Tuesday, December 27, 2022

A Christmas to Remember

Falling for Christmas
Director: Janeen Damian
Cast: Lindsay Lohan, Chord Overstreet, Jack Wagner
Released: November 10, 2022

I try to have my Christmas movie review BEFORE Christmas, but hey, at least I still got it up in December. 

I wanted to like this movie. I really did. This Netflix Christmas movie was Lindsay Lohan's "comeback" movie and in the words of Tyra Banks, "I was rooting for you, we were all rooting for you, Lindsay!" (Heh, anyone who never watched ANTM is not going to get that). But, unfortunately, this was just a predictable, formulaic Christmas movie that probably would have felt more at home on Lifetime (but probably wasn't there because Netflix can afford LL and they probably can't). 

Lindsay plays Sierra Belmont, the daughter of hotel magnate, Beau Belmont (Jack Wagner) who owns the Belmont Summit Resort, a fancy-schmancy ski resort. (You can tell it's fancy because of the outdoor Jacuzzi on the roof that they showed at least fifteen times). At first, I assumed they were in Aspen, but no, they are in the fictional town of Summit Springs. At one point we see a close up of a car and I paused it, trying to see what state Summit Springs is located in, assuming it was Colorado. However, all it said on the license plate was "Freedom State". I wonder when that state entered the Union? I looked up to see where this was filmed and it was in Utah. 

Sierra's dad wants her to be in the hotel business, but she doesn't want to. He wants to give her the position of "Vice President of Atmosphere" and even she realizes that's not a real job and he probably just made it up to give her something to do. She's on the phone with her boyfriend, Tad, telling him all this, but Tad, who is an influencer, seems more concerned with how many followers he has and keeping up his social media appearance than he does about her. He even hangs up on her when she's telling him she loves him. He doesn't do it on purpose, he just gets distracted with something on his phone, but still, it's a dick move. 

While Sierra is on the phone, we see she is very pampered as someone is working on her hair, someone is filing her nails, and another person is putting a champagne flute up to her lips so she can take a sip. But here's the thing: even though Sierra is clearly wealthy and is a bit spoiled as literally she has to have everything be done for her, she's not your typical snobby, hoity-toity hotel heiress. She's actually quite nice and pleasant. Yeah, sometimes she has her moments, but honestly, she's not that bad. For a movie like this, you want a character to really go through some growth, but eh, does she really? 

So Sierra has a boyfriend who's a bit full of himself (and even though he does some questionable things in the movie, even he gets a happy ending. It's like the move was too afraid to make anyone a villain) so we all know she's not going to end up with him at the end. On the slopes, we are introduced to Jake Russell (Chord Overstreet) who owns the North Star Lodge, a cozy little lodge that's a bit more affordable than the Belmont Summit Resort. When I first saw him, I go, "Oh, look, it's Matt from Glee." Uh, apparently his character's name was Sam. Oops. But in my defense, I only watched that show when it aired and haven't seen it since. Also, I'm pretty sure there was a character named Matt on that show... 

This scene make me miss skiing. I used to go skiing in Colorado pretty much every winter when I was a kid. Oh, don't get me wrong, many of these ski trips ended up in tears because I was too cold or got altitude sickness (THAT was the worst) or one of my skis got detached from my boots when I was in the chair lift because I was tapping my skis together or the one time I was too scared to get off the chairlift and they had to stop it (heh). Oh, and don't get me started on when we had to get fitted for our skis and ski boots. That was the worst. It took forever and it was so hot cuz you were already dressed in your ski gear. Wait, why do I miss skiing again? No, I'm joking. It's actually really fun to go schussing down a mountain. As long as there's no icy patches or moguls! Shoutout to Breckenridge (my favorite!), Copper Mountain, and Keystone, the ski towns in Colorado where I've skied. 

Anyway, Jake sees Mr. Belmont on the slopes and introduces himself to him. They go to the Belmont resorts to chat and Jake says Mr. Belmont has "a world class" resort, but not everybody can afford to stay there. He tells him, "Studies show that 70% of beginners learn to ski at smaller resorts." (Who is doing these studies?) He adds that when they become better skiers, they move up to resorts like Mr. Belmont's. I'm confused. Just because they become better skiers they can afford the fancier resort? What does that have to do with anything? Just because they become better skiers doesn't mean they're making more money. Beau realizes Jake wants to invest in his lodge and tells him he wishes he could help him, but he has his own investors. I'm not really sure what that has to do with anything, but whatever.

He gives him a cup of cocoa on the house and as Jake is leaving, Sierra has just gotten off the elevator in a designer outfit. It's a red jumpsuit with bare shoulders and these ridiculous ruffle sleeves. Like, seriously, I hope she's not going to eat while wearing that outfit because her sleeves would just end up in the food! And to complete the look are emerald green pumps. This is the most extra she will look in the movie. As Sierra is getting off the elevator, Jake is coming around the corner with his cup of cocoa. Hmm, why do I feel like a meet-cute is about to happen? The "cocoa" in the cup looks very weird. You can tell it's not full of liquid. And no, it's not because he's already drank some of it. The cup is full, but it's obviously not liquid. The way he's holding it it should be sloshing out. The resort is crowded and he's dodging a bunch of guests. There's even a point where he does a full 360 spin to avoid someone and the liquid doesn't even move. Of course, he ends up bumping into Sierra and just a mere dollop of whipped creams gets onto her "Valenyagi". (Heh, I had to look that up. Not a real designer). How the hell did only a little bit of cream get on her outfit? The whole thing should have sloshed onto her. I suppose she's quite lucky because getting hot cocoa on you can not be a pleasant experience. Jake tells her he would be happy to pay for dry cleaning or offers to get some club soda, but she just sort of brushes him off. This scene will not come up again so what was the point of it? 

While eating lunch with her dad and Tad, we learn that Sierra "doesn't do bacon" when the waiter asks if she wants some with her wedge salad. Okay, I understand if she doesn't eat the strips of bacon one would normally have for breakfast, but this was "artisan house-smoked bacon". That sounds delicious! And who doesn't enjoy a crisp wedge salad without some pieces of bacon to elevate the flavor? Apparently Sierra, that's who. 

I wasn't sure if this was Beau's first time meeting Tad, but he kept calling him "Ted" and Sierra had to correct him. When she tells her dad that Tad is an influencer and millions of people follow him, her dad replies that he's basically a salesman, hee! 

Beau is going out of town for a few days and will be back by Christmas Eve. We get some backstory where Sierra's mother died when she was five, but she still remembers things like her mother's perfume, her laugh, and how she used to brush her hair. How anyone can remember anything when they are five is beyond me. Do you know what I remember when I was five? Absolutely nothing. 

Even though she can't ski, Tad is taking Sierra to the mountains for a photo shoot. Must be for one of his Instagram stories. Like any proper Christmas movie, everything is red and/or green (mostly the Christmas decorations at both establishments and the wardrobe), including the car they're driving in. It's red with two dark green stripes. Very unusual. While driving, "Jingle Bell Rock" starts playing on the radio and Sierra sings along with it after turning up the volume. Hmm, could this be a shout out to Mean Girls? Tad turns down the volume and tells her that her singing is "a little pitchy". Who does he think he is? Randy Jackson? Sierra asks him, "Where's your holiday spirit?" and turns the volume back up and proceeds to sing. This time Tad changes the station. What a prick! That would have been a deal breaker for me. Sierra just turns and stares out the window. 

Tad is such a himbo. There's a snowmobile attached to the car and he tries to unhook it by telling it to unhook and an exasperated Sierra tells him it's not voice activated. I don't know how they got it unhooked (because Sierra told him she didn't know how), but we see them riding on it through the snowy mountains in the next scene. They go past a snow covered sign and after they zoom past it, the snow falls enough to reveal to the audience that they are heading towards dangerous terrain as the sign proclaims, "Waring! Danger! Do not pass! Turn back!" Do you think they made it clear enough?  

While they're doing the photo shoot (where Sierra is in skis and posing in a fuchsia ski suit and furry fuchsia hat), Tad tells her there's one thing missing: "I can't quite put my finger on it, but maybe you can?" [Insert groan here.] He pulls out a huge, gaudy engagement ring and proposes to her. Sierra never answers his question, but does tell him the ring is too big when he puts it on her finger. 

While all this is going on, we have another story line a-brewing that will set in motion the plot for the rest of the movie. Jake (the guy who owes the North Star Lodge, remember? Also the guy who will inevitably end up with Sierra) has a daughter named Avy who is around 8-10 years old. His wife died three years ago and now his mother-in-law, Alejandra, helps him run the lodge. Avy and her abuela are at the Christmas Village where they are making Christmas wishes. Avy wishes for someone for her dad to love. (We don't actually find this out until the end of the movie when she reveals to her dad what she wished for). She writes it on a paper star ornament and when she places it on the tree, we see a man, who is clearly supposed to depict Santa (we know this because he has a white beard and a red coat and hat), waggle his fingers and taps his nose like he's a long lost cousin of the Sanderson sisters. All of a sudden, a snowstorm starts brewing. 

Back on the mountain, the wind is getting stronger and Sierra, still on her skis, starts to slide backwards. OMG, that would be terrifying! Tad manages to grab her hand, but just takes the ring off (we know what his first priority is! I still can't believe by the end of the movie, he's pretty much deemed a good guy....wtf!) and she slides down the mountain. She does start going down backwards (absolutely terrifying), but then we see she has turned around and even though she's out of control, at least she's facing forward. She falls and hits her head on a tree and becomes unconscious. I don't mean to sound morbid, but isn't this what happened to Lindsay's The Part Trap co-star, Natasha Richardson? Tad tumbles down the mountain in a different direction. 

At this point, Jake is taking a couple on a horse drawn sleigh ride with his trusty equine friend, Balthazar. (Okay, how cool would that be? I'm pretty sure I've been on horse-drawn carriage rides, but never on a sleigh!) Sierra is hard to miss in her brightly colored ski outfit. He stops the carriage to check on her and calls in for help. 

We jump to the hospital (more like a small clinic) where the doctor tells Jack that the woman he brought in is physically all right, but she does't remember anything prior to the accident. Sierra assures them she knows her name when asked, but can't think of what it is. She didn't have any ID on her (gee, how totally convenient for the plot!) and while they took her fingerprints, she's not registered in their database which means she's never been arrested or possibly never been employed. You know, I don't think I've ever had my fingerprints taken either, come to think of it. But I'm pretty good at usually carrying an ID with me, so if I'm ever found unconscious (God, I'm bringing up a lot of morbid topics for a light Christmas movie, aren't I?), they should be able to identify me. And I usually have my phone. Which begs the question, didn't Sierra have her phone with her? Obviously Tad had his, but I find it hard to believe that Sierra wouldn't have her phone in her coat pocket or something. Of course, if she did have her phone, this movie would be over by now. 

So Jake suggests she could stay with him at his lodge and they're all like, okay. Which....I find hard to believe they would just let him take her like that, but I guess he is a valued and trusted member of the community so they know he's not a serial killer or anything. (Another fun topic!) 

Of course the North Star Lodge is decked out with Christmas decorations (with a name like that, it should be all year!) and there's even a Christmas tree (complete with presents...what?!) in the room Sierra, or, ahem, the mystery woman (you know, since nobody knows her name), is staying. Do you think there's a Christmas tree (complete with presents!) in every room or is she in some type of special suite? Also, those must be empty boxes that are wrapped. They used to do that at my work, put empty wrapped boxes under the Christmas tree, but alas, not this year. 

We all know Netflix loves promoting itself, so it should come as no shock to anyone when she wakes up the next morning, grabs the remote and turns the TV on and we hear the unmistakable Law & Order-adjacent-esque sound when you turn on Netflix. This is a call back to the opening scene when we see Sierra's wake up routine where she grabs a remote to open the blinds. So subconsciously, she remembers some things about her daily life. 

After taking a shower, Sierra asks Avy where she can get a blow dryer. Shouldn't this lodge have a blowdryer in all the bathrooms? Isn't that standard in most hotels? But we need this as a plot device so Avy can take Sierra to her room to let her use her blow dryer and ask her what they're supposed to call her since she doesn't remember her name. She tells her she can use a name she calls one of her stuffed animals which she introduces to Sierra: Frankie, Wallace, Potter, and Sarah. Gee, I wonder which one she's going to pick? (Although I guess Frankie could be short for Francesca). Sarah is also conveniently similar to her own name. I'm surprised it didn't ring any bells. By the way, Sarah is a stuffed llama. As someone who also has that name, it's weird to think of someone naming a stuffed animal "Sarah". 

At breakfast, Avy (what do you think Avy is short for?) offers Sierra (I know they're calling her Sarah, but I still remember her name, so I'm just going to refer to her by her real name) bacon and she replies she doesn't do bacon, another thing she subconsciously remembers. After Avy tells her it's delicious and how does she know if she doesn't like it if she's never tried it, Sierra tries some and decides she loves it. 

While this is happening, Jake and his mother-in-law have a hushed conversations and he tells her he thinks he's met Sierra before, but he can't seem to remember she's the one he spilled a dollop of whipped cream on at the Belmont Ski Resort. I'm telling you, that scene where they bump into each other was really not needed as this is pretty much the closest we'll get to a callback. 

So you might be wondering what happened to Tad while all this is going on. Well, he wandered off and found some guy named Ralph in an ice fishing hut and the storyline is so pointless and I really don't care about him, so I'll return to him when he becomes relevant to the plot again (in fact, for a big chunk of the story, the movie forgets about him too!) Also, before she had left with Tad, Sierra had told staff at the Belmont Resort that she didn't want to be distrubed, but after twenty-four hours of not hearing from her or seeing her, they go into her room where they find her bed is still made. The silly security guard suggests maybe she had made the bed, but Terry, the concierge, scoffs at this and tells him she would never do that, "not in this lifetime." 

Lots of people are cancelling their reservations at the North Star Lodge to stay at Air BnBs instead. They are losing money (I guess that explains why they can't keep a hair dryer in all the bathrooms) and Jake says they can't afford a housekeeper. He realizes he can use Sierra for just that job when she tells them that the doctor told her if she did normal things, her memory might come back. The joke is on Jake, though, because Sierra never did chores. We get a montage of her attempting to do chores and struggling greatly with them. When she tries to make a bed, I had a lot of empathy for her because trying to put a fitted sheet on a bed is a pain in the ass. Like, I have spent way too much agonizing time trying to put on my stupid fitted sheet on my stupid bed. And even when I do manage to get it, in a couple of days, it will just come off again. Aurgh! We see her clean the toilet, but she gets the scrubby thing stuck in it and then a bunch of water starts spurting up at her. Eww. But I'm not sure how or why this would happen or if it could. While doing the laundry, she knocks a whole bottle of detergent in the machine (c'mon, how does she not even notice that?) and continues to put the bedding in. Of course, the machine overfills and there are bubbles everywhere. Jake is pissed about it and snaps at Sierra who runs off to Balthazar (he's the horse, remember) in the barn where she tells him, "I'd introduce myself, but I have no idea who I am. I can tell you I'm pretty much a useless human. I can't do anything right." She leaves to get firewood and that's when the camera pans and we see Jake was inside the barn on the other side of the stall the whole time. Wait...how did he get there so fast? Wasn't he just in the laundry room? 

Jake apologizes to her moments later and says he didn't mean what he said. Sierra tells him she feels like "unclaimed luggage" because it's been two days and no one has looked for her. If you're wondering why the hotel staff isn't more concerned about her, it's because they found a note Tad left for her about...something...I honestly don't even remember, but the point is, they just think he took her away on a trip or something. Jake suggests they go to the Christmas Market where there will be a lot of people there and maybe somebody will recognize her. (They don't. But it is weird that nobody recognizes this rich hotel heiress...you think someone would recognize her from social media or something. I mean, they never make it clear if she is on the Gram or Twitter, but Tad has a zillion followers and surely he has tons of pictures of his rich hotel heiress girlfriend on there!) This is the part in my notes where I wrote that I really like the white hat Lindsay is wear during this scene

They (this includes Sierra, Jake, and Avy) attend a Christmas tree lighting. I need to address a few things:

-There's no way this Christmas-crazy town is JUST NOW lighting this Christmas tree. It has to be around December 18-20th; remember Beau told his daughter he would be gone for a few days, but he would be back by Christmas Eve. 

-The mayor (who is doing the lighting) invites a little girl to help him light the tree and I'm shocked it wasn't Avy.

-There are FIREWORKS as the tree is lit (why are you distracting the crowd from the beautifully-lit tree with fireworks?) and the whole crowd is singing "Joy to the World." 

Next, we get a montage where Sierra is learning to do things for herself! She makes the bed, she makes her own breakfast, she does laundry (correctly), she does Christmas-related things with the family like sing Christmas carols and make gingerbread houses. While doing the latter, she puts icing on Jake's nose and he reaching for something to throw at her and Avy and at first I thought he was going for the bowl of red and green M&Ms and thought that was a bit extreme to throw at somebody, but it was just marshmallows. She even learns how to ski. 

She attends a Toy Drive with Jake that he helps run and while he's off helping someone, Louise, a woman who volunteers every year, tells Sierra how this town wouldn't get along without Jake because he volunteers and donates money and she wishes that "there was some way that Summit Springs could show him how much he means to [them]." In case you couldn't tell, Jake is pretty much the antithesis of Tad.  

There have been some sparks happening between Sierra and Jake. She has told him she has never met anyone like him because if she had, she would have "definitely remembered it." When they get back to the lodge from their Christmas Market outing, they find themselves standing under the mistletoe and Jake is about to kiss her, but then stops and tells her maybe they shouldn't do this because she might be with somebody. She tells him, "That would be unfortunate" and he replies, "For both of us." 

While they were at the Christmas Market, they had ran into "Santa" who was watching a stall for a friend. A snow globe catches the eye of Sierra and Jake buys it for her. In a previous scene with her dad, Sierra was admiring a snow globe that her parents picked up when they were in Gstaad (the Aspen of Switzerland; hell it's probably even more bougie than Aspen). The snow globe reminds her of something, but she can't quite figure it out. 

Sierra tells Alejandra and Avy her idea for how to help the North Star Lodge. She wants to have a fundraiser/Christmas party and invite people. Luckily, Alejandra has the contact information for almost all the guests they've had the past three decades (I bet some of that info is out of date!) When Sierra mentions this to Jake, he's against the idea. He doesn't want people looking at him differently and thinking he needs a handout. He also tells her it wouldn't be such a bad thing if he loses the lodge because he's tired of struggling with it and tired of everything always breaking down and wondering how they'll "make it to the end of the month." Sierra reminds him to think of the memories and he says he'd be more than happy to let some of them go. He rudely asks her, "What do you know about memories? You can't even remember your name." She walks away and he quickly follows her to apologize. They only have so much time, so they need to do that quickly. He tells her that ever since she's been staying with them, she's made him "feel things that [he] didn't ever think [he] was ever going to feel again." Hmm, could he be talking about love? He also tells her he's afraid of making new memories at the lodge. 

It's now Christmas Eve and Sierra and her host family are getting ready for the Christmas Party/fundraiser for the lodge .

So you may have guessed that since it's Christmas Eve, Beau must be back. Well, he is and when he asks Terry where Sierra is because she's not answering her phone, Terry tells him he doesn't know where she is. After he explains the situation and says he thought Sierra and Tad went away for some private time together, Beau realizes that his daughter has been missing for four days. They check her room to see if she went away, but her luggage is still there. (You think Terry and the security guard would have checked that before Beau had returned...) Anyway, the sheriff is called and somehow, Ralph and Tad are found at a bar or somewhere. I don't even remember how they were found, but they are and Tad tells Beau that he proposed to Sierra. I did laugh when he says, "Looks like I'll be calling you, "Dad"." The sheriff was also at the hospital when it was decided Sierra would stay at the North Star Lodge, so he's able to take Beau and Tad there. But it will be a little while before we see them show up...

While Sierra is looking for something to wear to the party, Alejandra brings a box with a red dress (that shows a fair bit of skin - it's a little weird that Jake's dead wife's mother is pushing him into this relationship so much, but I suppose you could say she wants her granddaughter to have a mother figure in her life). She tells her, "You make Jake smile. He hasn't done that in a long time."

Before the party, Jake and Sierra share a moment where they "test out" the dance floor, slow dancing to "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas", but they are interrupted when the guests start to arrive. I am so confused by the dress code for this party. Outfits are all over the place here. Just take a look at what some of their guests were wearing:

-Some woman wears a red sweater that says "I sleigh all day" with red, white, and green plaid pants (and I'm pretty sure they're pajama bottoms).
-Some guy wears khakis with a Rudolph sweater.
-The mayor is dressed nicely in slacks and red shirt and tie.
-Some guy is wearing long shorts (WTF?) a white hoodie with a red and white striped scarf and a green Santa hat.
-A woman is wearing a white sparkly top and another is wearing a silver sparkly top.
-A woman is wearing a fair isle sweater.
-A few guys are wearing suit and ties, as well as a few women are wearing fancy dresses. We see a red dress and a sparkly gray dress. We even have a couple who are wearing a tuxedo and a white v-neck dress with lacy sleeves. I mean, what is going on here with the party attire? It's all over the place! 

Jake starts to make his speech and is about to tell his guests how his lodge is about to go under, but whispers to Sierra he can't do it. However, the guests seem to already know what this party is for as the majority of them have already written checks to present to Jake to help him invest with getting the North Star Lodge going again. 

A radon guy, still wearing his winter coat, scarf and hat (he must be roasting! At this point, he's probably been there for at least half an hour, if not more) comes forward and tells Jake, "I remember the first time our family came to the North Star Lodge. You took my son under your wing and taught him to ski....He's a ski patrol now. I figured I owe you this much for ski lessons." He's the first one to hand Jake a check and soon others start doing the same. (Wouldn't Zelle, Venmo, or PayPal be easier? Who even writes checks anymore? Besides my mom?) 

The well-dressed couple tells everyone when they got married, they could not afford a honeymoon so Jake gave them the biggest suite in the lodge and wouldn't take a dime for it. (Gee, I'm beginning to see why Jake is losing money! Does he know how businesses work? He really needs to start a non-profit organization; he is too altruistic for his own good). 

The Mayor comes forward and makes the announcement that the "Summit Springs town council has put forth a proposal to have the North Star Lodge declared a historical site." (Seriously?) This will help with funds and grants for renovations. He, too, gives Jake a check for the one time he helped him tow his car out of a snowbank. 

Jake is about to introduce "Sarah" as the person who helped him with all this, but as he's about to announce her name, "Sierra!" is shouted by Tad who has just arrived with Beau and the sheriff. Sierra says she remembers that name. She remembers her dad, but doesn't remember who Tad is. (And remember, she told Jake she would never forget someone like him, so you know it's true love with Jake and not with Tad). Jake recognizes Beau and says to Sierra, "You're Mr. Belmont's daughter? Duh, doesn't he remember running into her at the resort? He still doesn't say anything about that incident! I feel like I've said the word "remember" a thousand times in this paragraph. 

It's only when Tad pulls out the gaudy ring and puts it on her again and she says it's too big, that she remembers saying that to him on the mountain and she does remember Tad. Everything starts coming back to her as she remembers she fell down the mountain and hit her head. She's pretty much taken away by Tad to go back to her father's resort without so much of a goodbye to the people who have been taking care of her and as she goes home, we get flashbacks of "heartwarming" moments between her and Jake even though we have just literally watched this movie, so we have seen all of these moments not that long ago. Do you remember when sitcoms used to have episodes where certain characters would reminisce about something that happened in the past and they would show scenes from previous episodes? Well, I absolutely despise clip shows (I will skip them!) and sometimes they're showing us things from episodes that aired years ago! Imagine my irate when I'm seeing something again that I just saw not even an hour ago! Did they really think we were going to forget what happened during the movie? Sierra and Jake are in love; I think we know that. You're really not fooling anyone, movie.

The next morning, Sierra is wearing a white sweater and jeans instead of her usual designer duds. And instead of caviar for breakfast (caviar is yuck anytime, but double yuck for breakfast), she's eating bacon and makes her own eggs and pancakes in the hotel's kitchen. 

While Sierra is giving a press conference about what happened to her, Jake, Avy, and Alejandra are finished opening presents when they see it's about to begin. Sierra is now able to properly thank Jake and his family for taking care of her and highly recommends the North Star Lodge (which will get them a lot of business). When asked about her engagement, Sierra tries to tell them that Tad did ask her to marry him, but she technically hasn't said yes, but they won't let her get a word in. When Beau (who is also there) is asked if he's excited, he replies, "Excited doesn't come close to describing how I feel." Ha! I mean, he wasn't lying!

This is when we find out what Avy wished for as she tells her dad, "Guess my Christmas wish didn't come true after all. I wished for you to find someone to love. You take such good care of all of us. I just wanted you to have someone take care of you, too." He explains to her it's not that easy, but she tell him all he needs to do is tell her that he likes her since he never actually did when she was staying with them. Oh, kids! It doesn't take much convincing for Avy to motivate her dad to tell Sierra how he feels. 

Meanwhile, we need to wrap this movie up, so we get a quick scene of Sierra telling her dad she doesn't want to be "VP of Atmosphere" and wants to find her own way. She also gives Tad the ring back and tells him she's "not ready for this yet." (We all know she means she's not ready for it with him). Luckily, Tad seems to bounce back quite quickly and has his eyes on Terry now and invites him to go to the "undisclosed location" where he and Sierra were supposed to fly to that day. He had said this during the press conference, so Jake thinks she's in the hummer limo in front of the Belmont. He knocks on the window, but it doesn't roll down. That doesn't deter him from making his speech about how he's falling in love with her. The window rolls down to reveal Tad who tells him, "That's very flattering, but I have other plans" and the camera reveals that Terry is with him. I thought the camera was next going to reveal that Sierra was behind Jake the whole time and heard everything he said, but no, she's in the courtyard. When he finds her there, he thanks her for helping get the North Star back in business and all the rooms have been reserved for, like the next ten years. (Okay, I'm exaggerating a little). She offers to help him run the place and he accepts. He has also brought a mistletoe for them to try the holiday tradition. They kiss and yay, everyone is happy and in love, but nobody's happier than Avy. Yay, thank goodness this movie is finally over. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

It's me. Hi. (Ranking Taylor Swift's albums)

Three years ago (on this very same, totally random date!) I ranked Taylor Swift's seven studio albums. Well, now she has added three more (and that's not even counting the re-recordings of two of her previous albums), so I have decided to rank her TEN studio albums.  

Here is a quick recap of my previous rankings:

7. Speak Now 
6. Taylor Swift aka Debut 
5. Fearless 
4. Red 
3. Reputation 
2. Lover 
1. 1989

Now here are my NEW rankings:
(Just a disclaimer before we get started: as I already reviewed her first seven albums before, I probably won't spend too much time on those, so I would recommend reading my original ranking that I linked above if you want to know more of my thoughts about a particular album).

10. Speak Now, 2010

Okay, I know people are going to be mad at me because I know the die hard Swifties LOVE this album, but, honestly, it's never done anything for me. That's not to say I don't like any songs on this album because I do: I really like "Mine", "Mean", and "Long Live". The last song is a great ender for the album and I truly understand why her fans love it so much. I love the line, "It was the end of a decade, but the start of an age."

There are a few songs I'm slowing coming around to. I have a love/hate relationship with Enchanted. While it is a pretty, dreamy, fairy tale, Disney Princess-esque song, it also is a tad eye-roll-y. It also cracks me up that it's about the dude from Owl City. It's like...what? 

I used to really dislike "Dear John", but I find it interesting, though "Would've, Could've Should've" from her most recent album eats that song for breakfast...WOW! I'm really interested to hear "Dear John" when she re-records the songs from Speak Now. In my last review, I criticized "Dear John" for being too long and boring, but I don't think that anymore. I think her re-recording is going to make me appreciate that song more. 

I do think "Last Kiss" and "Innocent" are still boring. You would think the latter should be anything but because it's about Kanye West, but yawn! I think it may be my least favorite TS song of all time. "Back to December" doesn't do anything for me either, but it's okay. 

Another song I don't like, but I'm really interested to hear when she re-records Speak Now will be "Better Than Revenge." That song was not one of her finest hours. Not only is she being petty in the song, but she's just being downright cruel with lyrics like, "She's an actress, she's better known for things she does on the mattress." Yikes! Will she change/delete those lyrics? Will she keep the song the same, but issue an apology? Will she just leave the song off the album? I am DYING to know and will listen to that song first once that album is released! 

All the other songs on the album I didn't mention are just meh. 

9. Taylor Swift aka Debut, 2006

This is her debut album. I have to admit I hardly listen to this and probably the last time I did listen to this was three years ago when I did my original TS album rankings.  I like "Tim McGraw", "Teardrops on My Guitar", "Our Song", and "Mary's Song (Oh My My)". The last song is criminally underrated and is absolutely adorable without being too saccharine. Well, maybe it's a tad saccharine. But it sure is darn cute! 

"I Should've Said No" and "Picture to Burn" are catchy little bops. I was pretty down on the latter in my 2019 review because of the cringe-y line, "So go on and tell your friends that I'm obsessive and crazy, that's fine. I'll tell mine you're gay." When I first ranked her albums, I was listening to the ones that I had bought, but now I'm listening to them on Apple Music and while listening to that song, noticed the lyrics had changed to, "So go and tell your friends that I'm obsessive and crazy, that's fine. You won't mind if I say, by the way." Apparently she changed it in 2008. I always listened to this song from the original album until very recently, so that's why I always heard the original lyric. I think I remember hearing she had changed that lyric, but didn't realize when. I think it was very smart of her to change it, especially since this is the same artist who will write and perform "You Need to Calm Down" in the future.  

"Stay Beautiful" is a cute little ditty, "Cold as You" is okay. All the other songs - "The Outside", "Tied Together With a Smile", and "A Place in This World" are totally forgettable to me. I even had to look at the album list to remember what these songs were called. 

8. Fearless (2008)

Okay, first of all, I love that she's re-recording her albums because I think she sounds crisper, her voice has gotten better, vocally, and just the overall quality is better. So I think FearlessTV is better than the original. That said, I still can't rank this higher because I just prefer the other albums I haven't ranked yet to this one. And that's saying something because I love "Love Story", "You Belong With Me", and "Breathe." "Breathe" is probably in my top ten of TS songs (I really need to sit down and do a ranking of my top ten TS songs, but that is so, so, so hard!) It was my favorite TS song until "All Too Well" came into existence. Count "Hey Stephen" as another of my favorite songs on this album; I've always enjoyed that song. 
7.  Red  (2012)

"All Too Well" is my favorite TS song of all time. (I know, how original!) "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" is my favorite first single of hers (although there are other contenders!) "Starlight" and "22" are fun bops. The album starts strong with "State of Grace", "Red", and "Treacherous". All the other songs, I can pretty much take or leave, ranging from it's okay to meh. I pretty much skip all the songs I haven't named.  I may have been a little harsh on "Begin Again" in my first ranking, but I still think it's one of her weaker album enders. I mean, at least compared to some of her other album ending songs.

However, when you add the bonus songs and the vault songs, I think it catapults the album a little more. "The Moment I Knew" is a bonus song I really like. The vault songs are ridiculous! (And I say that as a good thing!) "Better Man" and "Babe" were originally supposed to be on the original Red album, but they didn't make the cut so she gave them to Little Big Town and Sugarland, respectively. Okay, I actually think "Better Man" sounds better with Little Big Town singing it (not that Taylor's version is bad at all), but I'm kind of on the fence with "Babe". Both versions are really good. Taylor and Jennifer Nettles have very different voices so you're hearing the same song with distinct voices. Of course, with the Sugarland version you get both their voices since Taylor sings the background.

And don't get me started on the ten minute version of "All Too Well!" How long have we known there was a ten minute version out there? No, seriously, I'm asking. I'm honestly surprised she didn't wait to release Red as the final Tayor's Version album because getting the ten minute version of "All Too Well" has to be one of the top things her fans have been waiting for with bated breath. Not only did we get the song, we also got a video, excuse me, short film, for it! Now the real question is: do you associate Sadie Sink with "ATWTMV" or "Running Up That Hill?" 

I love the part where she goes, "YOU, that's what happened, yooooooooouuuu-oooouuuuuuuuuu." I also love the ending is pretty much a two-minute slow burn.
Even though there are some amazing songs here, this has to be her least cohesive album, she's got a lot going on here. There are a lot of songs I skip that I just couldn't place it too high.

6. Midnights, 2022

With her most recent album, I wasn't really sure where to place it. I like it, but I don't LOVE it. It's still fairly new, so it has the potential to go up a spot in the future...but just one spot. My top four is pretty rock solid. This is the first album on this list that wasn't on the original ranking I did, so let's go through the songs one by one:

"Lavender Haze" - I see a lot of people claiming this song as their favorite Track 1, but for me, it's probably in the middle. I mean, it's no "Mine", "State of Grace",  "Welcome to New York", "The 1", or "Willow" (Track 1s, I like better than this song - btw, I feel like I'm the only person who loves "WTNY"). I like this song fine; the drums are really cool. Reminds me of the cool drums in I Think He Knows. I have no idea what "Lavender Haze" exactly means, apparently she heard this phrase on an episode of Mad Men, a show I haven't seen. 

"Maroon" - I really love how this song sounds, but it sure is wordy! 

"Anti-Hero" - This was a good pick for her first single; it's very catchy and upbeat and the "It's me, hi, I'm the problem, it's me" lyrics are very ear-wormy. I think the lyrics to this song are very clever. I know a lot of people don't like the "sexy baby" line, which I get, it is super weird even though I know she's not referring to a literal baby. Honestly, the one lyric I'm not a fan of is "At tea time everybody agrees." I get that is rhymes and flows with, "It's me, hi," but this is going to age so poorly in the future! You know how nobody says "YOLO" or "FOMO" anymore (are those supposed to be capitalized? IDK)? I feel like that's going to be the same with "spilling the tea" in the future. But it's just a stupid little nitpick. I like how lets the s linger in the last chorus of "everybody agreesssssssssss."

"Snow on the Beach" - This is the song that features Lana Del Ray and the first time I heard it, I did not hear her at all. I was expecting her to have her own verse, but nope, she's just singing in the background. The next time I listened to it, I definitely heard her. She has a very distinct voice. Now I can probably only name three LDR songs, so I didn't really care that much she didn't have her own verse. This song is...not my favorite. I mean, it's okay. I think the "weird but f***ig beautiful" line is a bit jarring. Taylor cusses a lot on this album and this song probably gets the most cursing since it's in the chorus. It feels like she's trying to be cool and edgy. It kinda reminds me of how she kept talking about how she can drink alcohol in Reputation. I know she first started bringing out the swear words in Folklore and Evermore, but I feel like when she did that, it was more effective and impactful and it made sense for the cuss words to be there, but in this album (especially this song) it just feels forced, and, like I said, she's trying to be cool. LDR is listed as a writer on this song, so it's very likely she was the one who came up with the oh-so-thought provoking line, "weird but f***king beautiful." The edited version is actually better where they sing, "weird but it was beautiful". I think it flows better and it's not jarring and doesn't take you out of it. Somebody on reddit said they were disappointed that this song wasn't about cocaine. I know they were joking, but that had me laughing. 

"You're on Your Own, Kid" - The more I listen to it, the more I like it. 

"Midnight Rain" - Okay, if this song didn't have that weird distorted voice, I would like it a lot more. The weird distorted voice (which, apparently is Taylor's voice) just sounds sooo weird and takes me out of the song and it's the first thing you hear! At first, I thought maybe it was Jack Antonoff's voice because it sounds like a male voice. I knew it was clearly not someone's real voice because it's very obvious it's been filtered through a computer program. This weird distorted voice will show up in other songs, but it's the most prominent in this. It's like, Taylor, stay away from the electronic devices.

"Question...?" - I didn't like this song at first and I couldn't quite place my finger on why. It sounds like something that would be on Lover and (spoiler alert) I love that album. It could be that it's a bit on the juvenile side but so is"Bejeweled" and (spoiler alert) I like that song. I am coming around to it the more I listen to it. 

"Vigilante Sh*t" - This sounds like "Mad Woman" if it was on Reputation, if that makes any sense. While this song has a cool beat, "Mad Woman" runs circles around it. I feel like she was a little pretentious and trying to be edgy when she titled this song. She literally only says "vigilante sh*t" once in this song. She should have named it "Revenge" because she says that word about 300 times throughout the song! 

"Bejeweled" - I already mentioned I like this song. I love the way she says "Nice!"; it made me lol the first time I heard it. It has some kind of instrument (I'm terrible with trying to identify instruments) that evokes shimmering jewels. It's a fun, upbeat song with a catchy chorus. If I have to give a complaint, it would be "Familiarity breeds contempt, don't put me in the basement when I want the penthouse of your heart" is a little clunky (and a little hokey, let's be honest). Also, while looking at the lyrics, I heard 

And when I meet the band
They ask, "Do you have a man?"
I can still say, "I don't remember"


And when I meet the band
They ask, "Do you have a man?"
I can still say, "I don't", remember.

See, same words, but I heard the grammar differently! Like she's telling the guy, remember, I CAN tell the band I don't have a man. I think my way makes more sense. Who's going to forget if they're in a relationship? 

"Labyrinth" - This song is...okay. It has a very ethereal sound to it. I can't think of another song where her voice is high-pitched through the majority of it, but I'm probably missing an obvious one. There's also this weird sound that you hear every once in awhile. To me, it sounds like a horn fart...I really don't know how else to describe it. It's like this little "toot", if you will. Someone else on Reddit described it as a baby elephant which is also pretty accurate. It's just this weird, random noise and it distracts me from the song! Also, I wonder if Taylor really is scared of elevators, or, more likely, she was just using it as a metaphor. 

"Karma" - I love this song! OMG, when I was reading Reddit comments about this album, somebody posted Karma is a cat purring in my lap because it loves me! in font that size. I just laughed and of course I gave the comment an upvote! That is the most TS line if I ever heard one. Someone else on Reddit was complaining that she talks about her cats too much in her songs! WTF? She has only literally mentioned her cats in TWO songs (if there's others besides this one or "Gorgeous", let me know!) You know, when I think of karma, I think of it as having a negative connotation, but she sings it as a positive attribute (though not so positive for her foes!) I love the way she sings, "It's coming back.....around." I mean, I love the whole song, what's not to love? I think I just convinced myself this is my favorite song on the album. 

"Sweet Nothing" - This song is a sweet piano ballad, but if I'm being honest, it's usually a skip for me. 

"Mastermind" - So technically, if we're not including the 3 am songs aka the bonus songs, this is the closing song to the album. To me, this does not feel like a closing song for her album. Don't get me wrong, I do like this song, but it does not have the epic feeling or finality or sentimentality like a "Long Live" or "Clean" or "Daylight" or "New Year's Day" has. I also have a little quibble with this song: it totally contradicts "Invisible String"! That song is about how fate brought her and her boyfriend together; this song is about how she was the one who brought them together. Although I doubt a super-talented, extremely successful world-famous singer had to do that much to convince a not at all famous actor (I'm sorry, but he's not!) to fall for her. I do love how she manages to get the word "Machiavellian" in this song. Such a scholar, that Taylor Swift! 

There are quite a few bonus songs on this album. I always wonder why some albums don't have bonus songs (like Reputation) or some have a lot (like this one) of just one or a couple (like Folklore or Evermore). I really don't get how it works. 

My two favorite bonus songs are "Would've, Could've, Should've" and "Dear Reader". The former is a big sister to "Dear John" (and a much better song, IMO). It's a pretty powerful song. "Dear Reader", is the last song on the album (if you're listening to the 3 AM edition) and it feels more like a TS ending song, so I really like it. She uses the weird voice that she uses on "Midnight Rain" and "Labyrinth" (it's like, Taylor, put the vocorder (or whatever it's called) down!). However, and I know I'm being a total hypocrite here, but I really like how it's used in "Dear Reader!" I think it works! Maybe its because it's more in the background and the deep/distorted voice eventually becomes her voice while in the the other songs, she either starts the song with the weird voice or she's singing the chorus in so it's way more prevalent. IDK, I just don't mind it that much in "Dear Reader". 

Even though I'm impressed she rhymed "Paris" with "somewhere else", "Paris" and "Glitch" are my two least favorite bonus tracks. The line "All the outfits were terrible, 2003 unbearable" reminds me of something The Black Eyed Peas would sing. Probably because they sing that "I'm so 2008, you're so 2000 and late" line in one of their songs. "Glitch" just sounds weird. I get that's the point, but, eh, I'm not a fan.

5. Evermore (December 2020)

This is the sister album to Folklore, both released in 2020. I like Evermore, but I think Folklore is the superior album. I will say that I like "Willow", the first single from this album better than "Cardigan", the first single from Folklore (of course I still like "Cardigan"!) 

I do wonder if I would have liked this album better if it had come out before Folklore, but I don't know. 

I already mentioned I love "Willow", but if I had to choose my absolute favorite song on the album, it would be "Ivy." An amazing song I barely hear anyone mention or bring up when they're talking about their favorite TS songs from this album. This song seems to be as underrated as "Breathe"; another amazing TS song that never seems to be part of her discography greats conversation. 

I also love "Marjorie", which is about her grandmother (who passed away before Taylor was famous). I have to say, it's always a nice change of pace when she sings about something other than romantic love or heartbreak. According to the Wikipedia article (which was probably written by a Swiftie) the lyrics, "Never be so kind, you forget to be clever; never be so clever, you forget to be kind" was advice her grandmother gave to he and she incorporated it into the song. There's also "Never be so polite, you forget your power; Never weild such power, you forget to be polite." This woman had some very good, sound advice! This song is a very sweet tribute without being overly saccharine. It just feels very real to me. 

I love "Goodbye, Earl", so it probably comes as no surprise that "No Body, No Crime" is another one of my favorite songs on this album. It's about a woman who suspects her husband of cheating, then ends up missing and her friend (the singer) suspects the husband of killing her. I love the pov change where it goes from, "I think he did it, but I just can't prove it" to "They think she did it, but they just can't prove it" when the narrator tells us she killed the husband as revenge in the bridge and everyone suspects the mistress, then it goes to, "She thinks I did it, but she just can't prove it." This song is pretty much every true crime story where the wife of a husband ends up missing and 99.9% of the time the husband has a girlfriend he was cheating on the wife with. Then the wife is found dead and 99.9% o the time, it was the husband who killed her. When I first heard of this, my mind went immediately to Scott Peterson and the disappearance and murder of his wife. Crime Junkie did this "crime" as a podcast as an April Fool's joke and even Taylor commented about it on their Instagram. I mean, Crime Junkie is a super popular podcast, but I'm sure they were freaking out that Taylor Swift made a comment about that episode. 

I do like the other songs on the album (some more than others - the only songs I'm not exactly in love with are "Happiness" and "Closure". The former just hasn't grabbed me (yet) and the latter has a weird sound to it that isn't totally pleasing to my ears. Nonetheless, these songs aren't totally off-putting or anything). I feel like there's many tracks I'm going to appreciate a lot more in the future. 

4. reputation (2017)

It is an absolute miracle that this album is in fourth place and it beat out two of the three new albums she's released since 2019 (okay, in this scenario I'm not counting FearlessTV and RedTV as new albums, though technically they are, but I just mean albums with all brand new music). I say this because I did not like this album when it first released and it did take me awhile to warm up to it. I think this is because it came after an album that I absolutely LOVED and was obsessed with, so it was going to be hard to top it. (Okay, if you're reading this, you're probably a TS fan, so of course you know I'm talking about 1989!) This album definitely gets the reward for most improved! 

Now I admit I don't feel the love for Midnights as I do for many of her other albums, but I still like it, and I just think she has so many albums that are more superior to it and perhaps I just need to warm up to it. With reputation, I did not like it (except for a couple songs (I remember loving "Getaway Car", but who doesn't love that song?), but now look at it; it's number four! "Delicate" and "Call it What You Want" were songs I did not like (I know, what is wrong with me?) but now are they not only two of my favorite songs on this album, but they're two of my favorite TS songs. 

I was listening to a podcast where the three (maybe four; I don't remember) hosts were ranking her first tracks off of every album. When "...Ready For It?" was being discussed, one of the hosts mentioned they liked the line, "And he can be my jailer; Burton to this Taylor." Well, I just assumed they liked it because of the clever Ricard Burton/Elizabeth Taylor lyric, but no. They had no idea what that line meant, they just liked that she rhymed "jailer" with "Taylor." Oh, boy. Sometimes I forget how young her fans are. Luckily, there was someone else on the podcast who knew what Taylor meant!  

Songs I really love on this album include the aforementioned "Delicate", "Getaway Car, "Call It What You Want", "....Ready For It", plus  "Gorgeous", "This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things", "New Year's Day", "King of My Heart", oh, hell, all the songs are pretty good. I've even come around on "Look What You Made Me Do". It's still not my favorite TS song, but I do appreciate it more than I used to. 

Anyway, you can get more of my feelings on this album if you read my original ranking. 

3. Lover, 2019

I really love Lover; I was debating if I should put this at #3 or #2. Honestly, my third and second rankings could swap with each other; they're very close. 

-"I Forgot That You Existed"- Not the best song on the album, but a fun way to get it started and it's only going to get better from here. 
-"Cruel Summer" - One of her most catchy songs, right up there with "Blank Space" and "Getaway Car". How did this not become a single? It should have been the hit summer song of 2019! I love the part where she goes, "He looks up grinning like a devil!" 
-"The Man" - Super catchy. I like the end where they alter her voice to make it sound like she's waking up from a dream of pondering how her life would be different if she was a man. 
-"Lover" -  You can't help but sway when you're singing it. 
-"The Archer" - Very underrated track 5 song. Very underrated track in general. Seriously, I feel like a lot of people either don't like this song or are indifferent to it and I love it! I love the '80s dream pop vibe with the synthesizers and how it builds and builds.
-"I Think He Knows" -  I think I know this song is a banger and I love the drums after the bridge. This might be my favorite TS bridge just for those drums. 
-"Miss Americana and the Heartbreak Prince" -  Love the way she incorporates the "Go! Fight! Win" into the song as cheerleader chants.
- "Paper Rings" -  I mentioned this in my original ranking - it reminds me of something that would play during the prom scene in 10 Things I Hate About You.
- "Cornelia Street" - Amazing song. I was listening to this podcast where they were joking about the lyric, "I'd never walk Cornelia Street again" because it's a small street in New York and it's pretty easy to bypass if you need to. 
-"Death by a Thousand Cuts" - Another amazing song. I love the plucky instrument. In my original ranking, I said that "I ask the traffic lights it will be all right; They say, 'I don't know'" is my favorite line, which is still true, but I also love the bridge.
-"London Boy" - Taylor lists every famous thing about London! I love this song; it's so cute!
-"Soon You'll Get Better" - Kind of a downer in an album full of upbeat and happy (for the most part) songs, but still a beautiful song, nonetheless.
-"False God" - Such a cool vibe and that saxophone! This was the perfect song for her to sing on SNL when she was the musical guest during this time. 
-"Afterglow"- If I were to rank all the songs on this album, this might be in the lower half, but still a great song and a testament to how many amazing songs are on this album. 
-"You Need to Calm Down" and "Me!" are perfectly fine poppy and fine songs (I personally prefer YNTCD of the two) but I feel like she had much better songs to introduce as singles. 
-"It's Nice to Have a Friend" feels like filler. If I'm being an honest, this is one I usually skip (I also sometimes skip "Soon You'll Get Better" only because it's too sad to listen to.) 
-"Daylight" - Another amazing album ending song for her. I love the echo in her voice. 

Those were pretty short thoughts on each song, but I go into a little more detail on my original ranking. You know, if you need even more to read! 

2. 1989 (2014)

So this was my number one ranked Taylor Swift album since it came out in 2014. As you see, it is been demoted to number 2. (You can probably figure out what my #1 TS album is now!) Of course, this album is amazing and I feel like this is when I became a true TS fan. I had listened to her previous albums and I liked many of her songs, but I feel like this was the first time I truly loved an album of hers, if that makes any sense. That probably explains why her first four albums are ranked in the four last spots. I listened to this album every day for a year. It had so many great singles and so many great songs that could have been singles. Like, every single song on this album could have been released as a single Even the weakest song on this album, "Bad Blood" is still pretty damn catchy. Rob Sheffield of Rolling Stone has ranked every TS song (literally an impossible job!) and he updates it every time she releases new content. He ranks everything - even her bonus songs, songs she does for movies, and holiday songs. "Bad Blood" is ranked dead last at #229. It's like, 'cmon. That is not her worst song. Not by a long shot. It's not even her pettiest song (I would give that to "Better Than Revenge"). It's fine to rank "Bad Blood" last if you're ranking her 1989 tracks, but out of all her songs? I mean, I know it's totally subjective, but a song from one of her best albums (and one that won a Grammy for Album of the Year!) should not be ranked DEAD last! 

I still hear her say "Got a lot of Starbuck lovers" when I listen to "Blank Space." I know now that isn't the lyric, but for the longest tine I DID think that was the lyric and while I thought it was a bit odd, I just accepted it. Then one day I looked it up and saw she was actually saying, "Got a long list of ex-lovers". 

"Clean" is not only my favorite TS album ending song, but in my top five....maybe, IDK! It's so hard to choose. 

It still cracks me up that "All You Had To Do Was Stay" (STAY!) is a track five because it is so poppy (and I freaking love it). There is absolutely no way she was aware that her tracks fives, up to the point, were ballads with more vulnerable lyrics. Obviously she figured that out after this album and before reputation

Again, if you want to read more about my thoughts on this album, go check out my original rankings.

1. folklore (July 2020)

This is the "indie record that's much cooler than mine", hee!

In a way, I'm kinda glad that another album topped 1989 as my favorite TS album. I think this shows that she can top an amazing album and that's good for everybody. In a weird way, if Covid hadn't happened, this album probably wouldn't have existed (neither would Evermore). She most likely would have gone from Lover to Midnights. So, uh, thanks - oh, never mind, I won't go there! 

I love every song on this album. There's only one I'm not so fond of (but we'll get to that later). Some songs I love more than others, but they're all so good.

This album gets most compared to Evermore which makes sense since they were both surprise albums released in 2020, the only bright spot in a year of darkness! Obviously, I like this album more than Evermore even though I still enjoy that one. In my Evermore review, I pondered if that album had come out before Folklore if I would have liked it better, but I don't know. I don't think so. If I were to do a track battle between the two albums, Folklore would beat Evermore in every one...except maybe Track 1 and Track 10. Even though I love "The 1" and think it's a great way to begin Folklore, I like "Willow" just a tad more...but just a tad! Also, "Ivy" is my favorite track from Evermore, but even so, if it was pitted against pretty much any other song other than "Illicit Affairs", that would be a tough choice! I like "Illicit Affairs", but it would probably be ranked in the latter half of my favorite songs from Folklore.

Obviously one of the big thing about this album is the trio of songs that make up a story. The first time I listened to this album, I honestly didn't even notice it. I think it was when I was on Reddit and several people mentioned it, so of course the next time I listened to the album, I paid extra attention to "Cardigan, August, and Betty." Oh, look, she rhymes "car again" with "cardigan" in "Betty". And who could forget when we connected "Remember when I pulled up and said, 'Get in the car'" from "August" to "Just thinking of you when she pulled up like a figment of my worst intentions. She said, 'James, get in, let's drive'" from "Betty".  I feel like if most artists were going to have a little teen drama mini series in their album, the trio of songs would be in chronological order and they would be in consecutive order. But not Miss Swift! The chronological order of the songs are "August", "Betty", and "Cardigan", but she has "Cardigan" as track 2, "August" as track 8, and "Betty" as track 14. Clearly she made "August" the 8th track for the same reason she made "Seven" the 7th track and "The 1" the first track, then she spaced out the other songs in the trilogy so there were five tracks between them. There is one thing I'm confused about. So in this teen love triangle, we know the players are Betty, James, and the girl James cheats on Betty with in "August." When this album first came out, I know a lot of people speculated the other girl was Inez who is mentioned in "Betty": "You heard the rumors from Inez, you can't believe a word she says." I agreed with the people who said that Inez was just the school gossip and not the other girl. Then, recently, I was listening to a podcast where they were discussing this trio of songs and someone mentioned the name of the girl was August and I was thinking, Wait a minute, I thought August was referring to the month, not a person. Also, the song is sung in her POV so why would she be referring to herself in the third person? I'm pretty sure we never actually learn the name of that girl.

Apparently, Taylor had always wanted to use the line "Meet me behind the mall" in a song which, of course, is used in "August." This gave me a slight chuckle because the line is nothing more than an instruction and she has much better lines in this album like "Tried to change the ending/ Peter losing Wendy" from "Cardigan" or, my personal favorite, "I was so ahead of the curve, the curve became a sphere" from "This is Me Trying."

Speaking of which, if I had to rank my top three songs from this album, they would probably be "This is Me Trying", "Invisible String", and 'The Last Great American Dynasty" (but not necessarily in that order!) I love the lyrics and sound of "This is Me Trying" and the way her voice has this dreamy/hazy aspect to it. "Invisible String" is a cute song about how fate, or an "invisible string" brought her and her boyfriend together. (Which is why "Mastermind" is such a contradictory song). I love the plucky guitar sounds, it's just such a happy-sounding song. So I have to laugh because somebody on Reddit (yes, I am a bit obsessed with Reddit, why do you ask?) was bemoaning about how some of her lyrics sound awkward on Midnights because she has them arranged in a way to get words to rhyme. I don't even remember the examples they gave because I honestly didn't think they were that bad. But man, that person must have hated "Invisible String" because she has the lyrics arranged in a certain way that certainly isn't how one would speak, but I personally love it:

"Green was the color of the grass...."
"Teal was the color of your shirt...."
"Bold was the waitress...."

I'm sure there's a term for whatever structure this is. Obviously, this is not how most people would talk, but I think it works quite well for the song and I like it. The only line that is a bit awkward is "Bad was the blood of the song in the cab on your first trip to LA".  Yes, it's fun she's referencing her own song, but I don't understand why she's referring to it in this way (actually, I do understand - she wants to keep the song structure). Also, I wonder if "Bold was the waitress on our three year trip getting lunch down by the lakes. She said I looked like an American singer" is a true story? I wonder if "an American singer" was replaced by "Taylor Swift"? I'm sure if this English waitress knew she was waiting on "an American singer", she probably realized it was Taylor Swift....I mean, c'mon. I feel like you would recognize Taylor Swift if you saw her - she is very tall! I totally bet you the waitress told her, "Hey, you look like Taylor Swift", rather than, "Hey, you look like an America singer." That just seems too vague. Honestly, I bet the waitress just asked her if she was Taylor Swift. Wow, I certainly got off on a tangent, didn't? Is there a Reddit AMA out there with someone claiming to be the waitress who's mentioned in the song? Probably not because how would you prove that? 

I absolutely love "The Last Great American Dynasty" and dare I say it's the most underrated song on this album? I got goosebumps when I first heard it. The first time you listen to this song you're just hearing about these crazy antics this rich woman named Rebekah (not Rebecca like I originally thought) does (like dye a little dog "key lime green" - heh, so apparently it was actually a cat this happened to. Leave it to Taylor, the friend of felines to change it to a dog!) Then the bridge comes:

"Fifty years is a long time
Holiday House sat quietly on that beach
Free of women with madness, their men and bad habits..."

And then you get the money line....

"And then it was bought by me."

Total goosebumps every time I hear that line! It's like a little twist the first time you hear it. It's that line when you realize she's talking about the mansion she owns in Rhode Island. Now I suppose there are little clues like "Rebekah gave up on the Rhode Island set" and "They picked out a home and called it 'Holiday House'". Now, I didn't know the house had a name, but it makes sense. I did know she had a seaside mansion in Rhode Island where she throws (threw? I don't know if she still does) 4th of July parties. If you go on Google maps and type in Watch Hill, RI, (it's located in southwest portion of the state) there is actually a little icon for "Holiday House" you can click on and not only does it give you the address (I'm sure Taylor loves that! Though I do wonder how often she stays there and when she does, you know that place is secured up to the wazoo!), but you can also read reviews of the place...please, like anyone is allowed to visit! It is super funny because all the reviews are just the lyrics to "The Last Great American Dynasty." 

I do love the pronoun change where, in the first verse, when she's talking about Rebekah, she sings, "There goes the maddest woman this town has ever seen, she had a marvelous time ruining everything", then, in the last verse she sings, "There goes the maddest woman this town has ever seen, I had a marvelous time ruining everything." Nice contrast comparing herself to the previous owner. 

Remember when she sang "Soon You'll Get Better" for that special where a bunch of artists performed something from their home when Covid was going on and everybody was in lockdown? This would have been before this album was released, but can you imagine if she had preformed "Epiphany"? Oh, man, the entire world would be drowning because everybody would be in tears! I have to admit this song was not on my radar the first few listens because it's more of a slow, serious song, but now I love it. While "Soon You'll Get Better" is an emotional song and makes sense why she would choose to perform that one (I mean she can't very well perform "Look What You Made Me Do"!), "Epiphany" was literally written because of Covid. Super emotional song that the whole world can relate to. 

So this is the first album where Taylor gets a bit of a potty mouth and starts cursing. However, unlike Midnights, I feel like the cursing is done in a way that fits the song (or the character who's narrating the song, such as in "Betty" with the line, "Would you tell me to go f*** myself?"). I think one of her best examples of cursing is in "Mad Woman", when she says, "Or does she mouth, 'F*** you forever'." It's very understated, but it's so much more effective than any of the curse words she uses in Midnights

Okay, so I mentioned there's only one song on this album that I don't care for and that is "Hoax". It's not her worst song, but on an album of amazing songs, this one falls a little short for me. It's too bad since that is the album ending and usually her last tracks are pretty strong. Maybe I just haven't learned to appreciate it yet. 

Thanks for taking the time to read all that! If you want the TL;DR version, my rankings are:

10. Speak Now
9. Debut
8. Fearless
7. Red
6. Midnights
5. Evermore
4. reputation
3. Lover
2. 1989
1. folklore

Thursday, October 27, 2022

The Witches are Back

Hocus Pocus 2
Director: Anne Fletcher
Cast: Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kathy Najimy, Tony Hale, Whitney Peak, Belissa Escobedo, Lilia Buckingham
Released: September 30, 2022

It's been twenty-nine years since the Sanderson Sisters have wrecked havoc upon Salem and once again, they are back. Now, if you remember, I watched Hocus Pocus for the first time ever last year. Yep, it took me 28 years to finally watch that movie, but I watched the sequel only a couple days after it was released. It was so easy because all I had to do was reactive my Disney+  subscription. We are so spoiled in the twenty-twenties. All we have to do is click a few buttons on our remote and we're watching a new movie! We don't have to physically get into a car and drive to the movie theater and buy tickets and all that nonsense. However, that being said, there is something sad about this not getting a theatrical release because it's a long-awaited sequel to a beloved cult film. However, I'm perfectly fine watching it at home.

In a weird way, I don't think a sequel for this movie would have worked if it was released two to five years after the first one. Maybe even ten years. Having it (and taking place) twenty-nine years (what? they couldn't wait an extra year to make it an even thirty? Oh, who am I kidding? No one didn't want to wait an extra year! We've all been waiting 29 years for this! Well, I guess I only had to wait one year!) after the first movie gives it enough time where we're introduced to new youngsters who wouldn't have been around when the Sanderson Sisters were resurrected the first time. If someone had tried to resurrect them again after two-ten years afters the events of the first movie, well, that would just be really stupid. Although, if I remember right, really nobody even knew they were resurrected because the witches had bewitched them and the only ones who knew were the three young protagonists. 

The movie starts in 1653 Salem where we see the Sanderson sisters before they become witches. The young actresses they got to play the younger Sanderson sisters did a good job and were really funny. Young Mary even talked out of the side of her mouth and little Sarah was so ditzy! And young Winnifred wasn't much different than the grown Winnifred!

It's Winnie's 16th birthday and she's in a foul mood even though her sisters have surprised her with a sign that says, "Bless-ed Birthe Day" and have made her a treat that looks like jell-o. It's even in one of those jell-o molds. Not sure how they got it in that shape in the seventeenth century! Mary and Sarah tell her they made their concoction by grinding pigs' hooves, mixing it with water and adding a drop of goat's blood. (Eww, wtf?) It made me laugh when Sarah pokes it and exclaims, "It jiggleth!"  I love how they add -eth to words to make them more old-fashioned. 

Winnie is furious because she's been told she's getting old and must marry John Prichett, which has been arranged by the reverend. He knocks on the door, announcing himself, and Winnie tells her sisters to hide. When the reverend tells them to open the door, Sarah calls out, "We're not here!" Hehe. Typical ditzy Sarah. Winnie has to open the door now and not only is the reverend outside her home, but pretty much the whole town. Winnie tells them all she refuses to marry John Prichett and if she were to marry anyone, it would be Billy Butcherson (you may remember him from the first movie, though here we see him as a young man and not a decrepit zombie) because they are "soul mates" as they shared a kiss in the grave yard. Billy would beg to differ, though. 

There's a big uproar as the reverend thinks Winnie is a bad influence on her sisters and wants to take them away. (I'm not sure where their parents are in this scenario. Are they dead? We do get a mention of their dad owning an apothecary shop. Okay, so I looked it up on the Disney Wiki, and, according to that, they are orphans. I guess I missed that little detail). Winnie and her sisters manage to escape to the Forbidden Wood where they meet a witch who can transfer into a raven. She asks the sisters why they came to her woods and Winnie tells her they had to hide or her sisters would be taken away. I laughed when the witch tells them, "Thou art different from the other children I have eat...met." Yeah, not so subtle there. She tells them the woods are a sacred place for witches and they come here to charge their magic. For Winnie's sixteenth birthday (since she's a witch, she knows it's her birthday) she gives her the "Manual of Witchcraft and Alchemy", which, of course is the book with the eye and made of human skin that we saw in the first movie which Winnie refers to simply as "Book". I'm not really sure why this powerful witch gives Winnie this all-powerful book, but I suppose she sees something in her to do so. This is the moment when Winnie and her sisters become witches. 

Winnie looks through the book with her sisters and there's a nice callback to the first movie when they see a spell for cat transfiguration and Mary wants to try that on John Prichett. Of course, they will perform that spell on Thackery Binx forty years later. We see, that even as a young lady, Winnie has always been power hungry. She wants to perform Magicae Maxima, otherwise knows as the Power Spell. It makes a witch all-powerful. The witch tells her it is "frowned upon to perform it" and "doomed is the witch that uses this spell." Okay, if this spell is so bad, why is it even in the book? Who wrote this spell? Before disappearing (or turning into leaves as Sarah thinks), she tells the sisters how lucky they are to have each other and that "a witch is nothing without her coven."

The sisters return to Salem and use the spell book to set fire to the reverend's home and thus is born the Sanderson Sister Witches of Salem. 

Now we're in present day Salem at Samuel Skelton High School where we meet our young protagonists. (Fun fact: Samuel Skelton was the first pastor of the First Church of Salem, the original Puritan church in North America. I know this because I looked it up on Wikipedia). Becca (Whitney Peak) is turning sixteen today (which so happens to be Halloween) and she's planning on having a slumber party with her best friend, Izzy (Belissa Escobedo), where they will watch scary movies and dabble in some witchcraft. This has been Becca's birthday tradition for a long time. 

But, because they are teenagers, we have to throw in some extra drama. There's a third girl who is part of this group, or at least used to be part of it. Cassie (Lilia Buckingham) doesn't hang out with Becca and Izzy anymore and has a boyfriend, Mike, who often makes fun of them. Cassie does still invite them to hang out, but it's only with her and her boyfriend or her new friends. Yeah, that is really annoying when someone invites you to hang out with them, but they also invite their other friends who you either don't know or don't like. Do we need all this drama? Eh, not really.

Cassie tells Becca happy birthday and asks what her plans are which Becca thinks is weird because she knows Cassie knows what she does every year. Izzy takes this to mean that Cassie is hoping that Becca will invite her so when Becca is about to do just that, Mike starts talking about the Halloween party Cassie is throwing for the whole class. My question is, if she wanted to be invited to her friend's birthday which she knows is on Halloween, then why is she throwing a Halloween party? Maybe I'm just reading too much into this.

After school, Becca and Izzy go to the Salem Scare Fest where they come across Cassie's dad, who happens to be the mayor. There's a reelection coming up and he's handing out fliers and we see a billboard with him, his wife (who we never meet in the film), and Cassie on it and the tag line reads, "Traske...Making Salem Better than Ever." That is a terrible tagline. Also, is that supposed to be a dig at MAGA? I mean, they are pretty similar! I was getting Buster Bluth vibes from Mayor Traske, then realized that was because he's played by Tony Hale. We also get a quick mention that Cassie's family line dates back to the witch trials and that the reverend who we met at the very beginning of the movie (also played by Tony Hale) was Reverend Traske and he is an ancestor of Cassie and her family. As you can imagine, this will play a pivotal role later on. 

Mayor Traske is super excited because Sandy's Candy Cauldron is being set up at the festival and he's looking forward to the caramel apples. This is pretty much his only plot point (aside from coming across a few witches), and yeah, it's pretty stupid. They will show some of the caramel apples and they do look pretty amazing with their crushed peanuts and chocolate drizzle, so I can understand why he's looking forward to them! 

Mr. Traske gives the girls some campaign posters to pass out when they go to the Olde Salem Magic Shoppe, which is Becca's favorite shop as it is mentioned she goes there pretty much every week and the owner calls her his favorite customer. I feel like these so-called "magic" shops only exist in movies and TV shows. Wasn't there one in the town of Mystic Falls where The Vampire Diaries was set? Also, there was one on Buffy the Vampire Slayer around the time Willow was dabbling in witchcraft. And wasn't Giles the owner of it? This was after they graduated high school so he wasn't the librarian anymore. Oh my God, what was the name of that store? Half of you are probably screaming the name at me and the other half are probably wondering what the hell I'm talking about. Okay, I looked it up and it was called The Magic Box. Of course it was. I can't believe I couldn't remember that. Anyway, the point I'm trying to make is that I've never seen a shop like this in real life; they're only in TV shows where the supernatural run abundant. Of course, it does make sense for Salem to have a novelty store like this since their history is seeped in witch lore. 

The owner calls himself Gilbert the Great and he's telling the story of the Sanderson sisters to the patrons (I guess they have story time at this store?). This is basically just a rehash of what happened in the first movie. Thanks, movie, I appreciate that, but I just read my review of the first movie to remind me what happened. Gilbert mention that the Sanderson sisters were the most powerful coven to ever live thanks to Winnie's Book of Spells. Not to nitpick or anything, but as far as I'm concerned, this is the only coven they have some kind of proof that existed, so of course they're gonna be the most powerful. Again, I'm probably reading too much into this. When he mentions the book, we see the actual book is displayed in a glass case with straps around it like it's in a straight jacket. Someone in the audience comments they really don't want people taking the book and Gilbert replies all that is to keep the book from from escaping. He continues to tell them that twenty-nine years ago someone saw three figures flying across the moon. The same patron who commented about the book (I guess they wanted to give this guy all the lines), says, "Sounds like someone had a little too much candy." This was definitely a nod to the first movie because it's what Dani's mother says to her when Dani tells her the witches are back from the dead and the cat she's holding can talk. I remember thinking it was a weird reply because eating a lot of candy isn't going to make you delusional; it's just going go give you a stomachache. They're acting like eating too much candy is the equivalent of having too much to drink. No, it's not. 

Gilbert reveals, with a flourish, the black flame candle that was lit back in 1993, the very same one that brought back the Sanderson sisters. It's all melted and the same guy who got the previous lines, once again gets another line by thinking this means the witches have been walking around for the past twenty-nine years. Gilbert tells him, "The candle's magic only brings them back for one night. They disappear at sunrise. Okay? Can I just finish this?" I absolutely love his exasperation and I would probably be getting exasperated with this bozo who keeps interrupting and asking questions. 

Finally, someone else gets a line besides that annoying guy and a kid points out if the candle's melted, then no one can light it and the witches can't return. Gilbert agrees with this assessment, unless, of course, there is another black flame candle to light. Gee, I wonder if one will make an appearance? 

Becca plans on buying a crystal, but Gilbert tells her she should get more than that since it's her birthday. He tells her he has a gift for her and presents her with a candle that looks like a big melted goop of wax. Not very attractive at all. At least he gave it to her for free as a birthday present, because I certainly wouldn't pay for that thing. He tells her, "Legend has it, it's on the sixteenth birthday that a witch gets her powers." Hmm, could this be foreshadowing? He also gives her Angelica leaves which you burn to lift curses. (Could this be more foreshadowing?) Apparently, these are free for everybody in the store. What kind of shop is this guy running? You're not going to make any money if you're giving out everything for free. 

Becca and Izzy ride their bikes to the Salem Historical District which was founded in 1626. This, incidentally, is the exact same village where the Sanderson sisters grew up and it's quite a feat these houses are still standing so many centuries later. The girls head to what is the Forbidden Wood (I don't think it has a name in the twenty-first century) and light the candle. Now you could not pay me to go into the woods at night in October (on Halloween, no less). Oh, hell no. I'm honestly surprised their parents let them do this, but since the only parent we meet is Cassie's dad, maybe they aren't even aware of this. 

After the girls light the candle, it ignites a bigger flame than they expected and they freak out and extinguish the candle and are relieved for a nanosecond, but then the candle reignites and they are unable to put it out. That's when they realize it's a black flame candle and they soon hear a female voice singing. Like, that's not creepy. Then it gets very quiet and the ground starts rumbling. It gets very dark so we're not seeing anything on the screen and we get flashes of light and we see the silhouettes of the three witches for a few seconds. 

Yep, the witches are back. Winifred, Mary, and Sarah (Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy, and Sarah Jessica Parker) start singing a song called "The witches are back" set to the tune of Elton John's "The Bitch is Back".  Becca and Izzy realize all the ingredients to bring back the witches (black flame candle lit by a virgin on Halloween) are the reason the Sanderson sisters have appeared before then. 

The girls start to run and the witches are still performing. Becca asks, "Who are the performing for?" and Sarah suddenly pops up face to face with them and exclaims, "You!" That would freak me out! This won't be the last time one of the sisters pop up seemingly out of nowhere in front of the girls. 

Soon, all the sisters are surrounding the girls and without missing a beat, Winnie calls for "Boooooook!" and while we see the book struggling to get free, we see it cannot escape. 

The witches remember being tricked by teenagers last time (well, technically, they were tricked by two teens and one eight-year-old) and this time, they have decided, if any cross their path, they will kill them. It absolutely makes no sense they know the word "teenager" because it most definitely did not exist in the seventeenth century. In face, the word "teenager" wasn't coined until the twenieth century, in the forties. There's no way the Sanderson sisters would have that word in their vocabulary. I'm just going to attribute them knowing about it when they were around in 1993. 

The girls tell them they're actually forty and they look so youthful because they "eat young souls all the time" and they brought the witches back because they're their idols and want to be just like them. Of course, flattering these three witches (especially Winnie) is a great way to distract them as they absolutely love it. Winnie tells them, "Idols? My favorite word. Thou dost worship us? Sayeth more." It cracked me up when Sarah says,"Get in line, get in line." 

Izzy tells them they don't have to brew potions anymore, that they can just buy them and tells them about lotions and serums you can buy at the store that already have the children's souls mixed in. When Sarah asks, "No more luring children to their demise?", she looks absolutely devastated; it is hilarious. Mary, on the other hand, seems to think this is more convenient. She tells the girls, "Oh, that's a great time hack. Thank you kindly." Sarah mutters, "I delighted in the luring. 'Twas my only job." This is such a messed-up thing to say, but it's so funny. 

The girls take them to Wal-Greens and at this point, I'm not really sure what their plan is. I get that they're trying to fool the witches so they don't harm anyone and they can get what they need at this store, but they really don't have a plan of how to escape. There is a funny joke where the witches gasp as they watch the sliding doors part for the two girls. Sarah says, "The gates parted for her. She must be very powerful." I am surprised that this joke wasn't used in the first movie, but I guess they never went anywhere with sliding doors. 

The girls tell the witches the "childrens' souls" are in aisle four (where the lotions are) and as the witches start down the aisle in their synched stride, the girls turn to leave, but suddenly Mary is in front of them, just like that scene earlier where Sarah appeared before them out of nowhere. That would give me a heart attack! They're making sure the girls aren't out of their sight!   

While the witches are preoccupied drinking the lotions and hand creams (hilarious! Mary even eats a face mask at one point), Becca tells Izzy they need to get salt because it will protect them against dark magic. When the witches get distracted, Izzy runs to find some salt. When the sisters see themselves in an unflattering mirror, they freak out because they're all distorted. Winnie stops an employee and demands to know "how many childrens' souls are in those potions?" The poor guy is freaked out, understandably, and tells them "zero". The witches start chasing Becca who finds Izzy who has the salt and they are able to escape from the witches' zaps. 

So Izzy and Becca have finally managed to escape from the Sanderson sisters, but this won't last for long. Winnie decides they need to find the book and brew their potion and the fastest way to do that is to fly. We get a similar scene of the first movie where Winnie is flying on a broom, Sarah on a mop, and Mary on a vacuum. Only this tine the flying floor cleaners have been updated. Winnie still grabs a broom, which is part of a Halloween prop, Sarah grabs a Swiffer (and not just any Swiffer, a Swiffer Wet Jet), and Mary grabs two Roombas that she straps on both feet and exclaims that she's "surfing" and cries, "Cowabunga!" I can tell you with confidence that she would not know either of those words. Again, I'm just going to assume she learned this in 1993. When it comes to mops vs Swiffers, give me a Swiffer any day. I hate mops; they're heavy and gross and I just feel like I'm mopping the floor with a dirty water. Of course, Swiffers are more home-friendly while mops are used more for work/industrial places, which I understand, because using a Swiffer for a large area wouldn't make any sense. I have a Swiffer; I don't have a Swiffer Wet Jet, but if they really do make bubbles like is shown in the movie, then I want one. See how easily amused I am? Now when it comes to vacuums vs Roombas, give me a vacuum. I had a Roomba once upon a time. I think it was fine the first three times, then after that, it was useless. I don't know, maybe I didn't clean it right and it wasn't picking anything up. Anyway, never had one again after that. 

Becca and Izzy come charging into the Magic Shoppe and demand to know where the candle came from and tell Gilbert they have to get the book out of there. Gilbert notices that the book has woken up and is ecstatic about this. He takes it out of the glass case and the book opens and reveals the light so the withes know where to find it. Gilbert exclaims, "I can't believe it worked!" and admits that he tricked the girls into lighting there candle because it wouldn't have worked if he had done it. (Heh.) Becca doesn't understand why he would do this because the Sanderson sisters are evil and he says, "They were ahead of their time and they were misunderstood. Then, the whole world was against them." He says now everybody loves them and gestures his hands at all the Sanderson sister souvenirs people can buy.

The witches appear at that moment. They are happy to be back in their old home (wasn't their old home a museum in the first movie? I wonder how it became a kitschy niche shop?), but realizes it's not the same. Sarah wants to know where the cobwebs and rat tails are. Mary says, "It no longer smells like death. Now, it smells like..." As she's trying to determine what the scent is, Gilbert tells her it's "Clean linen" and that they have a Glade plug-in for that. 

Winnie is ecstatic to see her book that she doesn't even blink twice when Gilbert tells them he's their biggest fan. Mary sniffs out the "two forty-year-old teenagers" and asks Winnie what she should do with them. Winnie gives Sarah the book and says, "Here, hold my book. And don't drop it like you just did." This is hilarious because when Winnie conjured the book to come to her, it dropped before it reached her hand and Sarah had nothing to do with it falling. She's so mean to her sisters! I have to wonder if it was supposed to fall or if it was an accident and Bette Midler just ad-libbed that line.

Winnie tells Mary to throw the two girls in the dungeon and she reveals a secret door in the floor. After they are quite literally tossed into the dungeon, the girls try running up the stairs, but they dissipate into thin air. They overhear Gilbert tell the witches that he's been trying to bring them back ever since he saw them "that night" and that it wasn't a great Halloween for him because some boys stole his candy. Now we all know he's referring to the two '90s bullies who were giving Max a hard time in the first movie. Gilbert tells the sisters he saw them riding on their broomsticks...or other cleaning supplies.....and chased them to the cemetery where he saw them "die." He found Book who was awake and showed him how to make another candle. I'm sorry, this book is just going to let some random kid make another black flame candle? Of course, now that I think about it, he probably didn't create the candle until much later because if he had made it as a child, he would have been able to light the candle and bring them back. So basically he had this book for the past twenty-nine years and was waiting for the perfect time to bring back the witches? I'm so confused. I'm not really sure why he wanted to bring them back. Yeah, he says he idolizes them and that they were misunderstood, but we don't really get a good, solid reason why he wants to bring them back. Only that we want a sequel! 

The campaign posters that Becca and Izzy were handing out earlier catches the eye of Winnie and she recognizes the name Traske and realizes he must be a descendant of the Reverend. She wants herself and her sisters to be the most powerful witches so nothing can stop them: not teenagers (heh), not Traske, not the sun. She decides they will perform the Magicae Maxima. Mary reminds her she promised to never do that spell and Winnie's excuse to ignore it is, "That was 300 years ago. That promised has expired." She tries to open Book to the page of the desired spell, but Book keeps slamming shut. She finally zaps the book and it opens up to the Power Spell. There is a huge BEWARE warning that begins with, "For it is most dangerous..." She says they "have no time for warnings." She reads the directions and ingredients they will need. The incantation needs to be recited seven times in "a most sacred place." Winnie reads they will need "the head of a lover, witch's butter, juice of an aralia berry, one petrified spider, and one drop of thy's enemy blood." That is quite the list! I love how it pretty much implies you'll have to commit murder with the first "ingredient." Luckily, they won't have to because Winnie says they'll just dig up her old lover, Billy Butcherson. Not sure what witch's butter is and have never heard of an aralia berry. I guess it grows mostly in the eastern U.S. which explains why I'm not familiar with it. 

Mary says with glee, "Don't you love it when the recipe requires blood?" This is a nice nod to the beginning of the movie, when, as a child, she excitedly tells Winnie they made the "jell-o" with goat's blood. Winnie asks Gilbert if he has the Sanderson hourglass. He makes a big show of thinking, then tells them he doesn't have it. Mary tells him that's not a problem and since he doesn't have it, "We'll just have to kill thee." I laughed when he said, "Oh, you said "hourglass" with an "h". Yes, that I do have, actually. I think I misheard you when you said it before." 

At that moment, his black cat, Cobweb, jumps up and all the witches thinks it's Thackery Binx and are about to kill it. This doesn't make any sense because wouldn't they remember the spell they cast on Thackery wouldn't let him die? We saw that cat get ran over by a bus and he was still fine. The only reason he did die was because the curse was broken. The cat is able to run away when Gilbert distracts them by showing them the hourglass. Winnie creates a spell on the hourglass and calls it a binding contact. She tells Gilbert, "You shall gather all the ingredients and bring them to the Forbidden Wood and we shall sniff out the blood of our enemy. If you fail, you forfeit your life with the last grain of this sand." 

Izzy's line to Becca, "Don't freak out, but the idea of a vengeful maniac obsessed with getting revenge on Salem becoming an invincible, all powerful, vengeful maniac obsessed with getting revenge on Salem sounds very bad for Salem!" is very funny, but doesn't make sense for her to say this to Becca because I think she would realize this. It feels like she's mostly saying this for the viewers. 

The girls call Cassie to warn her, but the witches have also hexed their phones so Cassie can't hear or see them. They don't know what to do, but then Izzy remembers the Angelica leaves that "lift curses" and they use that so the stairs appear again, and what do you know, it works! 

The witches go to the Scare Fest to find the mayor and we see the Roombas following them, like little obedient dogs. They see people bobbing for apples and this delights them to no end because they think they are being drowned. I can understand why they would think that because there's some guy holding the heads of the two people who are bobbing. I don't understand why you would need to have somebody holding your head while you're bobbing for apples; this makes no sense to me. I have only bobbed for apples once, as a wee child, and I just remember it's impossible to grasp an apple with just your mouth. One guy comes up with an apple and Winnie says, "He has an apple in his mouth. Perhaps they're gonna roast him on a spit." Oh, man, that was so funny. The writers must have had so much fun with this movie. 

Once the girls escape, Becca calls Mr. Traske to tell him his daughter is throwing a party at his house and he freaks out and leaves. I guess the idea was just to get him away from the Scare Fest since she knew the witches would be looking for him there. They try to get the book to keep it out of the witches' hands, but it refuses to go with them. They decide they need to get to the Traske house before the witches do. 

Winnie, Mary and Sarah come across a Sanderson sister costume contest with drag queens and I nearly spit out my drink with the host tells them, "Looking good, fellas. Very authentic." When asked what their stage name is, Winnie says they call themselves, "The Originals." When the winning group is about to be announced, Winnie tells her sisters to look surprised, but another group who calls themselves The Sandersonettes, ends up winning. Sarah is bouncing around, all happy thinking she won, and exclaiming, "We won! We won!" Winnie is pissed and takes the trophy and the audience starts booing. Winnie tells the audience, "People of Salem, we have come for the blood of thy Mayor." One of the drag queens gets excited and thinks they're "doing a bit." 

The witches put the audience under a spell by singing "One Way or Another" and has them lead them to the mayor. I thought it was an interesting song since it's not really witch-related. In the first movie, they sang "I Put a Spell on You", so that makes sense. I guess "One Way or Another" does work as they're singing what they mean: "One way or another, I'm gonna getcha, getcha, getcha." However, the residents of the town are walking too slow (like zombies...also if the witches were the ones to put a curse on them, you'd think they wouldn't have them going so slow!), so they decide to find the mayor themselves. There's a completely meta scene where Winnie flies past a house where a couple is watching the original movie. It's a scene with Garry and Penny Marshall where he's dressed as a devil. Okay, this makes no sense, but here's the theory I'm going with: in this universe, the original Hocus Pocus came out in 1995. There's no way it could have come out in 1993 like the original because the events this movie is based on HAPPENED in 1993, so they couldn't make a Hollywood movie in that short of time, ergo, Hocus Pocus that is shown in Hocus Pocus 2 came out circa 1995. Okay, I really need to stop before I give myself a headache. (Too late!) 

At another house, we see a young kid in his bedroom and Mary pops up right outside his window. He screams, then Mary screams. Oh my God, that would care the sh*t out of me! 

Becca and Izzy get to Cassie's house who's not happy with them for ratting her out. When they ask her where her dad is, she tells the he went back to the festival to get his caramel apple. Their plan certainly worked like a charm. (That was sarcasm, in case you couldn't tell).

The girls see the witches and they enter the house to hide. When the witches enter the house, Winnie tells them to spread out and look for Traske. Sarah takes this quite literally and starts to spread her arms and legs across the foyer. This prompts Winnie to tell her, "Be serious" which prompts a Siri device to speak up and say, "Sorry, I didn't quite catch that." Now when I first watched this (without the subtitles), I thought it was an Alexa that spoke and was confused why she turned on since nobody said her name, but watching it with the subtitles it confirms it's a Siri. Do Siris come in devices like Alexas? I thought Siris were just embedded in phones and computers. This joke doesn't really work for me. Not because I'm pretty sure that was an Alexa, but because it wasn't really funny. The witches think there's a "small woman trapped inside that box" and they run away, screaming. 

They find Becca "hiding" in the garage (and when I say "hiding", I mean, she's just standing in plain sight), but before they can kill her, she quickly tells them she has the only Aralia berry juice left in Salem and shows them a water bottle that's only about a quarter full. She tells them to let her go or she will pour it out. While the witches are distracted, her friends pop out and pour salt in a big circle around them so they can't harm anyone with their magic. 

I just love how ditzy and dumb Sarah is. With the three girls standing right there, she tells her sisters, "Let us bewitch them with song and lure thee into setting us free." Winnie snaps at her, "Next time, do not tell people we wish to bewitch that we are about to bewitch them!" Bwah! 

While girls are outside talking, Mr. Traske comes home and opens the garage door. He sees the Sanderson sisters and assumes they were there for Cassie's party and is wondering why "the Gothic Golden Girls" are in his garage. The girls just leave the witches hanging out in the garage with the door open and the Roombas come by and start cleaning up the salt. I will say this was a clever idea they (the writers) came up with. I laughed when Mary tells Winnie to look and Winnie says, "I cannot. My eyes have misted over with the tragic tears of a lifetime of failure." I just love how dramatic she is. 

The witches grab Cassie since they know she is a Traske, so she will work just as well as her father. As they fly away, Becca and Izzy chase after her and some kind of blue lightning is zapping from Becca's hand; something that has never happened before. But there's no time to worry about that now because she needs to help her friend. 

On his quest to find all the ingredients, Gilbert first digs up Billy Butcherson (Doug Jones). When Billy is told the Sanderson sisters are back, he wants nothing to do with whatever's going on and starts to go back to his grave. Gilbert lies to him and tells him he's going to kill the sisters for good and needs Billy's help to collect the items. Billy wants to clear the air because everyone thinks he was Winnie's lover, but turns out he just shared one kiss with her (the one we heard about at the beginning of the movie). Gilbert tells him if he helps him get everything on the list, he will tell everyone the truth and Billy agrees to this. I mean, really, do people in twenty-first century Salem really care that much? Once he has gathered most of the stuff, he comes back to the Magic Shoppe to see the hourglass is almost up and tries to cheat the system by turning it, but Winnie has bewitched it so it will remain the same no matter which way he turns it. Billy catches him and realizes that Gilbert has been cursed and accuses him of helping the Sanderson sisters. Gilbert manages to take his head and goes to the graveyard to meet the sisters now that he has all the ingredients for the spell. 

Winnie calls for the book which comes flying to her. She uses her sharp fingernail to scrape Cassie's neck to get the blood of her enemy. Ouch! That looked so painful. I cringed watching that. Mary even comments, "Ooh, that's gotta hurt." I'm surprised Cassie didn't have more of a reaction. 

Winnie and her sisters start reciting the incantation and Becca's hands start glowing again. Izzy comes with the conclusion that she must be a witch because it's her 16th birthday. Sure, makes sense to me. Witches exist in this universe. I guess it's only three hundred years the town of Salem has a witch. She asks Becca if she thinks she can use her magic to stop the witches and save Cassie and Becca replies, "I guess we're gonna find out." She interrupts the sisters' chant while Izzy unties Cassie and helps her escape. (Oh yeah, the witches have tossed Gilbert aside so he's somewhere in the woods right now). Becca starts a zap fight with the sisters only to realize she's severely outmatched. Winnie tells her she's against "the most powerful coven in history" and is about to zap Becca when Cassie throws a pinecone at the witches and tells them that she (Becca) has her own coven. 

Becca says, "You don't have to do this spell. I know it may not feel like it, but you have a choice." Winnie thinks she is talking to her, but she is saying this to the book who has its own opinions. Becca holds out her hands and the book flies to her and she runs off with it. She reunites with her friends and asks Book if there's anything she can do. The book flips open to the warning page of the Power Spell where it warns the user of the spell if they want to claim all the power, "a price must be paid. What is valued most dearly, thou shall have to trade." 

The witches come flying overhead and zaps them and Becca protects herself and her friends with an invisible force shield, but the sisters are too powerful and she can't hold them off much longer. Izzy remembers reading "the power's meant to be shared" from the book and tells Becca to give her hand. The three girls clasp hands with each other and hold up their free hand to keep up the invisible shield. It's a little awkward. I feel like this would be much easier if they could hold up both hands, but they have to hold hands for the power to work. 

The witches are unable to obtain the book and Winnie tells the girls she does not need a book to perform her spell and she and her sisters continue to go on reciting the incantation. (I wonder if they have to start over or if the incantations they already recited counts as the seven they need to recite). Becca tells her friends they need to warn them about the warning. Unfortunately, they're too late. They hear Winnie putting the final touches on the spell where she says, "Underneath this full moon light, I sacrifice my love tonight." Now that they're all-powerful, the flame on the candle has got out and they are amazed they are still alive. The sisters are celebrating and laughing and zapping their witchy powers around. This is when Becca tells Winnie the Power Spells takes what she values most and Sarah's and Mary's hands and arms start turning into glitter dust. They seem to accept their fates as Mary tells Winnie to never forget them and adds, "I know I was your favorite" and makes a "Shhh" gesture even though Sarah is literally right there next to her. Hilarious. Winnie is devastated when her sisters evaporate into thin air and fondly remembers them as her "passionate partners in unholy mischief." 

Here, is where we get a sudden character change from Winnie. She asks Becca for her help, tearfully, almost begging. The Winnie we know would never this. She would have just killed the girls and took the book. But here, after Becca has found a spell for reuniting and will be able to send Winnie to be with her sisters, Winnie is thanking her and telling the three friends how lucky they are to have each other. This brings it back to the beginning when the witch Winnie and her sisters meet as young girls tell them the same thing. I don't know, I just don't like how they softened Winnie's character, but I guess they needed a quick way to end her storyline. 

The movie ends with the girls walking home and they start doing the Sanderson sister shuffle and they start giggling and exclaiming, "What are we doing?" The way they do it just feels so forced and awkward, it doesn't come naturally like when the actual Sanderson sisters do it. Also, it doesn't make sense Cassie would know it because she wasn't in the Wal-Greens where Becca and Izzy saw them doing it.

I can see Disney + making a show about these three girls and their witchy powers. Now if they made a series about the Sanderson sisters as young girls in 1600s Salem, I would be way more likely to watch that. 

Happy Halloween, everybody!