Surf and Turf Reviews

The Thing and Trolls: World Tour – A Lesson in Assimilation

For our weekly Two-Movie Tuesday, which I’ve taken to calling our “Surf and Turf” special, my husband and I each pick one movie to watch together. We don’t run the movies by each other first, and sometimes the pairings can get a little… esoteric. That was definitely the case with this week’s line-up, which consisted of the Thing followed by Trolls World Tour

Let’s take a look at each movie individually and then investigate how they did (or did not) work together as a pairing. 

The Thing Review

About 10 minutes into The Thing, I was ready to fall asleep. Other than some guy in a helicopter trying to gun down a dog and a fair amount of casual xenophobia (McReady mixed Norway and Sweden up so much that I’m still not sure which base was actually near them), the opening felt like To Build a Fire. Characters wandered in and out of supposed-Antarctic bases wearing little more than leather jackets, sometimes shrugging them on as they walked outside, and I fully expected the plot to focus on them getting stranded in the cold somewhere. 

It doesn’t help that the only thing I knew about the movie going into it was a single gruesome, poorly-shot picture of the Thing, which I had grabbed from Google in preparation for this review. 

Six years ago, when Vuk and I met, I’d have fallen asleep or started scrolling on my phone during the wearily slow beginning. I’m glad I didn’t, because what followed was a grisly, horrifying mindfuck that was totally worth watching.  Despite being released in the early 80s, the Thing’s sparse setting and lack of CGI’d effects allowed it to hold up over time and still creep me out ever so gently. 

Good choice, Vuk. Solid. 

Chosen By: Husband

Would Have Paired Perfectly With: Gremlins

Overall Rating: 8/10

Trolls World Tour Review

Trolls World Tour was… weird. 

And, honestly, disappointing. 

The first Trolls movie stood out by perfectly pairing beloved music to what was happening in the story. But, despite having a wider arsenal of music at their disposal in Trolls World Tour, this movie missed the mark. They could have done so many cool things with music, but instead seemed to pick songs at random and hammer them awkwardly in place like misshapen Ikea furniture. 

the map was a disappointment

It wasn’t a bad movie. Justin Timberlake still has the voice of an angel. Anna Kendrick still makes the perfect, vivacious Poppy. But the plot was weak, the motivations of the new characters ambiguous, and the music–the driving force behind the original movie–left something to be desired. 

Chosen By: Me

Would Have Paired Perfectly With: Trolls or The Willoughbys

Overall Rating: 4.5/10

3 Similarities Between The Thing and Trolls World Tour

As I mentioned before, this pairing was esoteric. So much so that Vuk all but bet me that I wouldn’t be able to find my requisite 3 similarities to tie the movies together. 

But I did. 

Proving, once again, that women can do anything. #Feminism. 

Here are three (loose) similarities between The Thing and Trolls World Tour. 

The Crazy Old Coot

Although this is a small scene in both movies, it was so strikingly similar that I had to include it as a similarity. Basically, when shit starts to hit the fan, the Old Coot of the civilization loses his goddamn mind and starts destroying stuff. 

In Trolls, it’s played for humor, with Poppy’s dad denying their history and eating the invitation mailed to them by the Queen of Rock. 

It’s less humorous in the Thing when the (scientist? doctor?) realizes any one of them could be possessed by The Thing and begins destroying their communication and transportation to keep from infecting the world. 

I said NO TECHNOLOGY, damn it!

But in both cases, the Old Man sees the end of times on the horizon and decides that destruction of property is the only solution. 

Isolation from The World

Both movies deal with civilizations that have been isolated from the rest of the world for a significant period of time. 

In Trolls, the Pop trolls have been isolated since the six strings of music were separated an uncertain amount of time ago. 

In the Thing, the isolation is due to the main characters being from a scientific research base on Antarctica. 

In both movies, isolation from the rest of the world colors the actions of the characters and is a driving narrative force.

Assimilation

The central theme to both movies is that the antagonistic force is trying to assimilate everything in the world and make it the same. In Trolls, the Queen of Rock is trying to make all trolls Rock n Roll trolls. In The Thing, the monster is trying to make… everything… the thing. 

LOTS OF MEEEEE

Of course, Trolls, as a kids movie, sort of hit you over the head with the moral that individuality is good and sameness is lameness. 

The Thing was less didactic, and at the end of the movie, you still can’t be sure that assimilation hasn’t won out. But the thread of assimilation that ran through both movies actually held them together as a combination and kept the pairing from feeling unpalatable. 

Overall Surf & Turf Rating

The Thing and Trolls World Tour made for a strange combination. I’m all for watching something cheerful after something scary, but there was just something unsettling about moving from the gore of The Thing into the acid-trip that was Trolls World Tour. It wasn’t bad. It was just odd, pairing about as well as ice-cold water and circus peanuts (which, incidentally, is what I ate while watching these movies). 

Double Movie Rating: 5/10. 

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Surf and Turf Review

Aliens & Dora and the Lost City of Gold

Every week, my husband and I enjoy Two-Movie Tuesday. He picks one movie, I pick another, and we watch them together. Then, I review the success of the double feature, looking at the movies individually as well as how they fit together as a pair. I call this the weekly Surf & Turf Special. (You can decide which of us is Surf and which of us is Turf). 

This week, our Surf and Turf special consisted of Aliens followed by Dora and the Lost City of Gold

Aliens Review

Aliens was my husband’s choice, following last week’s selection of Alien. He’s currently choosing movies that I “should have seen by now.” 

I’ll be honest: I wasn’t looking forward to Aliens this week. I respected Alien when we watched it last week, but it was slow. It was plodding. It had that classic early-horror-movie feel from when directors didn’t know how to make cuts. I expected Aliens to be more of the same. 

I was wrong. 

James Cameron did Aliens proud. Not only did it hold together more tightly than the first movie, but it also held up well over time. I mean, the aliens themselves weren’t as scary now as they probably were when the movie was released in ‘86. But it lacked the terrible CGI that so often makes old movies cringe-worthy. Use of real set pieces and actors lent the movie verisimilitude.

Most important take-aways from the movie: 

  • Newt is exactly how I imagine my toddler in about 4 years (except, you know, with more PTSD)
  • Nuking it from space is the only way to be sure. 
  • There is something inherently demeaning about a grown man calling a grown woman “kiddo,” and it should always make you want to smack his stupid face. Always. 

Chosen By: Husband

Would Have Paired Perfectly With: Alien 

Overall Rating: 7/10

Dora and the Lost City of Gold Review

I chose Dora fully expecting it to be terrible. Because, let’s be real, when the College Humor Fake Trailer for a movie turns out almost identical to the real trailer, you know you’re in for a shit show. 

It did not disappoint. 

I’m not saying there were no good moments. During a scene in the beginning when Dora pretended to speak to the camera, her dad looked genuinely terrified and then announced, “Eh. She’ll grow out of it.” It was a scene thrown in there for the benefit of any adult who’s ever screamed “it’s behind you, you jackass!” at Dora to the utter chagrin of their enamored toddler, and I loved it. 

Maybe instead of staring at us you could try TURNING AROUND

On the whole, however, Dora and the Lost City of Gold felt like a wannabe kids-Indiana Jones that fell just shy of the mark. The humor was en point, and Michael Peña hit his notes perfectly, but the plot was weak, the ending was predictable, and the inclusion of a stupid talking fox ruined an otherwise totally kind of realistic-ish movie. 

For example, instead of a stupid talking fox, they could have…

  • Not had a fox at all. He’s not in every episode of Dora. He didn’t need to be in the movie.
  • Just had a dude named Swiper steal the kids’ map, as a nod to Swiper the Fox
  • Had a childhood friend dress up as a fox named Swiper, and then show up later on to steal their map
  • Have a real, non-costumed, non-talking fox bowl them over and knock their map out of their hands

I mean, the movie didn’t suck. If our daughter turns out to be a Dora fan down the road, I could see myself sitting through the movie again. There were enough funny parts to make it a lark for adults. Unfortunately, they did just enough right with the movie that the things that went wrong felt less bad-movie-night funny and more… disappointing. 

Chosen By: Me

Would Have Paired Perfectly With: Raiders of the Lost Ark

Overall Rating: 4.5/10

3 Similarities Between Aliens and Dora and the Lost City of Gold

My husband and I don’t choose our movies based on how well they’ll pair or what they have in common, but when you watch two movies back to back, you’re bound to notice commonalities. Here are three themes that helped these two movies pair together.

Strong Female Leads

Whatever my complaints about Dora, she is undoubtedly a bad-ass and a great role model for young women. She goes on adventures, knows multiple languages (at least three), has awesome wilderness skills, knows tons about animals, and isn’t afraid to be herself. Weak plot aside, Dora is the type of main character you want your daughters to look up to. 

And if your daughters are older and likely to battle aliens, they can’t match Ripley for level-headedness and good common sense. 

Truer words were never spoken.

I also loved that our strong female leads weren’t there just to be a romantic interest. There was maybe a hint of something between Ripley and Hicks, but the movie never got into it. This is also the second movie with Ripley in it and the first time romance was even hinted at, which I think is pretty damn forward of the 80’s. 

Meanwhile, in the world of Dora the Explorer, teenaged Diego got a romantic interest, but Dora had other things on her plate.

Thank you, Nickelodeon. 

De-Emphasis on Money

In the words of Dora’s mom, “Exploring: Good. Money: Bad.” 

It turned out to be a major theme for both movies, with antagonists fueled by greed and a love of money, and protagonists fueled by… other… priorities. Like family. And not getting eviscerated by Xenomorphs. You know, important stuff. 

Bad-ass Hispanic Representation

One of the cool things about Dora has always been the sprinkling of Spanish throughout episodes. The movie out-staged the show in this regard, and was laced with a trace of Hispanic culture that felt less cartoon-y and more genuine than the TV show. 

As for Aliens, it features one of the best Hispanic characters I’ve ever seen: Vasquez. That girl could bench any guy in the corps. She is brutal with a gun and her tongue is as sharp as any knife.

And yes, she died. But she died in a gloriously bad-ass conflagration which is absolutely the way you want to die (if the alternative is acid-spewing alien parasites). 

Three thumbs up. 

Overall Surf & Turf Rating

These two movies actually paired really well. Aliens was stressful, Dora was hilarious. Neither movie was fresh and groundbreakingly original–at least not in 2020–but they were both enjoyable on their own, and they paired like an agéd cheese and a really cheap boxed wine. 

Or maybe like an agéd cheese and a box of grape juice.

Double Movie Rating: 6/10.