislike yet. If you’re looking to escape into a massive holiday party, look no farther than the massive Masquerade Ball. Brands paints an elaborate world full of beauty and absolutely packed with action.

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern:

This is the second of Erin Morgenstern’s novels, and it packs just as much of that beautiful worldbuilding as ‘The Night Circus’. Admittedly, I like this one a bit less than her first novel. The plot isn’t as concise and the ending of this book felt a bit too ridiculous, but I still came out of it thinking that it was well worth the read. This book features a gay couple at it’s center, and you are able to see the entire act of falling for each other as well as them finding each other in an absolutely adorable ending. This book is also full of twists and takes place entirely in a hotel with a library so vast you will absolutely feel cozy in this world. This one is also good enough to include a Masquerade Ball. I really love reading about a good Masquerade Ball. Even if some of the plot can get ridiculous, it doesn’t detract from the general cuteness of the book. And there’s snow.

Fire by Kristin Cashore:

The good thing about this one is that it goes through all the seasons! I’ve talked a little about this one before, and that’s because it’s so good. The story centers around Fire, a human monster with persuasion powers and bright hair that makes her an easy target. Despite her not wanting to use her powers, she is pitted in the middle of a war where she must. Yes, it does focus a lot on romance and I apologize if that isn’t your thing. But really, it’s not really my thing either. This couple is not the average book or movie couple nor is their romance portrayed that way. The moments that prove that these two really love each other are never make-out sessions, they are always unwavering support when it really matters. It is one of the least toxic and most realistic portrayals of a couple I have ever seen all within a fantasy universe. You’ve got the snow, you’ve got the family (the main male character has a daughter which is an awesome thing to portray), and you’ve got the escapism. You also have the main female character consistently saving herself. This is one of those books that you immediately read after having read it the first time.

Emma by Jane Austen:

Not only is this book more light hearted if you need something light hearted right now, but this one also shaped all fiction after it. Emma centers around a woman who continues to nose into romantic relationships that she shouldn’t under the pretense of match-making. This was one of the first novels created to be absolutely unafraid to show a flawed main character and demonstrate that the character could still be loveable. Also, I quite possibly like Mr. Knightley more than I like Mr. Darcy. I know, I know, that sounds insane. They are very close, it’s up in the air for me. My favorite part of this is it examines relationships and friendships, so it does come out in the end being very wholesome. I do have to say that I appreciate a good classic around Christmas, so this is one that I’m considering returning to myself.

I hope this gave you some ideas or at least set you on the right track! I always like recommending books, so if you have a specific topic of book recommendations, please let me know! The colder seasons are the best time to cuddle up with books, the colder the better if you ask me. Maybe you’ll pick up one of these around the holiday season or maybe, like me, you’ll consider it and then just return to your favorites. Either way, happy winter reading!

See you across the pond!

Sincerely, Annie

K-pop and K-dramas: ‘Itaewon Class’ Review

Screenshot of Ryu Kyung-Soo, Lee Joo-Young, and Park Seo-Joon from ‘Itaewon Class’. Copyright goes to Showbox, JTBC, and Netflix.

Hey! Hallie here!

I just finished watching ‘Itaewon Class’ and I have so many thoughts. First off, before I say anything about what I think about this, I want to highly recommend that you go and watch this. It has its ups and downs, but it’s diverse cast of characters alone are worth watching this series. Also, this review is definitely going to have some SPOILERS so be aware of that. But if you’ve already watched this series, or if you just don’t care, these are my in-depth thoughts about this series. To be completely honest, I have some mixed feelings.

The Good:

The Characters. I mentioned this above, but the characters are really great in this. The main character, Saeroyi, is really easy to route for. Time and time again he proves to be a really good guy who nearly always looks for the best in people. You can’t help but like the guy, despite the fact that his main motivator for most of the series is revenge. Along with him the series focuses on a number of side characters. Oh Soo-A is the first of Saeroyi’s friends we meet. Saeroyi has a crush on her at first, and promises to spend his life with her once he achieves his goals. Oh Soo-A has her goals too which can sometimes make her seem self-centered, but she’s pretty clear that her priorities lie in her career almost the moment we meet her. In the end this pays off and she’s one of the major reasons the bad guys are taken down in the final episode. Jo Yi-Seo is a social media influencer who suffers from Antisocial Personality Disorder. She decides to help Saeroyi because she has a crush on him and slowly begins to grow as a person while she does. As the manager, she’s just as important to Saeroyi’s business as he is. She also has a few hilarious moments in some otherwise tense scenes that make you instantly gravitate towards her. Seung-Kwon is an ex-con just like Saeroyi, who turned his life around after meeting Saeroyi in prison. He isn’t focused on nearly enough during most of the series, but the last few episodes highlighted his past criminal relationship with his boss so he could kick ass and look awesome. Hyun-Yi is a transgender woman who constantly proves both her strength and her cooking skill despite the wrongful judgement thrown her way. There was a point where I though they had dropped her storyline completely, but then the series came through with the best part of the entire series, the cooking competition storyline. My sister wrote an entire piece about her character that I highly recommend you check out. There are other side-characters, but these five are the ones who’s storylines pay off the most in the series.

The Representation. This series does a lot to normalize the vast population of different people in South Korea. For one, Saeroyi is an ex-convict. Considering the terrible treatment that most ex-convict’s receive, it was a bold and excellent move to make the main character of this series part of this group. Not to mention that another one of the main characters, Seung-Kwon, is a friend he met while both were in prison. Hyun-Yi is excellent transgender representation as well. The series includes full episodes where she deals with prejudice against her, even from some of the main characters, simply because she’s transgender. But this isn’t the entirety of her character, either. She’s allowed to be herself go through her transition, and enjoy spending time with friends without the plot using the fact that she’s transgender to inform her entire personality. Yi-Seo has ASPD, and the series does a pretty good job of showing the actions she can’t help as opposed to the moments where her disorder doesn’t excuse her wrong actions. My main issue with this interpretation is that it gets somewhat lost around the last few episodes, but I’m glad it’s being normalized even if this interpretation isn’t completely accurate. Then we have the character of Kim Toni. Toni is one of, if not the first, main Black characters in a K-drama. He gets some good plotlines that highlight his struggles. On one occasion he isn’t let into a bar because he’s looks like a foreigner, and when he claims he is Korean, even some of his friends don’t believe him. He also reunites with his grandmother later in the series, who admits to falling out with his father because he married a Black woman. These are good things to bring up, but there’s a reason why I didn’t mention Toni above. I’ll get to that later.

The Romance. This is apparently a controversial opinion, but I’m going to put it here anyway. I liked the relationship between Saeroyi and Yi-Seo. I thought her crush on him was cute. Though she could definitely get pushy on occasion, and I definitely didn’t like the fact that she stole his first kiss after he passed out drunk, her crush was ultimately pretty harmless. They also didn’t actually get together until the four year time-skip. I appreciated that they waited until they were both more mature and sure of their feelings to start a relationship. Oh Soo-A was the other option for Saeroyi in this love triangle, but she chose her career over him time and time again. It was clear where her priorities were, and they weren’t with him. It only made sense that they wouldn’t work out in the end.

The Bad:

The Villains. Every single one of these villains was disappointing. There were some points where an attempt was made to make Jang Geun-Won sympathetic, but they squashed every attempt almost as soon as it was over. None of them were interesting or brilliant. Jang Dae-Hee was a typical mob-boss type who spent most of his screen time monologuing and looking menacingly at the camera. Jang Geun-Won was portrayed as stupid and undesirable. All he really did for the entire series was pick public fights with the main characters that were quickly and easily shut down, and flirt creepily with Oh Soo-A after she rebuffed him on multiple occasions. Jang Geun-Soo turned over to the dark side a little while in, and though he was portrayed as being more diplomatic than the rest of his family, he outed Hyun-Yi to the public. I never forgave him for that, and he never did enough to redeem himself, either. I could also mention that one of the guys Saeroyi met in prison shows up at the end and gets completely destroyed by Seung-Kwon, but he only really shows up to give the rest of the villains a few goons to do their dirty work. None of them are impressive.

The Treatment of Toni. Yes, it’s cool that you have a major Black character in your show. But that doesn’t mean you get a pass for shoving him into the background every chance you get. He’s introduced after all of the other characters are introduced when he’s interviewed for a job position at the restaurant. After that he gets small parts of episodes dedicated to showing his struggles as a Black Korean…and that’s it. He’s excluded from most scenes where all the other characters are gathered because he’s “taking care of his grandma”. After several episodes of his complete absence, we finally see him at the end of the series. All so he can reveal he learned English because the rest of the main characters told him he had to once they figured out that he wasn’t a foreigner. What? His entire character reminds me of Winston from ‘Ghostbusters’. He comes in halfway through and doesn’t get nearly enough screen time.

The Love Triangle. I’m not a huge fan of love triangles anyway, but this one was particularly bad. It wasn’t because any of the characters were bad, though. It was because Oh Soo-A and Yi-Seo turned the entire situation into a competition for Saeroyi’s affections. We don’t need two women fighting over a guy. We get that enough in dramas. The two main women in this show should not have a connection based solely on a guy they like. It’s a pretty sexist plot-line and it needs to die.

The Entire Food Company Storyline. Yep, I said it. This was weird and unnecessary. Jangga Co. being portrayed as some sort of mafia took me out of the story frequently. The amount of control Dae-Hee had over literally everyone, including police officers and school teachers, was ridiculous. Yes, his riches could probably sway some, but it was fear that caused most people to side with him. It was almost comical how much he could convince random people to do his dirty work. After Saeroyi’s father is shown in one scene showing off sauces (for some reason) while working for Jangga Co., I realized just how ridiculous the portrayal of this food company was. At one point my sister and I started yelling “But you sell sauce!” at Dae-Hee every time he started scheming something outlandish against Saeroyi. I found the story was at it’s best when it focused on Saeroyi and his team working on their restaurant, and very weak when it focused on the food company situation. This was especially apparent when the story did it’s four year time-skip to show Saeroyi and his friends working at their own food company. All of the charm that came with the restaurant disappeared entirely. The plot was either odd or boring depending on the scene. I wish they would have kept this to a restaurant success story.

So what’s the verdict? It was okay. You don’t know how much it hurts me to say that. I loved parts and hated others. There was nothing I was indifferent about. Most times when I say something is only okay, I’m very indifferent about it. But this show is uncommonly frustrating because I love it. But I also deeply dislike it depending on the scene. I wish that I could take out certain parts of this series and ignore the rest. But, as it is, it’s okay. Hopefully the work that it does when it comes to representation leads to many more series that explore diversity. There’s so much more that could be done with a diverse cast.

Don’t do anything fun until I get back!

Hallie

K-pop and K-dramas: Ma Hyeon-yi

Screenshot of Lee Joo-Young as Ma Hyeon-yi in ‘Itaewon Class’. Copyright goes to Showbox, JTBC, and Netflix.

Hi! It’s Annie!

I am interrupting our regularly scheduled programming because I have to rave about ‘Itaewon Class’ which I just finished. While there will be a post coming soon reviewing the entire drama, as my sister and I did have some problems with it, I needed an entire post to talk about this specific character. After watching ‘Itaewon Class’ there was absolutely no doubt in my mind that Hyeon-yi was my favorite character and that I had never before seen transgender representation that was this good. Though there are some issues with that latter part, I knew that I wanted to talk about her specifically and what she could mean for media in general. She’s amazing. I want to clarify that I am a cisgender woman, so there will still be things I don’t entirely understand. So, here we go! And, like always, there will be SPOILERS ahead!

The Casting:

What stuck out to me right off the bat, was that Hyeon-yi is played by a cisgender woman. This isn’t great, as I am definitely of the camp that you should hire a transgender actress to play a transgender woman. But I will give them the credit that at least they hired someone who identified with the same gender as the character, unlike in Hollywood. When depicting transgender women, American media generally will cast cisgender men to depict a transgender woman. This just continues to promote the flawed and completely incorrect mentality that transgender women are somehow still men. While media all around the world really needs to start casting transgender actors and actresses to tell their own stories; this still shows that this Korean show has a significant leg up on American shows. Not only that, but when Lee Joo-Young was asked about how she played the character, she unblinkingly responded that she thought more about the personality of the character than anything else and just played that.

The Plot:

We first find out that Hyeon-yi is transgender when three of the other characters spot her at a club, having the time of her life and dressed in clothes that are comfortable to her. The other three characters are confused and one of them even asks her why she is here rather than at a transgender bar. Feeling hurt, Hyeon-yi leaves them behind and is incredibly nervous around them the next day at work. One of the characters attempts to get her fired, using her lack of cooking skills as a cover for just wanting her to leave because of her own discomfort. The main character, Saeroyi, eventually tells the other employees that he will not fire Hyeon-yi and that if they are uncomfortable they should be the ones to leave. In a later episode Hyeon-yi leaves for a week which is later revealed to be for her BFS surgery (an optional surgery meant to make the body more feminine). Then we get to episode 12, my favorite in the series, where one of Hyeon-yi’s old friends outs her to the public in the hopes that she will withdraw from or lose a cooking competition. I sobbed through this entire episode. Hyeon-yi’s friends comfort her telling her that she doesn’t have to do it and also telling her that she is the strongest person that they know. In a chilling moment she declares “I am a transgender and I am going to win” live on television. In other words, this drama does not shy away from tackling discrimination against transgender women and men. Nor do they shy away from talking about surgeries, which I feel a lot of dramas tend to do. Though they could have focused on her more often, she ended up with more plot development than anyone but the three main characters in the show.

The Other Characters:

Saeroyi is very clear that he’s never cared about Hyeon-yi being transgender and is supportive of her from the beginning. But it’s the transformation of a couple other characters that really stand out to me. Jo Yi-seo, one of the main characters, is the character that tells her she should be at a transgender bar and then tries to get her fired. She is also the first character other than Saeroyi to refer to Hyeon-yi as a woman, becomes her best friend, and is the character that tells Hyeon-yi that she is the strongest person she knows in episode 12. Choi Seung-gwon is at first very un-understanding and later develops feeling for Hyeon-yi. It was really nice to see them give Hyeon-yi at least the beginnings of a relationship as many forms of media like to horribly portray trans men and women as if they are absolutely undesirable. They didn’t even do that once here. But more importantly, these characters learning to accept Hyeon-yi is not for the benefit of those characters. In the end, they are for the benefit of Hyeon-yi feeling accepted in the plot. There is no savior complex here as, at the end of the day, Hyeon-yi is the character that is shown to be most capable of defending herself. All it shows the audience is that she doesn’t have to do it alone if she doesn’t want to.

Personality:

Hyeon-yi is written to be an actual character, not just representation. She’s a badass who will absolutely call out or make fun of anyone. She has a heart of gold and she is often the first to jump up and comfort someone who is struggling. She is the kind of person who can walk out on a stage and own it after having sobbed uncontrollably just moments before. Hyeon-yi is also flawed and sometimes doesn’t know when to stop and ask for help. She is a multi-dimensional character and just as complex as everyone else. You don’t see that every day and we desperately need more of it in media.

Hyeon-yi is a breath of fresh air in a media ball game that is attempting to change while still wrongly “playing it safe”, mostly for monetary reasons. I guarantee you that it is worth watching ‘Itaewon Class’ just for her as a character. If you haven’t watched it yet, seriously go and do that. The plot might be a little ridiculous at times, but you will fall in love with the characters. And you WILL fall in love with Hyeon-yi. She is one of the best written characters I have seen in a long time and I hope that we will get more representation like her in all forms of media in the future.

See you across the pond!

Sincerely, Annie

Twins in Media: Wanda and Pietro Maximoff vs Luke and Leia

Screenshot of Elizabeth Olsen and Aaron Taylor-Johnson from ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’. Copyright goes to Marvel Studios and Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.

Hey! Hallie here!

Welcome back to the Twins in Media showdown! This week we’re pitting the main twin characters from the Marvel and Star Wars franchises against each other. As usual, this isn’t a competition based on their general writing or characterization. Instead, I’m going to be judging these two pairs based off of which one is a better representation of twins. I’m also going to stick pretty strictly to the movies in order to compare these two. I’ve been a huge fan of the MCU and the Star Wars movies for a very long time, so this one might hurt a bit. I like both of these twin adaptations for completely different reasons, but neither of them are perfect. This is going to be a close one, so let’s see which major franchise did it better.

Tropes:

Wanda and Pietro: We have a few big ones here. The most glaring one is the ‘One Twin Must Die’ trope. It’s really common for any series with twins to decide to kill one off. For some reason, most writers feel as though it matters more to create tragedy for one character to help their character growth, rather than developing both characters. After all, both characters are similar enough that losing one isn’t much of an issue, right? While someone could argue that Pietro needed to die because of Disney and Fox’s precarious dual ownership of both characters (Before Disney consumed Fox, that is), that doesn’t excuse the writers from deciding on a harmful trope to get rid of Pietro. So many siblings get to live through an entire series together, and I can’t say my sister haven’t been affected by most media telling us that one of us is expendable or one of us is going to die a premature death. There’s also some ‘Twin Testing’ in this movie, which is definitely an odd trope. Twin testing is based on a previous belief that the connection between twins justified horrific testing on them. The belief that twins have a supernatural connection that should be feared or exploited hasn’t completely gone away, either. It’s a difficult subject, and one that could have been completely avoided if they had just said they were born with their powers and moved on. Avoiding the mutant storyline was a problem, but it could have led to many other options better than this trope.

Luke and Leia: There’s a few tropes here and they’re pretty well known. The most glaring one is ‘Separated at Birth’. This is seen so often in so many shows and movies, but Luke and Leia might be the most popular version of this trope. Many writers feel that the best way to create major differences between their twin characters is to make sure they were raised in two separate environments. The issue with this approach is that twins are different regardless of whether or not they grew up together. It’s a very drastic way of attempting to create differences, and it’s used so often that we have more movies about twins that were separated than about twins that grew up together. These two also fall under the ‘Twin Telepathy’ trope. Luke and Leia can feel each other though the Force. This trope is a bit complicated in Star Wars because the Force is used for many things, and even those who aren’t related can theoretically feel each other through it. The issue with Luke and Leia is that their Force connection was given a bigger focus once they were confirmed to be twins. This trope is majorly harmful because it gives voice to the idea that twins share a brain, which is a ridiculous way to try to make twins seem like they’re the same person. However, because Leia’s first big moment of sensing Luke was done before they were confirmed to be twins, it’s more of a loose trope than a pointedly harmful one.

Winner: Luke and Leia take this one. While I listed some major tropes for the both of them, Luke and Leia’s tropes are far less harmful than Wanda and Pietro’s. In fact, Luke and Leia don’t really run into many tropes until the very end of the series, which to me makes it seem like they weren’t meant to be twins in the first place. But I’ll get to that in a bit.

Differences and Similarities:

Wanda and Pietro: Honestly, I find that writers don’t have as much of an issue writing separate personalities for twins of two different genders than they do for twins of the same gender. Most media that shows fraternal twins uses opposite-sex twins, which allows each character to be more easily identifiable. It’s definitely disappointing that same-sex twins tend to get worse treatment in media, but that doesn’t really have any bearing on Wanda and Pietro. Ultimately, they’re very different people. Which is a good thing. Wanda considers every action she makes carefully and is slower to embrace a new situation. Pietro is often reckless and easily adapts to every situation. While this makes them seem like opposites, they don’t really act like opposites when they’re together. They have many of the same goals despite their differences and they share some similar opinions, but it’s pretty obvious they’re different people. They strike a nice balance I can’t really complain about.

Luke and Leia: Once again, these two are fraternal twins that the writers felt didn’t need to be made drastically different or similar. Leia is definitely the smarter and more diplomatic of the two, but she’s also the most hotheaded between them. Meanwhile, Luke is a bit more rash, but he’s more caring and approachable. They’re different, but not opposites. They hold many of the same goals and opinions, but not for all the same reasons. They don’t even get many one-on-one scenes to highlight these similarities or differences. They’re just there.

Winner: Tie. Both movies do a pretty good job at making sure their twin characters are two very different people. None of them really attempt to make them too similar or different. I think this is mostly because both are fraternal twins, but all I can really criticize there is that same-sex twins aren’t written like this enough. That really doesn’t have to do with the characterization of these twins, though.

Relationship:

Wanda and Pietro: Wanda and Pietro have a bit of a ‘Twincest’ problem. It isn’t explicit, but some media feels as though they need something extra on-screen to make sure audiences understand that the twin bond is closer than a regular sibling bond. ‘Avengers’ uses constant breach of personal space and a lot of face touching to get this point across. Twins don’t actually have a relationship any closer than any siblings who have a close relationship. Twins are normal siblings, so don’t expect that twins would do something you find awkward to do with your sibling. Otherwise, Wanda and Pietro are pretty good. They are very clearly siblings who get annoyed with each other just as much as they enjoy each other’s company. They stick together a lot, but so do many close twins. They have a pretty wholesome relationship that would be nice if there weren’t some awkward undertones.

Luke and Leia: Luke and Leia also have a ‘Twincest’ problem. I’d argue this one is worse, though, because they actually kiss. Eww. No. They also have an issue where they don’t act like siblings. At all. In my opinion, I don’t believe these two were originally meant to be twins. While this is a good thing when it comes to avoiding twin tropes, it’s really bad when it comes to showing a realistic sibling relationship. They don’t interact a whole lot one-on-one, and though they do care for each other, there’s nothing about their relationship that implies that the realization that they’re siblings has made them any closer. They’re good friends. That’s about it.

Winner: Wanda and Pietro. There are definitely issues there, but at least they act like twins. Though, I think that Luke and Leia’s familial ties being a last minute addition helped them out a lot. It could very well be the reason they kissed, but I think it’s also the reason why ‘Separated at Birth’ is the worst of their tropes.

Plot:

Wanda and Pietro: In ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ these two share the same plot. They both turn to Ultron to help them get revenge, they both play evil for a awhile, and then they both change their ways. The major differences happen towards the end of the film, and mostly with Clint Barton. In one battle, Wanda attempts to use her abilities on Clint Barton. He avoids it, but the entire situation makes him realize just how young Wanda and Pietro really are. In the end, this winds up forming a deep connection between him and Wanda. When Wanda becomes terrified by Ultron’s final attack, he manages to bring up her confidence. Meanwhile, his relationship with Pietro ends up causing Pietro to sacrifice his life to save Clint. And, of course, after that Wanda’s story branches from Pietro’s entirely. She survives and spends several movies exploring her powers and her relationship with Vision. She becomes even closer with Clint after the loss of her brother. When they’re both alive, Wanda and Pietro share their storyline. The only major moments you get of them alone occur during fight sequences. It doesn’t help make them individually important to the plot.

Luke and Leia: These two have two very different plot lines throughout the series. Leia is a general who spends most of her time using her diplomatic skills to go from planet to planet, gaining resources and meeting new people. Luke is a Jedi who spends most of his time learning how to use his abilities to fight off the Sith. Their storylines only come together when the entire Rebel Alliance is together for a mission. The separate storylines are excellent and help highlight both of their different personalities, but it doesn’t make their sibling relationship a very large plot point. There are a few fun scenes with the two of them, but the relationship the series builds up the most is the friendship between Han, Leia, and Luke. It doesn’t do much in the way of strengthening Luke and Leia’s relationship specifically.

Winner: Luke and Leia take it. I can complain about the lack of focus on their relationship all I want, but that really isn’t my main focus in this section. My main focus is making sure that the twins represented here are important to the plot as individuals. While Wanda and Pietro are important to the plot together, they aren’t separated at all until Pietro dies. Luke and Leia aren’t together too often, but they have different storylines that make them equally important. Twins are too often given the same position within the plot. Luke and Leia aren’t like that. They’re able to grow as individuals.

Final Result:

This was close. Even writing this I wasn’t initially sure of the outcome. But Luke and Leia win it. Luke and Leia are almost too good to be true when it comes to twin representation. They’re in a major franchise where a huge twin trope is used, but they avoid almost every other twin trope entirely. They’re written as completely separate characters, which is very rarely done with twins in anything. They’re so well done that I believe it’s partly an accident. My main complaint with them is that they have an on-screen kiss, but otherwise there’s no unnatural closeness. The kiss wasn’t even an actual kiss, it was done completely to make Han jealous. It doesn’t make it any less gross, but Wanda and Pietro have moments that make me uncomfortable, too. All in all, Luke and Leia have my respect. Plus, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher had an off-screen sibling relationship that was so strong, it showed through even when the writing didn’t. Their reuniting scene in ‘The Last Jedi’ still makes me cry.

Don’t do anything fun until I get back!

Hallie

Christmas: Max and Mona

Screenshot from ‘Mickey’s Twice Upon A Christmas’. Copyright goes to DisneyToon Studios and Walt Disney Pictures.

Hi! It’s Annie!

I think I’ve talked a lot by now about the extent to which I grew up with Disney. From the parks to watching all of the movies, my childhood was almost entirely Disney coded. What might be slightly weird about that to some but make complete sense to others is that ‘The Goofy Movie’ has always been one of my favorite films. I don’t exactly know what it is about the film, but the wholesome road trip movie between Goofy and his son Max has always held a special place in my heart. So because of this, ever since I was a kid, I have been all over any Disney media that features Max in it. Because Max is a very rare character to show up in anything. ‘Mickey’s Twice Upon A Christmas’ made very frequent appearances in my childhood as a Christmas film simply because Max was in it. So recently, because I have nothing better to do and a Disney+ account, I decided to re-watch one of the few movies that will ever feature Max and… I was a little confused. Roxanne was a character I loved in the original film; from her long red hair to adorable laugh. Of course Max had a crush on her! She has no shortage of fans when it comes to the ‘Goofy Movie’ crowd. So why was Max coming home from college to introduce his father to this girl we’d never met?

Mona is Roxanne? :

This theory started a long time ago and was by no means one that I came up with. If you do one quick google search after watching this movie, you’ll realize that Mona is voiced by none other than Kellie Martin. The same voice actress who voiced Roxanne in the original film. So why bring back Roxanne’s voice actress if you aren’t actually going to bring back Roxanne? The story goes that Roxanne was supposed to come back. Mona was originally supposed to be Roxanne. The movie was, unfortunately, on a tight budget and animating Roxanne’s long flowing red hair in the new animation style would have been infinitely more difficult than it had been originally as well as far more expensive. The animators were unwilling to show Roxanne without her signature look, so they scrapped her character in favor of a new one. Many people have been unaccepting of this and have said that Roxanne just died her hair and cut it short in college. A lot of people change their looks in college, right? Well, this still doesn’t make sense for a variety of reasons. Firstly, it wouldn’t make sense for Max to call her Mona. It also wouldn’t make sense for her to act like she just met Goofy for the first time when Roxanne had met Goofy before. On top of this, Roxanne very obviously has a beauty mark on her cheek in the first film. That wouldn’t just disappear. We have to start accepting that Mona is not Roxanne, even if they are voiced by the same actress.

‘House of Mouse’ and ‘Duck Tales’ :

Roxanne appears in an episode of ‘House of Mouse’ where Max is attempting to have a peaceful date with her that keeps getting interrupted. There are a few people who point to this episode as proof that Max continued to date Roxanne, but that does not prove that he dated her well into college. For all we know, and what is actually most probable, Max worked at the ‘House of Mouse’ during his first couple years of college as he was eighteen or nineteen during the events of the show. So he could have broken up with her very early into college. And Roxanne was not a constantly appearing character in the show, so he might not have been dating her throughout the show. Because of a more recent episode of the revamped ‘Duck Tales’, we also know that Max eventually took Roxanne to their High School prom. But that doesn’t prove that they dated much beyond that.

‘An Extremely Goofy Movie’ :

If you’ve ever watched the sequel to ‘A Goofy Movie’, you probably realized that Roxanne isn’t in that either. Most likely because it didn’t have much to do with her character. While Max isn’t shown to be dating anyone from college in that movie, he shows absolutely no indication that he is dating anyone at all. In fact, I barely think Max dated Roxanne for long while he was in college considering the way Max acts around other women in this movie. When a girl comes over to flirt with him he is very receptive and he also visibly checks out Beret Girl in the same scene. Max also lives on campus and doesn’t seem to leave a lot, so I have a feeling their relationship formed into something that was more long-distance which could have contributed to a break up.

Mona :

Mona doesn’t even act like Roxanne, and I wouldn’t want her to. The point of her is that she’s wonderfully weird, something we didn’t really get from Roxanne. And also, how realistic would it really be for Max to still be dating his High School girlfriend? Don’t get me wrong, I love Roxanne! But I don’t think Mona is a bad character or deserves for all the fans of ‘Goofy Movie’ to pretend like she doesn’t exist. Just remember, of the movie canon Roxanne only appears in the first film and she doesn’t get much. She appears in the beginning for a couple scenes and then at the very end. In the scene where Max has to tell her that he has to go on a road trip, she’s really un-understanding and even judges him for wanting to go such a long distance “just to see a concert”. A little judgmental if you ask me. Max was lying to her at the time though, so I’m not exactly sure how to view that situation. It would have been nice to see more of her, but she never had much to begin with. If you’re looking for a good female character in the Goofy Movie series, I would look to Beret Girl from the second film. She was a complete badass and I would love to see more of her! But either way, Mona isn’t bad or infinitely worse than Roxanne.

I love seeing Mona interact with both Goofy and Max and I always have. Mona seems like a very sweet character and I never disliked her, even when I was little. ‘Mickey’s Twice Upon A Christmas’ is really cheesy, but it’s cute. If you’re looking for something new and very adorable to watch this Christmas season and have a Disney+ account I would definitely recommend giving it a watch. Just make sure to enjoy, and maybe cut Mona some slack.

See you across the pond!

Sincerely, Annie

Video Games: Romances That are Better Than Cullen’s

Screenshot of Solas and an Inquisitor from ‘Dragon Age Inquisition’. Copyright goes to BioWare.

Hey! Hallie here!

Dragon Age Day just happened and the fanbase learned a few important things while it was happening. One is that some of the lead writers, such as Mark Darrah, decided to retire from BioWare. Another was that Cullen’s voice actor, Greg Ellis, is a complete jerk. Not only did he attack Mark Darrah for being “fake”, he also heavily implied that Darrah was forced to resign for his conduct, with no evidence to support his claims. Pretty instantly both BioWare fans and Darrah’s former co-workers jumped to his side, but that didn’t stop Ellis from starting a full-on twitter war. Around this time is when fans who hadn’t been following Greg Ellis, such as myself, were quickly informed that he is also a Trump supporter and a transphobe. By the end of the day, it was pretty clear Greg Ellis wouldn’t be coming back to the series. On top of that, Mark Darrah implied that there would be no story for Cullen in the future anyway, so it seems that he won’t be recast. It felt very much like the entire character of Cullen was ending on a particularly sour note. As someone who loved Cullen’s romance in ‘Dragon Age Inquisition’, I’m pretty sad. But to be honest, while Cullen is a handsome guy, there are other romances that are even better than his. Here’s a few romances that make Cullen’s look a bit bland. SPOILERS ahead.

Dorian: There’s nothing to dislike here. I mean, it’s Dorian. He’s probably the most charming character I’ve ever encountered in a video game. Dorian is a gay man, so, naturally, you can only romance him if you’re playing a male character. Even if you aren’t, though, you’ll get some of his trauma. He’s a mage from Tevinter, which is known for it’s hierarchy of mages and it’s pretty bad treatment of, well, everyone else. Dorian’s family is pretty far up on the food chain, but that also means arranged marriages are normalized in the hopes of pairing skilled mages together to create even more powerful mages. When Dorian refused to marry the woman chosen for him, his father became angry. So angry, in fact, that he attempted to use blood magic on Dorian to basically brainwash him into being straight. Dorian was both horrified and devastated when he learned the truth, causing him to run away from his family and question Tevinter’s traditions. When you romance him, you realize he’s pretty strongly affected by this trauma. When you first start pursuing the relationship, Dorian is all too happy to play along. He’s naturally flirtatious and appreciates when other people appreciate his good looks. However, as the relationship gets more serious, he becomes more hesitant. He reveals that most of his previous relationships operated under the understanding that everything was temporary because of his arranged marriage, and he fears the player character will leave him when they get the chance. It’s a heartbreaking revelation, but it’s incredibly heartwarming to work through it with him and eventually convince him that you aren’t going anywhere.

Josephine: Josephine’s romance is probably the most entertaining of any romance in ‘Dragon Age’. She’s also bisexual, which means that any Inquisitor of any gender can romance her if they wish. Josephine is all about business. Her family is powerful, known for it’s large naval presence and trading. Josephine acts as a diplomat for the player character, but her upbringing in the family company causes her to seem pretty strict. All until you start flirting with her. She’s quite innocent, causing Leliana to be protective of her immediately after you romance her. But she’s also easily flustered and adorably excited by every romantic gesture. Her entire romance is pretty pure. Everything comes to a halt, though, when yet another arranged marriage comes into play. Josephine’s parents arrange an engagement behind her back while she’s working for the player as part of the Inquisition. She attempts to get out of it, but eventually you have to arrange a duel with her new fiancĂ© to prove you’re worthy of her. The duel is full of witty banter and a lot of showmanship. And, of course, it all ends with you winning the duel and a kiss. After Josephine scolds you for dueling her fiancĂ© without her knowledge, that is.

Fenris: Here we have the first romance that isn’t from ‘Inquisition’. I’m of the party that believes ‘Dragon Age: Inquisition’ was BioWare at their best when it comes to romances. But that doesn’t mean Fenris didn’t steal my heart. Fenris is also bisexual, so any character of any gender can romance him. The only issue here is you have to be prepared for some heartbreak. Fenris is a former elven slave from Tevinter who hates mages. Which isn’t surprising considering he came from Tevinter. His master experimented on him, infusing his skin with Lyrium to create markings that gave him powers connected to the Fade. Unfortunately, this also caused him to lose most of his memories, leaving him only with memories of the horrible treatment he received as a slave. It isn’t surprising he’s so jaded with the player character, Hawke. But if you flirt with him enough and avoid mentioning mages in his presence, he’ll eventually warm to the idea of a relationship. Soon after you start the relationship, however, he’ll admit that he’s starting to regain memories of his past. While this might sound like a good thing, they are very painful for him and he decides he isn’t ready for a relationship. Don’t give up hope just yet, though! This game includes a time skip, and once a few years pass, Fenris will confess that he still has feelings for Hawke.

Solas: Speaking of heartbreak. This romance isn’t for anyone who wants a happy ending. Solas is the main villain of the next game, after all. Solas will only date elven women, so you have to get specific at character creation for this route. Solas first enters the Inquisition as a mage with a wide knowledge of the Fade. He’s pretty closed off about his past, but he’s easy to talk to. He’s wise, caring, and he loves curiosity. He’s pretty vocal about the slavery of elves to the point that he brings it up almost constantly, but you can understand his frustrations. When you romance him he’s sweet and respectful. But he’s hesitant. He constantly switches between embracing a relationship or completely pushing the player away. Eventually, he’ll break off the relationship, apologize, and refuse to explain himself. After the entire game is over, Solas disappears. When he reappears in the Trespasser DLC, he reveals himself to be Fen’harel, the trickster god of the elven pantheon. He isn’t actually a god, none of the gods were much more than egotistical war generals, but he is a survivor of the ancient elves. He was labeled a trickster god by the other generals after he decided to help the elves who had been enslaved by them. Eventually these generals created so much harm that he decided to lock them inside the Fade, along with pretty much all of ancient elven culture. When he awoke centuries later, he discovered that his people were still enslaved and devoid of knowledge about their past. They had even started using old slave tattoos as coming-of-age markings. Solas reveals that he is so distraught by this that he’s going to release the contents of the Fade back into the world, effectively destroying it and replacing it with the forgotten world of the ancient elves. Whether you try to talk him out of it or not, he will kiss the player, apologize one last time, and disappear. Prepare the tissues.

That’s it! There are plenty of other good romances in this series, but these four in particular leave me pretty emotional. They also have nice, interesting storylines that lead to some thought provoking scenes. I’m not saying the writing for Cullen or his romance is bad. It really isn’t. But after hearing about all of the sick videos Greg Ellis filmed in character of Cullen saying some pretty awful things, I don’t think I can look at the character the same way. If you still love the character, feel free to keep romancing him. He is much more than just his voice actor. But if you’re not quite willing to get back to his romance after this, I hope I helped you see that he isn’t your only option. There are plenty of sweet, interesting, and exciting plot lines to explore in Thedas.

Don’t do anything fun until I get back!

Hallie

K-pop and K-dramas: Happy Birthday Jin!

Promotional photoshoot still of Kim Seokjin of BTS. Copyright goes to BigHit Entertainment.

H! It’s Annie!

Happy Birthday Kim Seokjin, Worldwide Handsome! The oldest member of the band who often acts like the youngest in the absolute best way possible. He’s made every single one of us laugh and there is no way BTS would be the same without him. A lot of people seem to think that he’s not as good of a singer as the others, but I would seriously beg to differ. Jin has some of my favorite solo songs on any of BTS’s albums and I can’t imagine songs like ‘Don’t Leave Me’ or ‘Crystal Snow’ without his amazing high notes. Those are both songs that are talked about less but recently they’ve become two of my favorite BTS songs so I would definitely check them out if you haven’t. Jin is a worldwide handsome dude with a contagious laugh and a penchant for lightening any situation; so of course we have to appreciate him on his birthday. I’m going to do what I did for Jimin’s birthday, which is take some of his singles and rank them even though I absolutely love them all. So let’s get into it!

4. Awake

Absolutely gorgeous and makes me want to cry every time I listen to it. His lighter tone makes the song flow really well and gives it a true feeling of beauty. Just like the man who sings it. The song takes a somber note of realizing that maybe you can’t do what you’re setting out to do. It tells the audience that one day they might have to let go but still holds the hopefulness that you can still fight for whatever it is you want. More specifically, Jin here is talking about how he may not fly like the other “6 petals”. I think we all know who the other six petals are and now I’m definitely sad. We are a fandom that loves each of the boys equally despite biases and bias-wreckers and we can all agree that Jin has just as much talent as the other boys. If anything, this song proves it. BTS wouldn’t work without all seven members. But I’m still happy that Jin was able to share all of this and it’s an absolutely beautiful song. Jin has a real talent for making songs sound like pieces of art just with his voice.

3. Epiphany

Of all of the solo songs on this album, this one is probably the most like a typical ballad. It makes his voice stand out beautifully and every single time I’ve seen him perform this it feels like the entire stadium stills. The song’s beautiful message about learning to love yourself is so welcome and it shows an amazing progression from his mindset when he created ‘Awake’ for the ‘Wings’ album. Jin learning to accept himself through this inspires the fans to do the same and love themselves. The past two songs together are a necessary progression to show the fans, who all have or will go through that same progression themselves. This song that causes the masses to stop and listen has most likely effected thousands of people for the better.

2. Abyss

Jin just released this one for his birthday, so of course I had to include it. Recently the members of BTS (except for Yoongi who was still resting) released interviews where many of them talked about how they deal with quarantine and life in general. Jin expressed that he leaves the past in the past and tries to not worry about the future. I was struck by his calm demeanor and how maturely he goes about life when many people wouldn’t be able to, or at least wouldn’t think they would be able to, go about life like that. I truly wondered if he still had issues to deal with and then he reminded us all that everyone does. He has an excellent way of making his fans aware that himself and the other members of BTS are still human and should be treated like human beings. This song is about his burnout after they topped the Billboard 100. Not only is this song another example of beautiful pain, but it’s a look at Jin that we don’t usually get to see. It’s another one that made me want to cry when I first listened to it. I’m so glad he shared this one with us.

1. Moon

I absolutely fell in love with this song upon first hearing it and thought that I wouldn’t be able to love it any more than I already do. Then I watched him perform it for ‘Map Of The Soul: One’ and I realized I was very wrong. He was absolutely adorable dressed head to toe in pink and the way he hugged the Earth after he finished singing made me smile uncontrollably. And it’s supposed to. This song was created as a love letter for ARMY. He describes himself as the Moon, revolving around us who are the Earth. He tells us that he’ll always be there for us and also knows that we’ll be there for him. It’s a wonderfully flattering look into the relationship ARMY has with BTS and the other way around. It’s a reminder that he’s our Worldwide Handsome and we’re his and BTS’s ARMY. Jin just has a way of making every song beautiful.

So now that I’ve gushed about Jin for a while, I’m just feeling so soft. These boys are so amazing and I love that we’ve all created a place that shows them that we love them all equally. Jin is not and never will be a weak link or even the weakest link in this band. We need them all and we worry about them all. They are all equally as talented and amazing as each other. It doesn’t matter how old Jin or any of the others get or how other people who don’t really listen to BTS think of the individual members. We, the ones who love and support this band, know the truth. And our numbers are growing exponentially by the day. We stand by all of them and they are there for us right back. Jin has made me laugh on days when I needed it and I will be forever grateful to him because of it. I hope he has the absolute happiest of birthdays and knows that all of us love him very much.

See you across the pond!

Sincerely, Annie

Netflix Shows: ‘The Christmas Chronicles’ Review

Screenshot of Kurt Russel, Judah Lewis, and Darby Camp from 2018’s ‘The Christmas Chronicles’. Copyright goes to 1492 Pictures, Cinesite Animation, and Netflix.

Hey! Hallie here!

This movie came out a couple of years ago on Netflix, but I never got a chance to watch it. I’m definitely one of those people who has a list of movies I watch every Christmas that, most of the time, is too extensive to add things to. However, given that I’m not doing much this year, I wasn’t really complaining when my family decided to turn this one on. Plus, I grew up with a few of Kurt Russel’s movies so I was interested to see how he’d take on a role as wholesome as Santa. Now that ‘Christmas Chronicles 2’ is out on Netflix, I figured it’s about time I write up a review on the first movie. And let me just say; this movie was so much weirder than I thought it would be. Unfortunately, it wasn’t weird in a good way, either.

The Good:

The Casting: I specifically want to praise the casting of the two main characters of this film. Judah Lewis and Darby Camp often stole the show, even when Kurt Russel was onscreen. There was no awkward child acting here, and while there were a plethora of cheesy scenes throughout the movie, these two didn’t ever miss a beat. While I wasn’t a fan of the character writing in this film, the sincere acting from both of them made me almost want to care about their characters. Also, they work incredibly well with one another. As an audience member that was raising an eyebrow for most of the film, I never doubted how close Teddy and Kate were. I will also give Kurt Russel credit for giving 100% to his character. It never felt like he was phoning it in. That’s about all I have to say here. I wish I could say more in this section, but this is really all I can give.

The Bad:

The Santa Claus Character: In my last post I talked a bit about how some writers fail to realize they need to give their Santa character a complete personality. That was directly aimed at this movie. When we first meet Santa in this movie, he’s a bit more of the serious, grumpy type. He’s instantly angry at Teddy and Kate for sneaking into his sleigh and subsequently causing him to lose the majority of the tools he needs to get through the night. He even directly tells them that they ruined Christmas and tries to leave them behind, even though they’re about a thousand miles away from their home. In the very next scene he walks into a restaurant and begins speaking to the adults there, all of whom he used to give presents to. When he’s speaking to them, his personality completely shifts. He suddenly becomes a proud father who’s excitability and general kindness cause the waitress to instantly accept that he’s the real Santa. It’s a jarring shift, and one that happens several times throughout the movie. I couldn’t ever tell what they were trying to accomplish with this character. In some scenes it seemed like they wanted me to find him likeable and endearing. But in scenes like those where he blames his own loss of control of his sleigh on two kids, it seemed like I was supposed to find him intimidating and critical. He also, at one point, magically influences a police officers ex-wife to ask the officer out for coffee, which raises so many more moral questions.

No Subtlety: This happened a lot, especially during the “heartfelt” scenes. Characters would often speak about the emotional struggles they were having unprompted, causing a cheesy scene where a character would pour their heart out and instantly feel better afterwards. These scenes happened the most to Teddy, who the movie decided needed several scenes to talk about how his fathers death made him sad. On top of this, several of these scenes were littered with information the movie decided to dump on the audience without buildup. One scene in particular had Teddy asking his sister why his dad had to go out into a specific fire to save other people. Before this the audience had known his father was dead and known his father was a firefighter before he died. We didn’t need a random line to allude to the exact way he died. It wasn’t anything the audience was curious about and it was delivered with the subtlety of a nuclear explosion. “Show don’t tell” was nowhere to be found in this movie.

The Elves: Why does everyone in the movie seem to think these guys are cute? They aren’t. They’re terrifying. They look like a mix of the most recent Alvin and the Chipmunks and the Gremlins. I never want to see them again.

The “Twist” Ending: At the end of this movie Santa decides to reveal that he didn’t need his hat to magically move around in the first place. Somehow this movie thought this would be a moment for the audience to look on in joyful wonder. But it made the movie completely obsolete. What did Santa solve by pretending he couldn’t break out of prison or get out of literally most of the things that caused them problems? If it was because he was trying to help Teddy and Kate by putting them through this experience, they were already mending their relationship before they met Santa. If it was to help give more people Christmas spirit, why was that more important than making sure he got his job done by the end of the night? I almost cried knowing that the several-scene-long musical number in the prison could have been avoided the entire time.

So what did I think of this movie? It was not good. It was very bad. Granted, it could have been worse. The acting was pretty good. It wasn’t nearly enough to save this train wreck, though. Between the nonstop Christmas puns, the morally ambiguous Santa who had two different warring personalities, the frustrating inconsistencies, and the writers constantly banging me over the head with teenage angst, I didn’t have all that much fun with this movie. Although, give me a movie where Santa has two warring personalities on purpose and I might be interested enough to give it a watch. Anyway, sorry Goldie Hawn. I won’t be sticking around to watch your bigger role in the sequel.

Don’t do anything fun until I get back!

Hallie

Christmas: The Best Whos in Whoville

Screenshot from “How The Grinch Stole Christmas’ (2000) starring Christine Baranski and Jim Carrey. Copyright goes to Imagine Entertainment and Universal Pictures.

Hi! It’s Annie!

December means that it is officially Christmas time (though that doesn’t mean I wasn’t celebrating before) and I can officially celebrate with my favorite Christmas movie. If you read my last post you might have caught a reference to this movie. I don’t know exactly what it is about this live action adaptation of the classic Dr. Seuss book, but it’s probably a mix of the wholesomeness and the comedy that makes this film so amazing. You also have to give credit to all of those actors in the fake noses that were probably nightmares to breathe in. But one of the things I love most about this movie, besides Jim Carrey as the Grinch, are all the loveable Whos down in Whoville. This is one of the only adaptations that give so many of them personalities besides Cindy Lou Who. So I thought I’d compile a list of my favorite Whos in this movie. Obviously I am not going to include Mayor Augustus May Who because he’s a jerk. All right! Let’s get on with the list!

7. Officer Wholihan

The chief of police in Whoville admittedly doesn’t do much. I mean, there’s not really any crime in Whoville. Until the Grinch shows up, that is. But he’s shown to be a pretty forgiving and merry man despite his job being extremely boring. When the Mayor orders him to arrest the Grinch after the Grinch brings back all the presents he’s stolen, Officer Wholihan refuses. The Grinch bringing back all the presents and apologizing is enough for him. He’s a pretty cool guy if you ask me.

6. Clarnella and Rose Who

Are they still living? In a pretty progressive move on the movie’s part, the Grinch actually has two adoptive mothers. We have no idea about the nature of their relationship as it is never confirmed or really mentioned, but I think it’s safe to assume they are a couple. These two are only ever seen together, but we know that they are both extremely kindhearted. When the Grinch quite literally lands on their doorstep as a baby, they take him in almost instantly. Though they are startled when they discover that their new child would rather eat plates than cookies, they still do their best to raise him. They are delighted when he finally shows passion for something as a child, though they don’t know what it is, and absolutely support him smashing their personal objects to make something for his crush. When the Grinch comes back to accept his award, they welcome him with open arms. Though he isn’t exactly excited to see them, it is clear that they missed their son. Though I do seriously question them not climbing up Mt. Crumpet to at least check to see if he was ok. So maybe they weren’t the best parents, but at least they tried. Could have tried a little harder though.

5. Stu and Drew Lou Who

Cindy Lou Who’s older brothers are absolutely pure chaos and I love it. From the looks of it, Whoville could do with some chaos. Stu and Drew make the very ill-advised decision to climb up Mt. Crumpet with their girlfriends at the beginning of this movie and then draw the ire of the town by mentioning the Grinch. But really, anyone who makes the Mayor angry is a winner in my book. Stu and Drew are a bit bumbling, but at least they don’t seem as brainwashed as the rest of the town is. Though they really need to stop doing stupid stuff to impress their girlfriends. I can’t imagine the Grinch appreciated their antics much either.

4. Martha May Whovier

Martha May starts out kind of like the Grinch does in her own way. She is well-liked by the town, but she isn’t really a likeable person. Betty Lou Who is definitely poorer than Martha May, but still tries her best every year to win the Christmas Lights competition. Not only does Martha May eventually wrongfully win because of the Mayor’s interest in her, she brags about her lights to Betty while she’s decorating her house. Martha May doesn’t really realize she’s on the wrong path until the Grinch comes back and the Mayor asks her to marry him. When she realizes that she likes the gifts the Mayor has given her but doesn’t actually like the Mayor, she begins to value the other Whos around her more. She eventually helps stop the Grinch’s out of control sleigh, makes up with Betty, and declares her love for the Grinch. The idea of a love interest for the Grinch admittedly sounds absolutely ridiculous; but this movie somehow makes it work.

3. Betty Lou Who

Betty can sometimes neglect her children, but she strikes me as someone who’s going through a mid-life crisis. She knows she’s good at certain things, but she just can’t win no matter what she does. You really feel sorry for her, especially because she’s trying so hard. She, like many of the Whos in Whoville, doesn’t necessarily have her priorities straight when it comes to valuing material things over other Whos. But at the end of the movie she is the first to jump to try to stop the out of control sleigh once she notices that Cindy is on it. Really, the Lou Who’s are a really wholesome family, and they’re all there for each other when it matters most.

2. Lou Lou Who

Lou is the best Dad. He’s really sweet from the beginning and steps up to protect his family from the ire of the Mayor when he can. Though he’s originally a bit cowardly and soft-spoken, he becomes one of the bravest characters in the film. When the Mayor attacks Cindy after the presents go missing on Christmas day, Lou immediately refutes him and claims that he’s proud of his daughter. He even states that he’s glad the presents are gone. He gets it! He later flings himself in front of the sleigh to stop it, which is quite possibly the most dangerous thing he could have done in that situation. You just can’t help but love him. Also, if you meet him at Universal Studios for Grinchmas he’s just as sweet. On a day when I wasn’t feeling super well, he came over and warmed my hands in his gloves and talked about Christmas cookies with me to distract me. A true wholesome Dad.

1. Cindy Lou Who

Obviously. No other person could take this slot. Cindy is adorable and understands the true meaning of Christmas, and really morality in general, better than the other Whos in Whoville. The other Whos are so scared of the Grinch that they become terrified without him having to do anything. The Grinch jumped around screaming “Danger!” over and over in front of her and she stood there and laughed. A true badass. When everyone else gives up on the Grinch, she doesn’t. Her ability to see the good in other people is admirable. She definitely gets some of that wholesomeness from her Dad.

The Whos in general are adorable. I’ve always loved their design, but I do have to admit I gained a new appreciation for their characters after attending Grinchmas at Universal Studios Hollywood. Stu and Drew go around on stilts and will crack jokes to you all day if you stand around that long to talk to them. Lou is, once again, just as wholesome as he is in the movie. If you haven’t seen anything of these characters, I would look up a couple videos. The Whos never fail to make anyone smile. Though The Grinch is definitely the star and stand out of his own movie, as he should be, don’t make the mistake of overlooking the Whos.

See you across the pond!

Sincerely, Annie