CGB Review of Finding Dory (2016)

First we had to find Nemo, now we gotta find Dory.  I wonder if we’ll have to find Marlin next with a particular set of skills.
If you’ve seen Taken, you’ll know what I mean.

This is my review of Finding Dory!

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As a child, Dory had a wonderful relationship with her parents Charlie and Jenny.  Then one fateful day, Dory is separated from her family and her days with them fade into blurry memories.
Fast-forward to one year after the events of the first Finding Nemo film; during a trip with Nemo’s class, Dory comes across a reminder of her past, which beckons her to go on a journey to find her beloved mother and father.
The first film Finding Nemo is a classic at my house.  If I had a dime for every time we quote Finding Nemo, well, I would probably be richer than Donald Trump (I’m sorry, I had to get a Trump joke in there!)
Now while this isn’t a collaboration, I will be labeling the Hits in blue like Dory and the Misses in orange like Marlin and Nemo.

The Hits
As in the last film, the animation is stellar.  Everything from the water to the animals is gorgeous to look at.
I really like how the story starts off with Dory’s childhood and then transitions (quite cleverly) to the exact moment in the first film when she meets Marlin.  In fact, a lot of the same locations (Marlin and Nemo’s house, the Great Barrier Reef, etc.,) all make an appearance in the movie, which creates a bridge between the first film and this sequel.
Okay, I’m going to say what every other reviewer has said: Hank the octopus is awesome!  At first, his character is kind of cliché (hardened guy who forms a soft spot for main character by the end), but the movie makes him interesting.  I thought it was pretty bold for Disney to create a character who outright claims that he is happy being a loner and wants nothing to do with others.  Typically characters like this are the antagonists, but Hank is presented in a humanistic way.  Towards the end, he does soften and gradually changes in a realistic way.  The relationship between the cynical Hank and innocent Dory is charmingly similar to Judy and Nick from Zootopia.  I love how Hank becomes a reluctant big brother to Dory and how the film gives them subtle moments to show Hank beginning to value her.  In my Alice Through The Looking Glass review, I mentioned how I wished the story had been about Time and Alice’s relationship and I feel the same about Hank and Dory.  I kind of hope Hank does get his own spinoff; a GOOD spinoff, that is.
Yes, the relationship between Dory and her parents is not only endearing, it is also reminiscent of the love between parents and a child with special needs.

The Misses
This film definitely feels episodic at times, like there were plans to make the Finding Nemo franchise a TV show, but ended up making the sequel instead.
So about Marlin and Nemo…yeah, there are quite a few times where they feel shoehorned into the story.  Now to be fair, the movie does give them things to do to advance the plot, but there are quite a few times where I found myself saying, “Oh, yeah, you guys are still in this movie, huh?”

Overall Finding Dory is a sweet sequel to Finding Nemo.  Beautiful animation, lovable characters and a cohesive and exciting story with noble messages about the dignity of those who struggle with special needs makes Finding Dory a great family film.

Saint Lucy, who was a big help in getting this review done, pray for us.

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The Societal Cycle of Alertness and Slumber

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It’s funny how a simple conversation on Facebook can lead to an article with an admittedly strange title.
One of my friends in the Pro-Life movement is Albany Rose.  You may know her, but in case you don’t, Albany is one of the leading faces of the growing pro-life atheist crowd in the movement.  You can check out her Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/AlbanyRosePostAbortiveProLifeSpeaker/
It was on the day of the horrific shooting in Orlando that Albany and I were having a conversation on Facebook about the plethora of problems in the world.  At one point, Albany made a point about how people are all up in arms about a crisis, but take no action for social change and instead go back to their daily routines within a week.
What she said (or typed in this case) really got me thinking.  As I lay in bed that night, I began to ask myself, “Why is it that people’s focus on a major tragedy only lasts for a few days?”
It is as if our society has settled into a strange, almost dreamlike cycle.
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We go about our typical routines, bloated schedules and scattered priorities, only taking a brief glance at the current events unfolding around us as we float down the rushing river of daily demands.  We may be physically awake, but we exist in a state of mental sleepwalking, our lives moving forward in a quiet, comfortable march to somewhere.
It is only when disaster strikes that we are jolted awake.
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Only then are we catapulted into action.  In one immediate burst, we launch into solidarity mode where everyone bands together to express shock and concern.  Vigils are set, signs are made and hashtags fill cyberspace.  For a time, we are all united.
Nothing bad lasts forever, but neither does something good.
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Unity turns to tension as private opinions about the tragedy and its victims are made known.  Prayers dissolve to bickering and heated arguments drown out heartfelt speeches.  Comforting words are sucked into the bleak vortex of shouting matches.

Then once the dust has settled, we return to slumber.dreams

I truly wonder what it would take.  What would the next disaster have to be to break the cycle?  What would need to happen in order to shake up the culture to its core and force heroic men and women to rise above complacency and bring about lasting change?

What would force us to stay awake for just a while longer?
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CGB Review of Alice Through the Looking Glass (2016)

If I try to go through my bathroom mirror to get to Wonderland, does that make me a crazy person?
(Sigh) Better check myself in the psych ward.

So while I await psychological evaluation, this is my review of Alice Through the Looking Glass!

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Three years after the events of the first Alice in Wonderland, Alice Kingsleigh has been a sea captain traveling the world.  Upon returning from her expedition in China, she comes across her friend Absolem, the caterpillar from the first Alice film who is now a butterfly.  She follows Absolem through a magic mirror and ends up back in Wonderland, only to discover that the Mad Hatter is dying because he believes his family is still alive, but Alice doesn’t believe him when he tells her this revelation.  Now Alice has to go back in time to find out what happened to Hatter’s family all while coming face-to-face with Time himself (no, seriously, Time is a person played by Sacha Baron Cohen).  Also the Red Queen is back because–Wonderland!

DOCTOR: Ms. Bloggin’, who are you talking to?
ME: Oh, don’t worry, Doc.  Right now, I’m saying aloud everything I want to write in my CGB review of Alice Through The Looking Glass!
DOCTOR: (gives quizzical look) All right then…(jots down notes)

(Walks out of doctor’s office) Well, the psych eval shows that I’m not crazy, but I do have a textbook case of overactive imagination, which I don’t think is covered by Obamacare.  (Sees nurse approaching) Hey, why do you have a syringe in your–
(Wakes up in a white room) Well, while I figure out how to break out of here, onward with the review!

The Hits
Sacha Baron Cohen’s character Time is by far the most interesting character.  The idea of time being personified as an immortal being who is in charge of overseeing time and eternity is fascinating.  He is a tad rude, but he is committed to his role as the keeper and guardian of time and space.  His rapport with Alice could have been a movie all on its own; his factual approach to mortality balances out Alice’s impulsivity and lack of foresight.  Personally, if I had been the screenwriter, I would have told the story from Time’s perspective with Alice as his apprentice; make the Red Queen a time-thief who tempts Alice into stealing the chromosphere so that she [Alice] can repair some parts of her own past and then use Time’s pursuit of his misled apprentice as a character study of their challenged relationship.  Hmm, I should really discern getting into fan fiction…
Anyway, there are a lot of creative and compelling visuals.  From Time’s palace to the Hatter’s hometown, there is a plethora of colorful eye-candy to behold.  The set designs are appealing to the eye and the level of detail is admirable.
I do appreciate that this film is less formulaic than its predecessor.  The narrative has an unpredictable, free-flowing structure that I certainly appreciate.  It fits well with the nonsensical spirit of Wonderland.
The movie has some good messages about family, time (the concept, not the character) and learning from the past rather than being overcome by it.

The Misses
In the first Alice, the White Queen (Anne Hathaway) had an established castle and responsibilities.  Here, not only do we never see her castle, but she’s running around like any ole commoner.  Oh, and she NEVER puts her hands down!  She’s doing some weird gestures with her floating hands that is supposed to look enchanting, but gets annoying real fast.
Alice being sent to a mental institution is a pretty pointless subplot.  It’s blatantly obvious that this sequence is only in there to make a point about women being hospitalized for “female hysteria” in the 1800’s.  I should probably mention that the film’s screenwriter Linda Woolverton, who wrote the scripts for Beauty and the Beast, Maleficent and the 2010 Alice in Wonderland, is known to inject feminist commentary into her works.  Look, as a pro-life feminist, I have no issue with feminist ideas in film and literature, but if you’re going to do it, it needs to be well-developed and not shoehorned.
This is supposedly the sequel to 2010’s Alice in Wonderland; I say “supposedly” because while this movie has the same characters, the tone is vastly different from the tone of the first film, which was a dark and gritty interpretation of the Lewis Carroll novel.  In a way, it almost feels separate from its previous installment to the point where the events of the first Alice come off as utterly pointless.

(Climbs out of window of mental institution) (Looks around) Sshh, no one knows I’m out here.  (Sees spotlight) I’d better jump…

(Jumps) (Runs across random field) So this is a tough one.  I didn’t think it was awful, but it’s nowhere near Maleficent or Cinderella.  This is one of those instances where there are some really good elements that get smothered by poor story choices.  If it’s on TV, I’d probably watch it, but I’d have playing in the background while I write another CGB review or, in this case, break out of a mental institution.

Saint Germaine Cousin, pray for us.

CGB Collaboration Review of Captain America: Civil War with Pro-Life Activist Clinton Wilcox of the Life Training Institute

Captain America v. Iron Man…which side shall you choose?

This is my collaboration review of Captain America: Civil War!

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After a mission in Lagos, Nigeria results in a slew of collateral damage, the Avengers find themselves facing the possibility of being controlled by a UN-appointed governing body.  When Captain America’s childhood friend Bucky Barnes (who [SPOILER] was the Winter Soldier in Cap’s last adventure) is framed as a suspect of an attack on the United Nations, Cap chooses to stand by his friend and pays the price when the Avengers is divided over his decision.

This is the third collaboration here on Catholic Girl Bloggin’!  Today I will be joined by pro-life activist Clinton Wilcox.  His Hits and Misses will be in green and mine will be in pink.

CGB Hits
Going into this movie, I was truly scared that Captain America’s noble nature would be compromised in this installment.  After watching Winter Soldier with my friends, I couldn’t gushing about Captain America’s strong sense of morality.  That is when one of my friends, who I will call “M.P.” turned to me and said, “Let’s see how you feel after Civil War.” “Aww, don’t do that to me, M.P.!”
I am delighted to say that Cap comes out of this adventure with his principles intact.  This character is such an honorable warrior!  I love how he plants his feet firmly on the side of truth and never backs down when faced with fierce opposition.  Once he makes a decision on a moral issue (such as helping Bucky instead of condemning him), there is no swaying him from his convictions.  He remains the moral voice and emotional center all while never becoming a bland archetype.  I said it in my Winter Soldier review and I will say it again: Captain America is a hero you can believe in!  🙂

I was not expecting the Black Panther to be such a show-stealer.  I will admit that his costume is kind of terrifying mainly because the headpiece covers his whole face, as well as his incredible speed.  I would not want to be caught in a fight with this guy!  This makes him an invaluable addition to the Avengers team.
Spider Man is absolutely adorable!  I like how he’s a believable kid character; awkward without being annoying, fumbling and wise-cracking while being skilled in his Spidey abilities.  Also, this Star Wars fangirl would like to award Spidey twenty CGB brownie points for his AMAZING Empire Strikes Back reference!  😀
In my first collaboration review, which was of Batman v. Superman with Patheos blogger Monique Ocampo, one of my many grievances with that flick is how they completely botched the rivalry between the Caped Crusader and the Son of Krypton.  Here the ideological differences between Captain America and Iron Man are well-conveyed.   Yes, the movie does definitely lean heavily in Cap’s camp, but there is emphasis on Iron Man’s perspective on the situation they face.

Clinton’s Hits
Civil War really feels like two movies. It’s Captain America 3, in which they have to resolve the Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier storyline. It’s also The Avengers 2, Part II, in which the Avengers now must deal with the aftermath of the battle with Ultron, as well as fallout from their earlier battles. Both parts of the movie may have benefited from being split into two films, but even given what they had to work with, the movie worked exceptionally well. The events of Captain America 3 were used as the catalyst for the events of Civil War.  Zemo is the main villain of the film (Crossbones makes an appearance in a fantastic battle scene, but is killed at the end of the scene).  His family was killed in the battle against Ultron and Zemo is out for revenge.  He is merely human, so he knows he can’t kill the Avengers because more powerful men than him have tried and failed, so he sets out to tear the Avengers apart.  He does so by framing Barnes for the murder of several delegates by bombing a UN meeting where a piece of legislation is going to be signed to keep the Avengers in check.  Zemo’s human, relatable backstory, mixed with his actually succeeding in tearing the Avengers apart makes him one of the best and most compelling villains in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (the best villains are the ones from the shows, but the villains in the movies tend to be cookiecutter supervillains). Zemo used his intellect instead of brute strength to beat the Avengers.
Civil War, even having so much to accomplish, was a fantastic movie. Most of the fight scenes were truly mind-blowing (and I don’t use that term loosely). I thought all of the CGI used was very realistic. I was fooled the entire time, and the movie didn’t feel like it was two and a half hours long, to me. Though there are many ways in which the movie deviated from the source material in the comics. It actually bears little resemblance to the comics. One of those is that in the comics, the war was over whether or not to reveal their identities to the world, as well as being accountable to the government. But in the MCU, most or all of the heroes’ identities are known, so this doesn’t play a role in the legislation the UN wants to ratify.

Clinton’s Misses
As I stated, the Avengers are dealing with the aftermath of their many battles. As such, the UN wants to put a reign on them. They want to specifically train the Avengers, and be in charge of where the Avengers go. Essentially, the Avengers will become a government-led team.  If there’s one thing I think could have been improved, I wish there would have been more debate and deliberation before passing the legislation. There was one scene in which the Avengers were hashing it  out, but the legislation was already going to be passed. They were simply deliberating on whether or not to comply.

CGB Misses
Like Clinton, I too had an issue with how the whole “government wants to control the Avengers” dilemma is not developed enough.  Granted, I’m glad that the focus was more on the budding rivalry between Captain America and Iron Man, but would have liked the politics of the Avengers issue to have been fleshed out more.
I personally didn’t care for Zemo as the villain.  I get that his dirty work is best done in the shadows, but I never felt frightened of him.   He just wasn’t as chilling as I had hoped.  Honestly, I feel that the divide between Cap and Iron Man was enough of a conflict on its own.

Clinton’s Verdict
I’ve now seen Captain America: Civil War twice, and I have to say the movie gets better the second time you watch.  There’s so much going on in this film that you’ll undoubtedly miss some things upon first viewing.  
Despite being quite different from the source material in the comics, and having to pack so much into the movie, Civil War was an incredibly well-written, well-done movie that will keep you on the edge of your seat and will excite you by its many excellent fight scenes (especially the Avengers battle in the airport). I’ve seen it both times, and neither time did it ever feel like a two and a half hour movie. This movie has made me even more excited for the upcoming Black Panther, Thor, and Infinity War movies.

CGB Verdict
Captain America: Civil War has a lot on its plate and for the most part, it succeeds in making all of its elements work.  The action is well-choreographed and easier to see this time (Age of Ultron and, to an extent, Winter Soldier had some issue with action-scene-clarity).  The story is properly structured and has complex aspects while still being entertaining.  Iron Man has definitely grown and matured as a character, while Captain America himself is an admirable example of heroic masculinity, a trait that is desperately needed in today’s confused society.

Saint Martin of Tours, pray for us.

CGB Review of X-Men Apocalypse (2016)

So the next time you take a trip to Cairo (I’m sure you’re planning on it), be sure not to resurrect any all-powerful mutants.  If you’ve seen the movie already, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

This is my review of X-Men Apocalypse!

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Apocalypse is known as the first mutant to ever come into existence.  In addition, he is also all-powerful and able to transfer his consciousness into another person’s body so that he can continue to live on.  Yikes!  As you can imagine, when Apocalypse resurrects and begins gathering followers (including the disheveled Eric/Magneto) to do his bidding, Professor Charles Xavier, Mystique and their allies must bring Magneto back to the Light and put an end to Apocalypse’s plan for world destruction.

The Hits
Oscar Isaac is excellent as Apocalypse.  While he’s not as terrifying as, say, Captain Vidal (Pan’s Labyrinth) or Jimmy “Whitey” Bulger (Black Mass), there is an unsettling chill to his character.  Also, I did think it was interesting how his “transferring-his-consciousness-to-another-person” thing resembles demonic possession; not so much in the prologue, but in the third act when [SPOILER ALERT] he tries to transfer his soul into Charles Xavier’s body and Charles is valiantly resisting becoming possessed by the malevolent foe.
There are a lot of good scenes that work well on their own and the engaging action is well-choreographed.   The action is filmed in a way where you can actually see what’s happening between the characters who are in combat.
Nightcrawler is like Finn from Force Awakens: Absolutely lovable!  There’s an innocence and innate goodness to him that makes him endearing.  It is a little cliché that he’s being presented as a “demonlike creature whose actually a good guy while his angel counterpart is one of the bad guys” thing, but that overdone irony is not emphasized very much.  I was actually relieved when Apocalypse turns Angel’s wings silver because Angel’s previously white wings looked uncomfortably similar to Archangel Michael’s wings.  Oh, and did I mention that Nightcrawler is Catholic?  Yep, he be a Catholic mutant!  🙂
Quicksilver is also an awesome character!  He’s basically a less crude Wade Wilson/Deadpool; witty, cool and confident.  Luckily while he has some similarities to Deadpool, he’s not a blatant carbon copy of the character.
While I, as a Jennifer Lawrence fan, am getting a bit tired of J-Law always playing the “strong woman who is strong because she has to be” archetype (don’t believe me?  Watch Winter’s Bone and The Hunger Games series; don’t even bother with watching Joy), I did like her arch as Raven/Mystique; the reluctant role model who is looked up to after standing up to Magneto in X-Men: First Class, but who personally looks upon that episode in her life as a tragedy.  Also, I just gotta say it: Her hair in this movie was rockin’!  I guess I just really like the “structurally-messy” look.  🙂

The Misses
It seems as though there was supposed to be a “Mystique redeems Magneto” subplot somewhere in the script because Mystique keeps acting as if she is responsible for bringing Magneto back to the side of good and truth.  If this is the case, then it wasn’t well-conveyed.
So I saw this movie with a friend of mine who has seen it twice already.  Even though we both enjoyed the film, we both have one issue with the script: Pacing and story structure.
Yes, the pacing in this movie could have been better.  While individual scenes are intriguing by themselves, the movie itself never completely comes together as a cohesive narrative.  Some scenes feel separate from each other and even unnecessary at times.  To be fair, the story comes together in the third act, but 50% of this movie could have used some polishing.

X-Men Apocalypse is an intriguing mess.  The overall story is scattered, but the good performances, suave villain and sequences within the narrative kept my attention all the way through.

Since this is the third Superhero movie review where I’ve name-dropped Saint Michael (see my reviews for Winter Soldier and Batman v. Superman), I’m gonna end this review with Saint Isaac Jogues because why not?
So Saint Isaac Jogues, pray for us.