Weekend Watchlist | Better Than The First

By The Pitt News Staff

They say nothing beats the original, but we know that’s not always true. Every movie is getting a sequel or a reboot these days, and every once in a while that sequel is going to hit the mark and be better, or at least more fun, than the first. This week, the Pitt News staff is highlighting those very sequels.

Thor: Ragnarok (Disney+) // Sinéad McDevitt, Digital Manager

The first two “Thor” movies are very self-serious fantasy movies, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But when it comes to films I’ll readily rewatch, I’d much prefer Taika Waititi’s irreverent, colorful, comedy-action romp “Thor: Ragnarok.”

Taking place after the events of “Avengers: Age of Ultron” and “Thor: The Dark World,” Chris Hemsworth once again picks up his hammer as the titular character and returns to Asgard to find that Loki has taken Odin’s place as king. The brothers find their missing father, only for him to tell them that their older sister, Hela, the goddess of death — played by Cate Blanchett — is coming. A fight ensues and Thor and Loki end up trapped on a distant world while Hela begins her conquest of Asgard. Now Thor must team up with friends old and new to try and save his home and his people.

While the MCU is known for its snarky humor and constant quips, “Thor: Ragnarok” is especially gut-bustingly funny, taking the humor inherent in most comic book concepts and running with it, while at the same time telling a touching story about home, family and what those things mean.

Shrek 2 (Hulu) // Diana Velasquez, Contributing Editor

In no way could I ever fully capture the cultural phenomenon that is “Shrek.” There is so much horror and so much joy that this set of movies has created in the world, more often than not spurred on by the darker side of the internet. But whether or not you’re doing a “Shrek” deepdive into social media, there is no denying that “Shrek 2” has somehow, beautifully, wondrously, impossibly beat out the first. Cue the fairy godmother’s rendition of “I Need a Hero”.

“Shrek 2” follows on from the ending of the original. Now that Shrek (Mike Myers) and Fiona (Cameron Diaz) are married, they’ve been invited back to the kingdom of Far Far Away to meet Fiona’s royal parents King Harold (John Cleese) and Queen Lillian (Julie Andrews). Of course, the king and queen don’t expect Fiona to show up still cursed as an ogre with her mud-loving Scottish-brogued husband and his pet Donkey (Eddie Murphy). And so follows a magical meet-the-in-laws hell complete with ogre-to-human transformations, Antonio Banderas as a sword wielding tabby cat and one iconic musical number from the film’s villain, Fiona’s fairy godmother (Jennifer Saunders). The “I Need A Hero” scene I would say is better than the first “Shrek” on its own, there is no musical number that I could watch as many times in a row as I have this one. But all in all, “Shrek 2” capitalizes on the wonder of the first “Shrek” and turns it up ten times to wild success.

Hunger Games: Catching Fire (Amazon Prime) // Hayley Lesh, Staff Writer 

While the original “Hunger Games” film delivers action, tragedy and even a little romance, nothing quite compares to the franchise’s second installment — “Catching Fire.” The second film centers on the aftermath of the 74th Hunger Games as the main characters Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) realize that their victory during the games may not be enough to keep them safe from the Capitol’s grip on the surrounding districts.

“Catching Fire” not only serves a plot twist for fans, but it also possesses a display of new characters, including the cocky Finnick Odair (Sam Claflin) and the spunky Johanna Mason (Jena Malone). This “Hunger Games” sequel sets itself apart from its predecessor by producing a gripping and intense storyline that viewers will not foresee. It may seem difficult to top the original “Hunger Games,” but “Catching Fire” truly captures the essence of corruption and deceit that the franchise is known for. 


High School Musical 2 (Disney +) // Kaitlyn Nuebel, Staff Writer

The last time we did a “better than the first” weekend watchlist, I told you to go watch “High School Musical 3: Senior Year,” for no reason other than the fact that it opens with a closeup of Zac Efron’s sweaty forehead. Criticize the movie all you want, but it’s still the best one in the series — even if it does send the false message that long distance relationships will work out after high school.

But now we’re in a new semester with a fresh weekend watchlist, and since there’s nothing tackier than plagiarizing yourself, I’ll move past HSM 3. Instead, I’ll bring you “High School Musical 2,” the stepping stone between the series’ mediocre original and stunning finale anticipated by children all over the world.

I would say “High School Musical 2” is the one where the students of East High finally get a dose of reality when they start summer jobs, but since they work at a country club, this assertion would most certainly fall flat. Not once does Troy have a frustrated heart-to-heart with his dad about the amount of money the government takes from his paycheck. Still, even if the East High gang doesn’t learn anything practical all summer long, we certainly pick up a fair amount of info while watching them prance around a golf course for one hour and 51 minutes. Some of the movie’s main takeaways include:

  1. Chad looks great in a man bun
  2. Sharpay is always nicer by the end of the movie when her friends (friends?) break into song
  3. When he’s not busy being East High’s “hottie super-bum,” Troy Bolton is kind of a jerk — but expressing his emotions through “Bet On It” makes up for this.

The most shocking and worthwhile part of the movie comes at the end, with a brief appearance from Miley Cyrus. If for no other reason, watch the movie to find her. It’s like playing “Where’s Waldo” with a bunch of Disney extras and it gets me every time.

Spider-Man 2 (Amazon Prime Video, Starz Subscription) // Mera D’Aquila, For The Pitt News

“Hello, Peter.” These two simple words — which will undoubtedly become infamously quoted — serve as Marvel fans’ long-awaited reunion with legendary super villain Doc Ock (Alfred Molina). The recent release of the official teaser trailer for “Spider-Man: No Way Home” has garnered a fair amount of hype around his reappearance, but long before he was swept into this maddening multiverse, Doctor Octavius Spencer was the starring antagonist in arguably one of the best comic book films of all time.

In “Spider-Man 2,” director Sam Raimi continues the extraordinary storyline of teenage Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) as he grapples with the personal conflicts caused by his web-slinging alter ego and the urgency of defeating a respected scientist-turned-evil genius with mechanical octopus tentacles. The film proves that no amount of superpowers can prevent Parker from suffocating under the pressures of protecting his neighborhood, working for The Daily Bugle newspaper and connecting with his love interest, Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst) and childhood friend Harry Osborn (James Franco). Raimi considerably deepens the portrayal of universal teenage angst and hardship alongside the extraordinary circumstances of fulfilling heroic responsibilities. “Spider-Man 2” creates a flawless union between Raimi’s love of the horrific/supernatural and the style of the graphic novel. 

Even almost two decades after the film’s release, the adrenaline-fueled action sequences refuse to become dated. Not to mention, the standout montage that features B.J. Thomas’ classic song “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” is perhaps one of the most genius scenes in a superhero movie, single-handedly topping any scene in the previous installment. While it cannot be denied that our generation has an overwhelming preference for Tom Holland’s more fresh-faced portrayal of Spidey, Tobey Maguire was the guy who started it all and, as the trailer for “Spider-Man: No Way Home” suggests, the one who will be there in the very end.