Boosting Albedo Everywhere Is a Climate Solution

Washington (GGM) Analysis | September 4, 2021 by author and climate journalist Noreen Wise

After a summer of unprecedented weather events, with hundreds of deaths and many billions of dollars in damages, the IPCC Report released on August 8, 2021, fell on open ears. We all stopped to process the urgent warnings.

CODE RED for humanity. We must make immediate changes.  These bold and chilling declarations were blasted through the vast major media outlets worldwide, as well as thousands of podcasts, millions of private conversations, and billions of social media posts. Articles such as the one by US New and World Report in July 2021, informing us that climate change already results in an extra 5 million deaths per year, provided real time data of just how forcefully climate change is crashing down on us. 

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And then there were this week’s extreme weather events to drive home the point. This is how traumatic it is at only 1ºC+. But the world is currently on a trajectory of 3ºC. The IPCC recently advised that if we rush and do what’s necessary, we’ll be able to stay below 2ºC. But even 2ºC seems unendurable.

Heart of the matter. “Without the white icecaps less of the sun’s energy is reflected back out to space, and the speed of global warming increases.” —Sir David Attenborough, A Life On Our Planet

The speed of global warming increasing at an increasing rate due to the shrinking icecaps, is motivation to sprint so that we have the time to make the necessary systemic changes to our infrastructure, as well as transition individual daily household and personal behaviors to eco-friendly, sustainable and green behaviors in a circular economy.

At a symposium in London in the spring of 2009, Nobel laureate and President Obama’s Secretary of Energy at the time, Stephen Chu, boldly announced to the crowd that whitening all the roofs and pavements in the world would be the equivalent of removing all cars on the planet for 11 years.  He didn’t mean this literally of course, but rather as a powerful illustration that we’d all be able to identify with.

This cool phenomenon is known as the albedo effect. Albedo is the ability of surfaces to reflect the sun’s energy, just like the polar icecaps. Albedo is measured in increments from 0 to1, with 0 being the darkest colors that absorb the sun’s energy which become quite hot, and 1 being the the coolest colors that reflect the the sun’s energy the best and keep everything cool. 

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Albedo levels:

  • Black – albedo 0
  • Green grass – albedo .25
  • Desert sands – .40
  • Newly poured concrete – .55
  • White – .8
  • Metallic silver – .9
  • Perfect mirror – albedo 1

Stephen Chu emphasized the three main benefits of whitening roofs and pavements:

  • Immediately cools a building’s interior which drives down use of air conditioning.
  • Results in lower energy use, which cuts costs and lowers carbon emissions.
  • White and lighter colors reflect the sun’s energy (which will make up for lost icecaps).

Next Steps:

Stephen Chu’s urgent recommendations were made 12 years ago. Many large convention centers, sports arenas, coliseums followed through exactly as suggested and rebuilt their stadiums applying the ideal albedo colors. We have to do the same on an individual level.

  • Switch roof on our houses to white or a much lighter color, no black.
  • If your normal re-roofing is scheduled for 2 years from now, move it up and re-roof immediately.
  • Is your driveway black asphalt? Quickly transition to concrete or paint it non-reflective white.
  • From now on, go with light colored cars.
  • Form an albedo committee in your town and lobby local government to paint town parking lots white, school roofs, libraries, and all surfaces.

Good Luck! Staying below 2ºC is the most precious gift we can give our children. They’ll never forgive us if we don’t succeed at this.

No rose without thorns. —French Proverb. Groundbreaking YA book series for all ages. Not only a gripping modern day nail-biter with Machiavellian villains, but also one that opens our eyes to the brutal war going on beneath our feet that controls our destiny, despite our obliviousness to this potentially civilization-destroying threat.

Subscribe to Force of Nature to stay connected to the insights we provide in our effort to accelerate the transition to a sustainable, eco-friendly, carbon neutral global community. Click here to subscribe.

© Copyright 2018 – 2021. ALL Rights Reserved.

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Composting | A Major Climate Solution

Washington (GGM) Analysis | July 20, 2021 by Catherine Zacuto, M. Ed.

Perspective is everything. Composting can seem like a daunting task or a simple way to make our soil much more healthy. The benefits of composting for the climate and the environment may persuade you to get on board, to learn something new, and to contribute to a growing movement to give back.

What’s the heart of the matter? The wisdom of composting goes back to the days of Ancient Greece and Rome, and soil cultivation has been in practice ever since. The Founding Fathers realized the importance of renewing the soil of their farms and gardens. Washington, Jefferson, and Adams (among others) treasured the land for its abundance and permanence; fields were not something to be used and abandoned. Because tobacco had depleted the soil of many estates by the late 1700s, Washington began planting crops that could anchor the American agricultural economy. To replenish the soil for wheat fields and orchards, he experimented with manure, Potomac mud, and fish remains. In the end, Washington operated five farms in Virginia and was one of the most successful farmers of his time. 

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How does this impact you personally? Composting is a practical way to improve the health of the soil and reduce our carbon footprint. Over the centuries, the basic principles of composting have remained consistent and have yielded the same predictable outcomes for sustaining our planet. The knowledge and tools are at our fingertips. Using the wisdom garnered over the ages, we have the chance, without too much difficulty, to create a thriving environment and help planet Earth.


  • adds microbes to dirt and soil, enabling it to store loads of carbon that thwarts climate change.
  • reduces methane-producing waste in landfills
  • creates vibrant soil that supports the ecosystem
  • retains water in the soil, reducing the need to irrigate
  • promotes disease-free plant growth
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What can you do about this? Whether you live in a noisy urban neighborhood or on a quiet rural road, composting is possible. To keep it simple, deliver your food scraps to your community compost collection site. (See the list of Virginia composting facilities at the end of this article.) Or, find a compost company that picks up your food scraps. Check to see how the company uses the compost, and find out if they return compost to you. Make your own compost by following simple daily guidelines. (Click here to see a short how-to video.) You can make a difference for your family, your community, and the planet. Remember the Founding Fathers: The success of the new nation hinged on its fruitful harvests. Did they ever imagine how critical their organic practices would be for the health of the planet?

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Next steps:

  • Begin saving food scraps in a compost bag in your refrigerator, a cool garage or in a clamped container.
  • Gather both green materials (fruits, vegetables, tea, egg shells, coffee grounds) and brown (newspapers, egg cartons, twigs, and dried grass). 
  • Avoid oils, dairy, meat, and bread.
  • Decide if you will create the compost yourself or donate your scraps to your community, or
  • Find the most eco-friendly company to pick up your scraps and use them to benefit soil health.

Virginia Composting Facilities by Area

No rose without thorns. —French Proverb.
Groundbreaking YA book series for all ages. Not only a gripping modern day nail-biter with Machiavellian villains, but also one that opens our eyes to the brutal war going on beneath our feet that controls our destiny, despite our obliviousness to this potentially civilization-destroying threat.


“Benefits of Compost.” U.S. Composting Council, Accessed 21 Jan. 2021.

Simon, Julia. “How to Start Composting.” NPR, 2021,

© Copyright 2018 – 2021. ALL Rights Reserved.

Must Act Quickly to Restore Our Habitat | The Powerful Impact of Time Capsules

Washington (GGM) Analysis | June 12, 2020 by Catherine Zacuto, M. Ed.

Restoring our habitat is of the utmost importance. We must act swiftly to replant everything we’ve destroyed if we want to succeed at lowering atmospheric carbon levels. Interestingly, our Founding Fathers, as well as early American farmers, were equally concerned about preserving and maintaining our habitat. Sharing plants and seeds across the miles added vibrant diversity to our landscape. Each packet of seeds acted as a time capsule carrying the promise of a healthy future. 

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Time capsules capture the imagination of people everywhere. The International Time Capsule Society estimates there to be between 10,000 and 15,000 time capsules worldwide. Even fictional time capsules have a place in modern culture. You may be familiar with the episode of “The Simpson’s” in which Principal Skinner’s prized container is contaminated by Bart’s partially eaten sandwich. Two current time capsules planted in Flushing Meadows, New York contain common items such as a hat, a fountain pen, and a pack of cigarettes, all meant to convey a sense of what life was like in the 20th Century. Seeds also made the list, showing just how important plants are to our survival. Carefully preserved wheat, corn, oats, and tobacco seeds, are just a few of these precious materials we are sharing with the future. One wonders: Are these seeds intended to be agricultural specimens or life-giving sources of food and oxygen for a world that could be struggling in 5,000 years?

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If all goes well, the seeds sent forward into time will yield a bountiful harvest. Seeds certainly hold promise for the future. Consider the seeds shared in the 1700s between an American farmer and an English businessman. According to Andrea Wulf’s wonderful book, The Brother Gardeners (2010), the farmer, John Bartram, supplied American plants and seeds to Peter Collinson, in London. Over the course of 40 years, the relationship flourished, and New World trees and shrubs migrated across the Atlantic, adding oxygen-giving greenery to European gardens. The seeds acted as a time capsule joining two worlds and offered hope for a future full of essential vegetation.

Seeds help ensure the future of our planet.

  • Seed banks hold promise for our future, as they preserve endangered species and genetic diversity threatened by climate change.
  • The Svalbard Global Seed Vault, on a remote island in the Arctic Circle, stores more than 980,000 seed samples from all over the world.
  • Organizations such as the Native Seed Network and the Plant Conservation Alliance are working to restore decimated habitats and re-populate them with native seeds.
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Be Part of the Solution

As days grow short and we wait patiently for the light of the new year, let’s consider what elements of the past are worth passing on to the future. Which seeds can we plant now that will strengthen our planet as it fights global warming? Plant a tree, add shrubs to your yard, cover a wall with Virginia Creeper. Share with others the value that a leafy green environment holds for our future. Create a time capsule that will make a difference!

Timely Tree Facts:

  • Most oak trees don’t grow acorns until they are at least 50 years old.
  • Conifers grow 3-5 feet per year in the first five years and can reach 90 feet by age 25.
  • One of the oldest trees in the world is a bristlecone pine named “Methusela” (4852 years old as of 2020).
Adding composting worms to our home composting bins and/or directly to the soil in our yards will dramatically improve the amount of carbon we can store in the soil. Climate solutions are much easier than we realize. Act today! CLICK here.

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What to Plant in Winter:

Fast-growing trees in Virginia:

© Copyright 2018 – 2020. ALL Rights Reserved.

Make 2021 Better!

Washington (GGM) Analysis | January 16, 2021 by Catherine Zacuto, M. Ed.

You have set your intention for the new year: Make the world a better place. One way to do that is to plant a tree. Thomas Jefferson and John Adams made similar plans as they wandered the gardens of England in 1786. Jefferson and Adams, sometimes adversaries with opposing political views, joined together to investigate the worthiest of English gardens as they waited for trade negotiations to move forward in Europe. Appreciatively scouring the estates, these two Founding Fathers admired the winding paths and natural features of the most modern gardens. 

The Stowe garden appealed to Jefferson’s practical side. Known for both his head and his heart, Jefferson noted utilitarian features such as pastures and irrigation methods. While he appreciated the color and design of the garden, he seemed irritated by useless items like a solitary Corinthian arch. Adams was most likely in full agreement with Jefferson’s opinions about Stowe. Urban environments strained him; he was happy to escape London for the English countryside. Occupied for decades with government business, he longed to return to Peacefield, his farm in Braintree (now Quincy), Massachusetts. Adams enjoyed digging side by side with the hired workers and instructing them on the latest innovations in soil improvement. His correspondence during his retirement years is riddled with the virtues of manure. The English garden tour provided Jefferson and Adams plenty to dream about as they finished their trade negotiations and headed home, inspired to make their gardens and the new nation just a little better.

Maybe you’re inspired to follow through on that intention to make the world better. Your activism represents a decision to make a difference: The tree you plant contributes valuable oxygen to the atmosphere. Added bonus: When your neighbors see the results, they might plant a tree, too. Choosing the best tree to plant can be daunting, but resources abound. Reflecting on the purpose of the tree will help you decide: Do you want more shade in your yard? Are you looking for privacy? Do you have limited space? To see quick results, you may want to plant a fast-growing tree. 

Fast-Growing Trees in Virginia*

  • Hybrid Poplar
  • Weeping Willow
  • Quaking Aspen
  • October Red Glory Maple
  • Arborvitae Green Giant
  • River Birch
  • Dawn Redwood
  • Leyland Cypress
  • Paper Birch
  • Pin Oak

*As you plan, be sure to check to make sure the tree you choose is a Virginia native.

By planting a tree (or two), you are demonstrating the ideals that made our country strong: freedom, hard work, and perseverance. For men like Jefferson and Adams, gardens represented more than just beauty or status; the nurturing of crops, shrubs, and trees symbolized the cultivation of American ideals. Independence is evident in the natural style of early American gardens. The labor devoted to bringing life to their farms and gardens fostered the self-reliance for which America became famous. Experimenting with new methods of soil conservation and irrigation affirmed the idea of perseverance. The Founding Fathers were not afraid to get their hands dirty to achieve a higher goal. Planting your tree also serves a larger purpose – improving the health of the planet.

Helpful Resources:

Fairfax County Tree Basics Booklet | Public Works and Environmental Services

Gallant Gold Media

Tree Planting Information

Planting Trees from Seeds


“Notes of a Tour of English Gardens, [2–14 April] 1786,” Founders Online, National Archives,

Wulf, Andrea. Founding Gardeners. The Revolutionary Generation, Nature and the Shaping of the American Nation. Knopf, 2011.

© Copyright 2018 – 2020. ALL Rights Reserved.

It’s Time to Meet Meati | Vegan Scene

Washington (GGM) Analysis | November 5, 2020 by Sarah J. Kings

Meati Foods is a Colorado based vegan startup, and their food is amazing! This plant based meal option is cruelty free and unbelievably sustainable. Each serving of their Meati Chick’n is packed with healthy fiber and 16 grams of complete protein. There is nothing “fake” about this alternative meat either. Believe it their food is made from fungi. The company’s slogan is “funging delicious!” With absolutely zero fat and cholesterol, and plenty of vitamins and minerals, Meati Foods is a no brainer.

Twitter: meatifoods

That’s not to say it didn’t take brains to develop. The people at Meati have crafted a way to harness the microscopic “thread-like structure,” mycelium, produced by fungi to craft a healthy and sustainable natural protein. And that sustainability is key in differentiating this startup from competitors. 

According to Meati’s research, “By the year 2050, our planet will need to make room for about 3.4 billion more people. As a result, the global food demand for meat, the most resource-intensive food, is expected to double.” The company design uses 99% less water and land, and emits 99% less carbon dioxide than industrial produced animal protein. This will significantly cut our carbon footprint. 

Twitter: meatifoods

Another thing that separates Meati from competitors is their focus on creating whole cuts of chicken and steak! According to VegNews, “Meati Foods secretly launched its vegan steaks at SALT Bistro in Boulder,” and people loved it! Keep your eyes peeled for news about this startup, as more Meati hits restaurants and stores. This sustainable, cruelty free, and vegan meat alternative is a brand to know. 


  • Meati Foods is a Colorado based vegan startup
  • Meati is creating whole cuts of chicken and steak
  • Each serving has 16 grams of protein and zero grams of cholesterol
  • Meati uses 99% less water and land than meat from factory farms
  • Meati emits 99% less carbon dioxide than meat from factory farms

© Copyright 2018 – 2020. ALL Rights Reserved.

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So Many Beautiful & Exciting Possibilities | Cutting Carbon

Washington (GGM) Analysis
NoreenProfilePicHillReport-75 by Noreen Wise

“Flowers always make people better, happier, and more helpful; they are sunshine, food, and medicine to the soul.” ~Luther Burbank

ST-Saga-CovFrnt-72dpi-300And flowers cut carbon too! Flower boxes in the windows of our homes and businesses, and hanging baskets from street lights, will add yet another layer of nature to absorb carbon. We need as much help as we can get. It’s another exceptional tool in our climate action tool shed that will reap a wave of benefits, improving both our atmospheric carbon levels, and our quality of life.

Will flower boxes in the windows of the majority of homes and businesses increase property values? I guess we’ll find out as soon as we begin a window flower box campaign.


According to BestLife, flowers:

  • Reduce stress
  • Elevate mood
  • Strengthen relationships
  • Increase memory
  • Certain flowers can help us fall asleep
  • Help us heal


Not only do flowers absorb CO2, they’re also air purifiers, absorbing pollutants such as benzene, acetone, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene.

We can do this! Warm weather climates can begin today. The rest of us can begin planning today so we’re ready to spring into action as soon as the weather breaks. ~

© Copyright 2018 – 2019. ALL Rights Reserved.

Glass Packaging Will Absolutely Curb Plastic Waste

Washington (GGM) Analysis
NoreenProfilePicHillReport-75 by Noreen Wise

My obsession with glass packaging is based on the fact that we as individuals and families can easily make a difference in curbing plastic waste through our product choices in the grocery store. All that’s required is that we’re more aware of what brands we select and how our selections impact the decision making at each corporation.

First, let’s be clear, there will always be a standard 30% of the public who will never care and will refuse to change their habits, not matter how much proof is provided. So we can’t worry about this. They’ll be forced to adapt when corporations stuck in the past go out of business.

But for the rest of us, the facts are compelling. And if we are to safeguard our children’s futures, it’s imperative that we change our daily and weekly habits appropriately.

  • ST-Saga-CovFrnt-72dpi-300The hotel industry has done a remarkable job of ditching all the tiny plastic bottled of incidentals and switching to giant dispensers in the showers. As soon as Bonvoy Marriott announced their decision, the majority of hotels immediately followed suit. Imagine how quickly the plastic nightmare would end, if Heinz did the same. Condiments and soda are two plastic heavy hitters. Coke has responded. Coke, Sprite and Fanta, along with a handful of other familiar soda brands, are sold in both glass and plastic in super markets. But Heinz refuses to compromise. Ketchup, BBQ sauce, salad dressing across the board, all Heinz-Kraft products are only sold in plastic.
  • According to Mashed, Heinz sells 650 million (plastic) bottles of ketchup per year, 1,000 bottles per minute. The tip of the Heinz plastic iceberg though may be the 11 billion packets of ketchup that Thrillist asserts Heinz sells per year. If Heinz would simply do what’s best for the public and for the planet, there would be an immediate and dramatic reduction in plastic waste.
  • National Geographic recently stunned the world by announcing that only 9% of plastic is recycled.
  • The majority of spaghetti sauce brands are sold in glass bottles, possibly 95%. BBQ sauce is at nearly 85% sold in glass, with the only two significant plastic holdouts are Heinz and Kraft.

Interestingly, spaghetti sauce sold in glass is priced lower than Heinz Ketchup sold in plastic. What gives? This makes no sense.

There doesn’t appear to be any data supporting Keinz’s stubborn refusal to adapt to the climate crisis. There appears to only be one way left to motivate Heinz to do the right thing… boycott Heinz!

I found organic Red Duck Ketchup, a brand new ketchup that’s positively delicious. I’m on my second bottle, and I love finding a reason to enjoy it every single day.

Boycotts are the American way. They work. Corporations respond to consumer demand that hits them in their wallets. It’s the upside of capitalism.~

© Copyright 2018 – 2020. ALL Rights Reserved.

Weather Weaponization | Climate Change Deluges

Washington (GGM) Analysis
NoreenProfilePicHillReport-75 by Noreen Wise

The new normal of weekly rain deluges is directly correlated to the melting polar ice sheets. The fact that these rain and snow torrents are now so consistent and prevalent, serve as a steady reminder of how urgent the climate crisis is, and how essential climate action must become in our daily choices and habits.

The increased moisture in the air, which has resulted in terrifying “weather bombs,” arises from the warming oceans that melt the polar ice sheets.

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Dark blue ocean waters store heat from the sun, causing ocean temperatures to rise, triggering the increased atmospheric moisture and the damaging weather bombs. Whereas massive white polar ice sheets deflect the sun’s heat… so as these polar sheets ST-Saga-CovFrnt-72dpi-300melt, the balance between the amount of dark blue heat-absorbing water to white sun-reflecting sheets shifts, and moisture in the air increases, triggering an influx of deluges.

Understanding the science behind this life-threatening phenomenon, is very effective motivation in accelerating our personal shift to non fossil fuel sustainable energy.

Over the July 4th holiday, driving through the mountains, the skies opened and dumped a blinding amount of rain on the packed lanes of traffic. It was maddening that at that precise moment, I just happened to be next to an “Extra Wide Load” (truck carrying a mobile home) on a curve along a pothole strewn interstate highway high atop a mountain. Crazy. No place to take cover. Windshield wipers that couldn’t keep up. A flash of awareness overcame me, and I could see so clearly that something significant has changed and driving in these conditions was exceedingly dangerous.

Further down the highway, there had been a massive accident that shut down all three lanes. We had to stay parked for two hours while they cleared the wreck. The two events seem connected, but may not have been.


Individual #ClimateAction is both a moral imperative as well as a personal daily checklist. Everyone of us on earth, needs to aim for a personal carbon footprint of only 3 metric tons annually. Currently, most Americans hover around 15.5 metric tons, while there are many that cruise along at 23 metric tons.

Climate Change Expert  Dr. Joseph Romm, an MIT alumni, has organized Climate Action choices into four categories:

  • Transportation: make the switch to Hybrid or EV autos; public transportation, walk, scooter, ride bikes
  • Home:  go solar, LED lightbulbs, turn out lights when leaving a room
  • Diet: change our eating habits, red meat & dairy increase our carbon footprint
  • Stuff: buying, storing and carting around “stuff”

The #ClimateCrisis warnings are everywhere. Deluges are universal, striking every town, state and country. The ONLY way to alter the current climate change trajectory is to tackle all four of these climate action categories as quickly as possible. Good luck, we can do this!

© Copyright 2018 – 2019. ALL Rights Reserved.

LEGO MOVIE 2 | Movie Review

The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part

Reviewed by REGGIE WOLTZ

Towards the end of The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part, the tiny bricks, in a moment of great despair, soak their sadness in a song: ‘Everything’s not awesome, everything’s not cool and I am so depressed’.

Later, a little pep talk from one of the main characters shines a new, hopeful light on their situation and they modify their song to ‘Everything is not awesome. Things can’t be awesome all of the time… But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to make everything awesome in a less idealistic kind of a way.’ And those are basically my thoughts about the movie.

This sequel to The Lego Movie is just good enough when compared to its predecessor. There is still a lot of meta humor, washed down with a big gulp of pop culture references, with a sweet serving of a wholesomeness. However, the noisy, color-filled chain explosion does try your patience before it gets to the good bits.

The Second Part begins where the first ended. After saving the city, Emmet (Chris Pratt) and his friends are met with a new problem, the little sister wants to play with them and so do her unforgiving toys, who will munch on any peace offerings from the townspeople of Bricksburg.

We jump five years and the sweet town has been converted into a Mad Max-inspired post-apocalyptic world. Everything is hopeless and gloomy, but not for Emmet. He is still singing and believing that Everything Is Awesome.

His optimism seems childish to Lucy (Elizabeth Banks) and she demands that he should toughen up, be mature, grow up. So when terror strikes again and aliens from the nearby Systar System take Emmet’s friends hostage, it’s just the right opportunity for him to leave his sweet, innocent self behind and toughen up. Mentoring him into manhood is the manliest man brick in the universe, Rex Dangervest (also voiced by Pratt). The raptor-training-space hero-archeologist-cowboy-carpenter (an amalgamation of all of Pratt’s characters from Jurassic World, Guardians of the Galaxy, Parks and Recreation and others) helps Emmet rescue his friends from the clutches of evil queen Watevra Wa’nabi (Tiffany Haddish). She wants to marry Batman, by the way.

As you can tell, the movie begins on a messy and rather childish note, apparently with no other intention but to make kids laugh at the glitter-barfing brick and make adults laugh at sly digs at Marvel. It achieves that adequately well. Kids giggle at the exploding stars and are awestruck at Rex’s giant spaceship. Meanwhile, adults are kept entertained with Batman’s mention of Ben Affleck’s chiseled abs and Bruce Willis hanging out in air vents.

More hilarious bits include a nod to Avengers Infinity War’s gloomy ending and the genius play on words that will keep you hooked until the big twist and the big reveal. Upon the revelation, the entire last hour begins making more sense and doesn’t look as shallow as it did earlier.

The Everything Is Not Awesome song reminds of the despair the toys felt in Toy Story 3, as they held hands, headed towards the furnace, ready to die. Surely, nothing can beat the sullen sadness of that scene but The LEGO Movie 2 did come close.

Batman, played again by Will Arnette to a brooding perfection, is still the one to rake in maximum laughs and most kudos for his pop culture references, jealousy for Superman and the complete disdain for marriage. However, to watch him fall in love like a high school boy was just as fun.

The journey of Lego Movie 2 from the first minute to the happy ending was a steep upwards graph. It tests your patience at moments but rewards you just as well at the end. When I say the end, I mean the end credits. Don’t get off your seats until the screen fades to black; you won’t regret it.

© Copyright 2017 – 2019. ALL Rights Reserved.

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Ralph Breaks The Internet


It took six years for a Wreck-It Ralph sequel to take shape, and it quickly proves why. Ralph Breaks the Internet mostly eschews the video game cultural mash-up of the original to tell a kid-friendly story set inside the Internet. It’s such a different beast than its predecessor, and yet it’ll likely reach a similar adult audience as the original, as the barrier between gamers and memers isn’t too high, if it exists at all.

As far how the plot handles that transition, screenwriters Phil Johnston, also serving as co-director, and Pamela Ribon simply have the arcade owner plug in the establishment’s first Internet router. But an overlong first act has the unfortunate job of setting up the circumstances that bring Ralph (John C. Reilly) and Vanellope (Sarah Silverman) into the world wide web. There are too many scenes that exist to re-establish their friendship while they play in the same world as the original. It feels like a lifetime establishing Vanellope’s reason for going into the Internet (they have to find a spare part for her arcade machine on Ebay), and the script doesn’t clue us into Ralph’s arc until hers is ending.

But things pick up significantly when the pair starts exploring the Interweb. The jokes are largely simple, such as birds in a tree tweeting primarily photos of cats, and yet just clever enough that they feel fresh. The smart personification of pop-up ads (Bill Hader voices J.P. Spamley, get it?) breathes some life into the early Internet scenes, but the story really comes alive when Vanellope enters an online racing game far more violent and hardcore than her candy coated arcade machine. She’s inspired by that game’s popular racer Shank (Gal Gadot), and thus begins a journey of finding her true home. Splitting from Ralph, their individual journeys give Ralph Breaks the Internet some surprising emotional power in its second half.

Still, the animated sequel feels very much mass-produced and corporate-approved. When the entity doing the approving is Disney, the result is more often than not a mixed bag. When Vanellope visits a family friendly Disney fan site, it’s hard not to feel directors Johnston and Rich Moore sucking up to their corporate overlords. Nods to Marvel and Star Wars aren’t so much hidden as they drive the plot and humor. But then, sometimes the Disney brand is just undeniably strong and, when manipulated in clever ways, can be used effectively. Ralph Breaks the Internet‘s best scene sees Vanellope entering a room filled with all of the classic Disney princesses, from Snow White to Moana. It is an extended sequence written out of pure joy with not an ounce of cynicism. It’s one of the best moments of popular cinema this year, and gives way to one of the film’s other transcendent moments: a hysterical yet poignant song sung by Vanellope about finding where she belongs in a gritty, ultra-violent racing game.

The film draws her arc so smartly, that when it starts wrapping up as Ralph’s is getting started (far too late), the story at large starts to feel like overkill. And yet, the script still weaves in a powerful message about the nature of friendship that, while not wholly original, is relatively unexplored in children’s media.

So while the rough first half could definitely have been shorter, a lot of Ralph Breaks the Internet ends up being worthwhile. As a visual send-up of some of the Internet’s most popular corners, the film is clever and inventive, even if the jokes themselves likely won’t age well by the midway point of the 2020s. But this being as it may be, there’s an artfully written sequencing for the film and a strong heart rooted in friendship. By no means a classic, or capable of making much of a stir on the actual Internet, this animated sequel is coded to entertain, and that it does.

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