Wednesday, December 19, 2012

More Film Review

It seems I've been seeing a lot of movies in the past two months. If anyone recalls the previous entry wherein I discussed going to the movie theater, there was a preview for Rise of the Guardians that made me have low expectations going in. In addition, I watched BraveThe Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, and now Rise of the Guardians. I liked Brave well enough, but that review will be a separate post, if ever. My ultimate opinion of the adaptation of William Joyce's work is that the story may have faired better as a long term serial, such as comic form, than squished into a 90 minute feature film. I can tell without having read any of the books that it suffers from most book adaptations in that it feels rushed and incomplete. I give it a 6.5 on a 10 star scale. Oh, and The Hobbit is definitely a 9, go see it if you haven't yet. There are plenty of good online reviews of it, so I'll leave the Googles to handle it. However, interested parties who want more of an answer on to how Peter Jackson is able to squish the Hobbit into three movies, can read this fine essay on textuality.

Out of the previews I hadn't seen before:

Escape from Planet Earth looks like Harold and Kumar with extraterrestrials.

Parental Guidance is a family comedy attempting to address the generation connect with millenials versus baby boomers. I couldn't stop staring at how fat Billy Crystal has gotten the whole trailer.

Cirque du Soleil is making a feature film with the help of James Cameron. I'm surprised it took this long for the company to produce one. They really couldn't have chosen a better person to help with the project as James Cameron is notorious for his special effects porn.

After Earth looks weird, and leaves me wondering how Will Smith feels about being typecast as the hero guy for post-apocalyptic stories.

Monsters University is revisiting Monsters Inc. characters in college. The trailer played out like a college attendance ad. Yay, higher education? The original movie was a 5 on a 10-star scale for me, so unlikely I will think much of this film.

Oblivion started out as a mind fog once Tom Cruise came into view. My mind woke back up when Morgan Freeman came into view.

Star Trek: Into Darkness I will be watching mostly for Benedict Cumberbatch, as I recently finished the Sherlock series to date and have a bit of a crush on him and his 1337 acting skills.

This movie isn't terrible, but I am left wanting more and questioning a lot of the decisions made in the plot. Going in, all I figured I would like is the character designs and some of the humor. It is a touching story about belief and guarding childhood innocence, but I still felt meh afterward. I am much more drawn to the concept art and extra comics on the Dreamworks tumblr and deviantART (rufftoon in particular did some great pre-movie comics of Pitch Black) than I was watching the film. I also really want to read the books, and maybe one day do a video commentary of the film. Until then, pretend this is the commentary track as you watch Rise of the Guardians.

After reading some synopses of the Guardians of Childhood series, the movie definitely would have faired better with early indications that the legendary figures who become guardians originate from somewhere.  I mean, the introduction is nice, with Jack's birth by moon magic and rising out of the water, however I am left with more questions than answers. I can only hope the disc release will have mini extras not unlike Kung fu Panda's background on the other martial artists of the Furious Five. The childish joy and innate creativity of Jack is present here with the magical ability to fly and create/mold ice, but the price being invisibility and inability to talk to people is rather steep. Plus, his questions of "why am I here" are most forward in my mind as well. Seeing as the Man in the Moon is the driving force for creating these mythological figures to watch over children, I question why he is treated as a god figure and kept out of sight of the audience. THIS BEING NEEDS TO BE SEEN AND HAVE HIS STORY TOLD. 

The introductions to the other characters reveals the innate quality of the guardians as protectors of the wonder and innocence of childhood, rather obvious given the titles of all in the series. Nicholas St. North is a great character, though, as far as Santa Claus renditions go, and not just because of his warrior skills, outlaw look, or great Russian accent. He is also shown to be a creator, in his ice molding of a working railroad and locomotive that turns into a jet. The yetis are a humorous touch, both in appearance and language, and as is later revealed, the actual workers at the North Pole. I'm uncertain what the elves are for, as they mostly seem clumsy and don't contribute much to either decorating or creation of foodstuffs.

The most evil thing the villain can do is cover everything with sparkly black sand. This phenomenon is apparently bad and not just a cheap grab for attention, sending North to sound the alarm and rally the Avengers other Guardians. The North Pole is a great base, and looks not unlike the technological powerhouses of the Batcave or the Q Branch; in this case, it relies on magic and steampunk awesomeness to monitor children's belief and send messages by northern lights.

The thing I couldn't fathom the entire time I anticipated this film was why the Tooth Fairy was part hummingbird. Thank goodness for Wikipedia. The Sandman is a great design, and has really good sand powers, much better than Gaara (sorry, Naruto fans). I mean, going from cloud dispersal unit to giant functional airplane takes some serious skill. I also admire the choice to keep Sandy nonvocal; communicating by sand emote whenever a direct answer is needed is definitely well-suited for animation, although it seems this quality is so he won't wake up anyone, which is silly when no one around him is asleep.

E. Aster Bunnymund, as he is known in the books, is a funny fellow, because of course he travels by tunnel, but I don't understand how he is so affected by the cold, seeing as he has good fur coverage. Then again, being a springtime holiday, he's probably not designed for freezing temperatures (making his anger at the blizzard of '68 a touch more understandable). He also takes his work very seriously, and must be damned talented if he can throw a hissy fit while still expertly painting an egg. I really like the choice of Hugh Jackman for the role, but wonder how much that decision influenced the Australian-warrior look and attitude of the final character, as the book seems to follow a different path. Also, I am now pondering why a symbol of a spring festival of fertility is traditionally male...

After the realization that there is indeed a threat from the Nightmare King, the guardians are tasked with inviting their newest addition, whom we cut to. After a few centuries of practice, it is obvious Jack is quite adept now at both flying and causing chaotic fun. Apparently he's buddies with the wind, but this idea isn't explored further. Also I'm confused as to where Jack's home is, as he refers to it, but never actually goes there. His direct interaction with children is clearly what the rest of the guardians are lacking, as I've yet to see any of the others actually play with the beings they are sworn to protect. There follows a cute snowball fight, the revelation that Jack's talent is Happy Snow®, and a demonstration of how physics is a bitch (but all in good fun, right Dreamworks?). It is also clear that despite multiple references in songs and stories, no one actually believes in Jack Frost, keeping him sad and lonely. However, his innate curiosity allows the plot to move forward from this moment of depression, as well as reveal the villain's plot to steal children's dreams and create nightmares to give himself more power. I am wondering if the Nightmare King's penchant toward divaness is at all the influence of Loki from the Thor movie, or if evil diva has always been a thing and I'm just now noticing.

Considering all I've seen of Jack Frost so far, I'd have to agree with the guy that welcoming him to the Guardians' fold with fanfare, synchronized dancing, and new, overly sparkly shoes is not the way to get him to take the oath. Again establishing that he is a lone wolf and doesn't work well with others, there comes a long sequence with naughty list jokes, more exploration of the workshop, all in order for Santa to have a private conversation with Jack (hey, it's the main challenge of changing from a textual medium to a visual one). North uses the analogy of stackable Russian dolls to explain how one must find the center of one's being (i.e. special talent) to embrace the nature of being a guardian or something. I get the feeling both me and Jack lost track of the conversation somewhere during this monologue. At least he isn't whiny and bitchy like Anakin Skywalker. Now that we have added to Jack's personal quest, it's time for conflict!

Tooth's palace is under attack by nightmares, so off go the guardians. The sequence with the sleigh is rather brilliant, because of course it's awesome, Bunny is afraid of heights, and Sandy gets to be silly. I also would love magic portal orbs. They would be as useful as magic portal drums. I question how Jack is a good driver despite all evidence pointing to him never having driven in his life, much less something like Santa's sleigh. The villain wanted the fairy minions and the teeth, but the why will have to wait until after he's done with his Bond villain spiel. Pitch Black the Nightmare King (Bogeyman) is an understandable villain, as all he wants is to be believed in, although the whole fear and darkness thing is rather cliche. His design reminds me of Hades from the Disney Hercules, but without the fire. I can't imagine it's easy though, having a talent no one appreciates or wants around.

Anyhow, now the audience is allowed to know (unless you read the books) that children's teeth contain their memories. Thus the next goal in Jack's quest for identity is revealed, as it is also explained that each of the guardians were human (special animal?) before “ascending.” However before that, the heroes have to race against time to continue the tooth fairy work and maintain children's belief to keep Tooth alive until they can recover the stolen fairies and teeth from Pitch. Silly montage is silly, as is the fact that Tooth has an entire diverse army all over the world tasked with collecting teeth and leaving gifts behind (mice in the European division!). Of course, the other guardians being boys, the job quickly turns into a competition, and halfway through the night realize they forgot about leaving gifts, which I think was just an excuse to have the visual joke of getting coins from a laundromat. Besides, later the competition starts up again with each guardian leaving elaborate gifts, which again, seems just an excuse for jokes such as to have North start leaving decorated Christmas trees in children's rooms.

Then comes a visit to Jamie, a child Jack had played with earlier, and the hilarious consequence of the kid waking up while the guardians bicker and squabble over his tooth. Hilarious squabbling continues as the guardians attempt to keep the kid calm while they figure out how to put the kid to sleep. Oh wait, that's Sandy's job. Jamie's pet greyhound is in the room, though, and starts a glowering contest with Bunnymund, which Jack thinks would be much more exciting as an actual fight. Apparently being seven feet tall and an accomplished fighter doesn't stop instinctual fear of one's enemies. Jack's prank backfires, and three of the guardians are put to sleep in addition to Jamie and the dog.

Of course, the villain is hardly idle, and it is apparent his next target is Sandy. Jack and Sandman chase the obvious trap of the nightmares, which in addition to showing that Sandy is a badass ninja, also reveals that dreams can play with each other. The cutaway reveals the problematic wandering of Sophie, Jamie's baby sister, who gets a hold of one of Santa's magic portal orbs and heads off to Bunny's realm which manages to wake up Santa who must have grabbed the other two sleeping guardians and ran off in search of Jack and Sandy, as they manage to make it into the next scene. Back to the battle with the nightmares, Jack shows off his power, albeit inadvertently, Sandy is devoured, and the guardians are forced to flee and recoup their losses. Easter is the next day, so the heroes must scramble to pull off the egg hunt in time to keep Bunny's powers going, despite the still very dangerous threat of Pitch.

In the warren, it is again brought to the audience's attention that the other guardians have not actually played with children in a very long time. As North says, "We are so busy creating wonders for children! We have no time for children!" Jack has to teach them basic social skills, which is beyond ironic. The following montage of preparing the eggs for Easter is both bizarre and endearing (walking eggs, wow), but I did love the rivers of sparkly paint.

Back on the surface, Jack clearly did not go to hero training, and does not realize that hearing a familiar voice after three hundred years is an obvious trap. It would be a thing for the Nightmare King to live underground, even if it wasn't established in the books. Pitch once again shows off his manipulative ass Bond villain impression, and offers Jack the thing he wants most in exchange for staying out of the fight with the guardians. I will note I was rather distracted by the frost detail on Jack's clothes during this sequence.

Upon Jack's return to the surface, it is revealed the eggs were assaulted by nightmares and destroyed before reaching the surface. With no eggs, the children stop believing in Bunny, so now he must deal with being invisible to mortal eyes. Now follows the obligatory internal party conflict and turning upon the rookie, who has developed a terribly timed stutter to prevent his explanation of Pitch's trickery. So of course Jack would run to Antarctica in an emo fit of 'woe is me.'

By now one would think that Jack learned his lesson that Pitch isn't trustworthy, but at least he ultimately rejects Pitch's offer of alliance to create fear and darkness. Pitch now performs a totally dick move and holds Baby Tooth fairy hostage for Jack's stick (which isn't the source of his power, wtf). After beating the crap out of Jack, Pitch heads off to continue his evil Bond villain deeds, or something. The rescued Baby Tooth helps to revive Jack and opens his memories for him, revealing the obligatory sad family past (and resulting death that lead to his ascension). Jack gains new confidence now that he knows his center (special talent = happy snow, remember?) which is apparently being chaotic fun in the face of danger. Jack also mysteriously gains the power to mend wood.

Cut away to North's base being attacked, and Pitch triumphantly stamping out the remaining belief on the globe model, except for one stubborn little light, which happens to be Jamie, the child from earlier. He is talking to his stuffed animal to grant him a sign he isn't crazy and the guardians are real. He obviously has serious mental issues if talking to his toys is his best support for confirming reality, but hey, children have great imaginations. Jack, being a clever lad, uses his ice molding talents to get Jamie to believe in the Easter Bunny. Now that we're done with the obligatory heart-touching moment, Santa shows up with the gang to protect the last child on earth who still believes in them. Apparently belief is the magic that powers sled driving ability and one's size, as both have severely gone down in quality since these characters were last seen. Cute little Bunny is cute, pffft. Pitch attacks with his nightmares, which now resemble a tidal wave, and the heroes must rally. After some fighting and the obligatory team effort speech, everyone realizes fun is Pitch's kryptonite.

Sledding around on some convenient large woks, the heroes gather Jamie's friends using Jack's Happy Snow ability and reawaken their belief in the legendary guardians, which prompts the obligatory heroic stand of the children. In case you've been missing it, our overarching message in this movie is that of children = future. Weather safety is obviously not on many of their minds, though, as many of the children lack proper coats and footwear. Oh well, the plan works, as Sandy returns and we have gratuitous yeti fights. Also egg tiki warrior statues and a life-size brontosaurus of sand!

With all the fun weakening Pitch's fear effect, it only takes a good hit from Sandy to put the Nightmare King to sleep and allow the guardians to finish off the rest of the nightmares. Jack is given a cute Russian doll by Santa upon the battle's end, and the snow party continues. After a few more visual and spoken jokes, Pitch revives, only to slink off into the woods. The party chases after him, back to the pond of Jack's birth. It should be noted that for a bird, Tooth has a wicked punch. Pitch still attempts to remain a returning villain with his blah blah blah fear is me blah blah, only for everyone to quickly realize that all the nightmares surrounding them is from Pitch's fear. Being dragged off to be destroyed by his own creations/allies feels a lot like the ending to We're Back: A Dinosaur Story, the Disney Hercules, the Disney Princess and the Frog, and probably many more movies.

Jack is sworn in as a guardian, commencing the cheering and celebrating of all the characters and guardian minions. As the obligatory older sibling-wisdom-bonding moment occurs, I am left wondering why the children are allowed on this twice-stated dangerous pond in the middle of winter weather, with Sandy's dream sand raining down clearly meant to put the children to sleep and left outside so the guardians can slip away. Riding out into the night, Jack's moral of this adventure is that if the moon tells you something, you should believe it. Which must be why driving on full moon nights is so dangerous, as everyone is listening to moon speak rather than paying attention to the road. Luckily the credits show the children being returned to their homes with the help of the guardian minions, along getting teeth brushed, tucked in and all. I did like the final note of the film with Phil the yeti signing Jamie's monster book on the Sasquatch page.

As I said earlier, the film is about 6.5/10. Entertaining, but felt lacking enough to not warrant a second viewing.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Much Ado with Movies

This Veteran's Day, I hit up my favorite thrift store for the 50% off sale and managed to find everything I wanted except what I originally wanted to find, which was some nice button up shirts. Between my shoulders and my chest size, it is hard to find button-ups that will look fitted without looking like they might explode open from my boobs. That is a sentence I never thought I'd write...

Anyways, afterward I headed to the movie theater to finally see Wreck-It Ralph, and also happened to catch Frankenweenie. I went in with high expectations for Wreck-It Ralph, as both my brothers, avid video game fans, and the lovely writers of The Mary Sue site both gave high marks for story and characterization. More on these gems later.

Firstly, previews of movies that are coming out, and what I think of them:

Rise of the Guardians: I am fully behind reimaginings of myths, especially when it comes to Guillermo del Toro's imagination, and Peter Ramsey has more hits than misses when it comes to  movies. However, I am seriously questioning Jack Frost as the protagonist, as the combination of Chris Pine and the pale skater boy look remind me more of someone from the cast of Twilight than something with more substance like this movie is looking to be. His attitude in the trailers isn't helping either: he seems so emo, in an Anakin Skywalker kind of way (meaning terrible). I'm willing to give it a shot, though. If anything, butch Russian Cossack Santa Claus and Australian warrior Easter Bunny will make for an entertaining ride. I have mixed feelings about the tooth fairy, but I've read stranger things, so again, willing to give a bird looking fairy a chance. Sandman is clearly the cute mascot, which seems odd to me when they've got all those elves, and Nightmare King Guy is clearly a recycled villain trope, but maybe they'll do something slightly different with it. I'll wait and see.

Oz, The Great and Powerful: I am loving the effort put into making Oz look awesome, but I am hating the Hollywood need to take classic children's stories and make them more grownup, and therefore sexy (gives stinkeye to Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland). I have serious reservations I will enjoy this, as the Wizard has always been an old man for a reason. I also seriously doubt Hollywood will follow the actual story and allow Mr. Wizard to remain a street magician with some seriously good stage skills who clumsily makes his way to power through illusion and trickery. Yet who knows, maybe allowing Harry Osborn free run of Oz will make some amazing entertainment. March 2013 cannot come soon enough.

Smurfs 2: WHY? Live action or 3D imaginings of 2D animated characters only emphasizes how uncanny their anatomy is. CGI smurfs look WEIRD. Plus the first movie wasn't very good from what I've heard of it.

The Croods: I am failing to see this movie having more plot than Dreamworks showing off how pretty they can make computer worlds. The trailer implies little of what will happen beyond trying to survive. Heck, if the family even has character growth I will be amazed, as all the sitcom tropes are present: angry teenage girl, ditzy grandma, controlling dad, other relatives that sometimes have speaking parts...

The Hobbit: Squee! Mostly my gripes at this point are consistent from when I first saw the production photos and heard the confirmation release date: Why do some of the dwarves look human? And how the heck is Peter Jackson stretching this barely over 300 page novel into 3 movies? I have very high hopes, though, and will be going to see it for my birthday.

Despicable Me 2: If this movie addresses my biggest gripe with the first film, which was why they didn't at least hint Gru would raise his daughters to follow in his villainous ways, then I will be a happy fan.

Now for Wreck-It Ralph! Spoilers ahead, and I apologize not at all for going MST3K-style on my review of the film.

I really liked the pre-film short, Paperman. It seemed to capture some of that classic Disney magic. I enjoyed the choice to have the characters not talk, and the driving element was magical paper airplanes! I loved the animation style and the love story was quite cute.

Something that immediately impressed me was the contrast between pixel view and "behind-the-screens" view. The richness of detail put into the video game character's perception of their world was quite amazing. Also, I wonder how many people caught the subtle jab at progress over nature when the premise of Ralph's game is that his forest home was torn up and built over with a high-rise building that he feels he should destroy for wrecking his land.

M. Bison's accusation of Ralph going "Turbo" made me think of Street Fighter II Turbo (spoiler, it's not). Very good work there, Mr. Lasseter... Also awesome is the fact that the pac-man ghost is busy knocking about his "room" when the Bad Guys Anon meeting breaks up.

The cord travel is ingenious, as are the "surge protectors." Poor Q*Bert guys, if anyone in the audience still didn't care about Ralph, his generosity here should drive it home that he is more than his bad guy status.

It is during the first view of Game Central that I made the vow to buy this movie and watch it frame by frame to catch all the video game references. I especially found Sonic the Hedgehog's PSA very funny.

I feel really bad for Ralph during the anniversary party scene. Felix, being a genuine Nice Guy, just can't say no to him not being invited in. I kind of want to punch Gene in the face, though; you'd think after thirty years and Ralph's obvious depression would tip them off to his mental state by this point, but then, the denizens of Niceland seem like typical ignorant suburbanites that way.

I highly suspect somewhere out there is a game based on being a bartender, but hilarious nonetheless for the arcade characters to have a bar called "Tapper." Ralph is clearly not that bright though, as you'd think that a guy in heavy-duty, futuristic armor who freaks out at a cockroach no bigger than his thumb would be some indication of the level of violence his game is capable of. I do thank the writers for thinking of leaving Zangief's underwear in the Lost and Found, as Mr. Soldier would otherwise have to deal with letting people know the awkward fact that men have certain anatomical features between their legs that can be covered by positioning their legs in the proper sitting position. Or maybe Ralph wants to save him some dignity, who knows.

Mr. Lasseter, I salute you for not only having a girl play Hero's Duty, but an obviously shy and geeky glasses-wearing girl play it. By the way, I love Jane Lynch, and Sgt. Calhoun is one tough mamma jamma.

I am literally biting my lip to restrain my raucous laughter at the bug zapper method of clearing the psybugs for new games. I have to admire Ralph's determination to overcome obvious obstacles in his quest for the medal, and silently cheer his brief moment of victory, knowing his innate clumsiness was about to once again make things awful for everyone.

My initial impression of Sugar Rush land is that someone put Dr. Seuss, Candyland, and Strawberry Shortcake in a blender and loaded up on sugar puns.

Sarah Silverman is awesome at anything she does. Being a pint-sized sarcastic little smartass is the perfect foil to big and clumsy Ralph.

King Candy reminds me of a very gay Disney Mad Hatter circa 1951. Sometimes the candy jokes aren't very subtle, I mean the cops are doughnuts!

The explanation of Turbotime now makes all the references to "going turbo" quite different. The fem-dom relationship role for the budding romance with Calhoun and Felix is quite interesting for a Disney movie. Cracking up at the Laffy Taffy vines.

The bakery build-a-kart mini game is not helping me want to play Sugar Rush (please become an actual game!). Ralph is so cute as he breaks everything trying to make something. I'm actually impressed with Vanellope's kart, it's a glittery candy brownie!

At first I thought people avoided Diet Coke mountain because it was sugar-free, but I guess soda lava with the potential damage of Mentos explosion is a good reason...The training montage is really cute. It's at this point I'm realizing these events are all happening in one night...

The terrible thing about tricksters is that they can use the truth to lie. King Candy makes some obvious sense, but you can literally feel each blow to your heart as Ralph wrecks Vanellope's kart and tells her not to race. Again, we are reminded that Ralph isn't that bright, but once he catches on, he is a very bad enemy to have.

The racetracks for Sugar Rush look as challenging as anything Mario Kart has churned out. Besides, I would love to lob ice cream missiles and candy bazookas at other players! I really need to brush up on my narrative structures, as I totally should have guessed King Candy was Turbotime by now. I am also seeing how some people are griping about a gay effeminate character once again being the villain. I mean, there ARE other ways to show someone being a silly nutter without referencing their sexuality. Although the only argument for his status is that he corrects Ralph's evaluation on his love for pink because the color is obviously salmon. Then again, there are very few recognizable tropes who can make that joke work.

The psybugs are clearly a threat, but mostly I kept wondering why they didn't rush Vanellope across the finish line anyway? Maybe it has to be intact for the race to finish? I'd think resetting the game would eliminate the psybugs, but then, we wouldn't get Ralph getting to make a heroic self-sacrifice move. By the way, the combination King Candy/Turbotime/psybug is definitely going in my nightmare material.Yay for Ralph getting a dramatic heroic moment, and Vanellope getting to show off her skillz in the name of friendship!

No one in their right mind would believe Sarah Silverman capable of being a pretty sparkly princess. Luckily, neither did the writers of Vanellope. I am loving the political implications here, though, of presidency over monarchy. That was pretty awesome how she duped the other racers with that "everyone who was ever mean to me will be...executed" line.

So, Ralph has accepted that his label doesn't define him, the denizens of his game have learned to treat him better, Vanellope gets to be a star racer, and the Q*bert family gets a new home! Everyone wins! Also, I would totally love to have the glitching power in any game. Seriously, it would better than god-moding. I would have liked more implication of  Vanellope and Ralph getting to visit more often, although now I'm wondering if the credit montage of the main characters playing around in games is canon.

This movie makes a lot more sense once you realize everyone's actual name, fair warning. I never saw the short this film was based on, but I could tell right away from the trailer it was going to reference or at least parody classic monster films of early cinema. If that wasn't enough, turning Cinderella's castle into something Gothic out of an 18th century story at the title screen would have sold me.

Victor Frankenstein's home monster movie with his dog, Sparky, would have made any monster fan proud. It's actually quite a good attempt for something thrown together with a dog, toys, and cardboard buildings.

I am constantly blown away by the level of detail in this world. The little books and posters, not to mention the textures and classic film black and white make for a very believable world. Sparky is also the cutest dog, I would prefer him to my current one that farts in my room all the time. His interactions with Persephone the poodle are consistently adorable.

So, based on constant frown, overly controlling demeanor, and general unpleasantness, Mayor Uncle Bob Dutch of New Holland is supposed to be our main antagonist.

Mr. Rzykruski is an amazing science teacher. Can we send him back in time to my grade school years? Who else would teach about lightning as if it was immigration, and demonstrate neuromuscular activity with a dead frog and car jumper cables?

It is at this point that I realize Tim Burton went all out with the monster references, as most of the students have a monstery look about them similar to classic monsters. For example, we have Edgar E. Gore, who is a hunchback and missing teeth, looking all weasely and conniving. We also have Elsa Van Helsing, an eerie girl who always looks shocked (reminds me somewhat of Merricat Blackwood), with a creepy kitty named Mr. Whiskers that makes prophecies with his poop...Nassor looks like Frankenstein's monster, and there the similarities end. Unless Bob is supposed to be the Blob or something. Toshiaki, Victor, and Cynthia Dutch actually have the most normal (for Tim Burton) seeming appearances.

Mr. Frankenstein, the travel agent, strikes me as meaning well, but seriously needs to get a clue and encourage his son to pursue what he actually likes, meaning science. Although I'm sure he feels really bad about Sparky getting hurt because of his suggestion to get Victor to try baseball.

The pet graves are hilarious, I mean, Bubbles the fish gets a fishbowl? I can't recall the snake's name, but it was a very tall grave.

Victor needs to learn something important about grave robbing: don't leave evidence there was grave robbing!

So in cartoon Tim Burton world, movies still get to be live action...Also, Victor is a very good ninja.

I am not understanding all the appliances being used as conductor/generators, but then again, this is science fiction for a reason. Sparky LIVES!

Victor's mom seems rather ditzy, I mean a robotic bucket? There aren't any buttons or anything! Victor also shows his youth as he clearly did not think through how to hide his reanimated dog who still likes to bark and explore things. The female dog as bride of frankenstein though was a joke that needed to be done, clearly.

This dog is now a robot, if it can be recharged like a battery, lol. OMG his eyes even glow in the dark!

Edgar may be a manipulative little twit, but he's rather bold and badass about it, I feel. His choice of a dead fish for attempting the experiment again is rather bizarre though. Scary invisible fish is scary.

Toshiaki may be smart, but clearly needs work on the ethics aspect of science if he thinks it's ok for his classmate to test their untested soda bottle rocket pack on the roof of a house.

Teacher Rzykruski is still awesome, but methinks his English and social skills need more work. Telling people intent on firing you they are stupid, ignorant, and that your best bet to improve them is to open their children's heads and get at their brains is not the best way to keep your job. Still, ignorant parents are ignorant if they only just heard Pluto is not a planet anymore (although I agree it was a stupid change). During his leaving, he is clearly very wise, though, as he makes some good points about people liking what science can give, but not the questions that need to be asked to get there. Victor clearly understands the need to have heart in pursuing anything, but the other children are desperately in need of the lesson that science isn't innately good or bad, it is in how it is used.

I feel so bad for Cynthia, she is clearly as isolated as Victor, but for different reasons.

Victor's parents are awesome! I wasn't sure they'd react so well to finding out their son dabbled in reanimation.

I am continually amazed that the other students are still obsessed with winning the science fair trophy after everything that's happened. I changed my mind, Edgar is a weak ass prick. Toshiaki may be the most evil of this group, but clearly all these kids are psycho.

I am confused as to how Sparky's grave got refilled (Victor clearly didn't in his rush to sneak the body back to his house earlier). It is rather ironic that Sparky's grave is the only place he felt safe enough to rest.

I am continuing my sympathy for Cynthia. Not only for having Mayor Bob Dutch as an uncle, but also having to wear that outfit and sing the town anthem, yeesh.

I want to research this later, but it seems that each kid picked an animal according to their personality, or at least their image as presented in the movie. See, Elsa Van Helsing's cat grabbed a bat and turned into a vampire-like bat cat (I will call it hellcat); Edgar E. Gore made a rat monster; Nassor apparently had a hamster named Colossus (weird or else very rich to have such an elaborate tomb); and Toshiaki uses his turtle, Shelley, to make a Godzilla sized monster (rolling my eyes at the obvious jokes here); while Bob somehow makes gremlin/creatures of the black lagoon out of sea monkeys.

Mayor seems like a typical politician and runs away at the first sign of actual crisis, but hiding in a port-o-potty? Very low, but laughing at the attacking sea monkeys.

Epic monster fight! Victor uses BRAINS, it's very effective! (sorry for pokemon joke, actually not really). I am not understanding Toshiaki's OCD need to record everything even in the face of very obvious danger to himself.

Now we have the classic Frankenstein movie mob and chase scene, ending at the classic windmill. Ineffective adults are ineffective.

The hellcat is seriously getting on my nerves, but it gets to die a dramatic vampire death, so ok. Epic scene with Sparky!

Victor's dad redeems himself, it is too true that sometimes adults don't know what they're talking about. What follows though, is something that tends to bug me at times about American films. In any other country, this movie would have ended with Sparky staying dead and Victor learning that some things science shouldn't mess with, but still able to handle his grief in the face of his dog being heroic rather than losing him to accident. The fact that the adults were willing to try to revive Sparky was satisfying enough, I think the audience could have handled Sparky remaining dead. I mean, now that he is "alive" again, how is the rest of the world going to react to a boy who has the means to bring back the dead? Yet, as the end song for the credits says, "love is strange."

This movie is way cuter than the original Frankenstein story, but not nearly as resonant as Tim Burton's last attempt with the same plot, which was Edward Scissorhands. I think I'd still watch it again though.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Just some venting

This story occurs one week ago:
I barely remember the drive home. My mind focuses on the tight grip of the steering wheel and I barely feel my limbs as I shut off the car and grab my bags before walking into the house. I give a mumbled greeting to my father as I wobble over to my room. I set my things down on the bed, turn around, and promptly kneel on the floor. As I fall onto my side, all I can think of is how nice it is to just rest for a bit on solid ground. 

Some minutes later, the voice in the back of my mind screeching to grab my cell phone out of my bag that’s fallen to the floor to call for help manages to pierce through the dizziness and numb feeling of my thoughts. I shuffle slowly, already feeling tears dripping down my cheeks as my body starts reacting to the stress of being unable to distinguish up from down. The world tilts, and my phone is in my hand. My skull feels too tight, there is a pounding pain in my sinuses, and I feel as though I'm stuffed with cotton balls. I’m distantly aware I need to move my fingers on the touch screen of the phone, but it’s all I can do is grip the device tight in my hand to assure my body that I’m not about to fall into an empty abyss and recite the mantra that the tilting sensation will pass. I lay down again and close my eyes, trying to keep breathing through the panic that’s beginning to overwhelm me.

That is the position my father finds me in some minutes later, and promptly screams for my mom and brother to come help him guide me through another episode of overwhelming vertigo. Eventually I become aware of my body again, and even manage to sit up with some assistance from my brother. Ben at least knows how to keep his wits about him even if he's freaking out over seeing one of my 'episodes.' I have to mix a dose of Head-B-Clear bath salt mix to clear my head of the congestion that aggravated my condition, as no one could read the recipe I typed out for the homemade bath product, or else they couldn't find it in the box of bath product ingredients, but that sort of thing happens a lot around here. Apparently I have the sort of mind that is difficult to predict.

It’s episodes like these that make me wonder if I’ll ever be able to have a normal career, though, or be able to live on my own. When I get a bad enough episode of vertigo thanks to Miniere's syndrome or something else that remains undiagnosed, I’m literally needing to be laid out flat, unable to focus on much besides inane media on the internet or flip through the tv channels. When I can’t even control my body or feel like I’m even ’present,’ I feel very down and hopeless for a long while afterwards. Heck, I've already run into difficulties in two different semesters because I wasn't able to even attend classes. I really don’t know much else to do except keep trying to move forward and wait for my body to become mine to control once more.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Road Trip: Part Three

The final morning in Seattle we stopped in at Mile High Pie, where there was excellent food and a hilarious and cute bathroom mural.

The remaining leg of the trip was a visit to Idaho, and my old CoI campus. It was great to relive those memories of my first college experience, We took a video walking tour, before stocking up at a nearby coffee shop and heading back to Nevada.

The trip back had some interesting events as well, as there was some crazy wind conditions causing dust-devils to chase each other around the desert. Quite incredible to see, and we did our best in filming them.

Reaching Reno, we decided on one last splurge and went for sushi up in Spanish Springs. We were lucky to see a local craft fair in the parking lot, and spent a good hour or so wandering the booths. I spent more money than was probably wise :/ but also got a lot of good adverts of local artists. The sushi at __ was fantastic, and upon getting home was not as terrible as I feared. The house was still intact, the rooms were relatively clean, and I didn't get any urge to run away screaming. A successful end to my vacation, I think.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Road Trip: Part Two

I seem to be mired in school and internship commitments. Today is the first time in a long while that I felt okay with sitting down to blog about my thoughts. How I long for that week in August when my mind was freer to enjoy the open road.

First though, I'll place some pictures from the drive through Oregon. It really was beautiful with the smoke clouding the sky, even though the smell was not as enjoyable.

SO, after wandering around Pike Place for most of the day, my friend and I managed to walk past a bar decorated with very colorful imagery. Since the name of the place was Unicorn, we spent a good five minutes trying to use our phones to figure out if it was a gay bar. It's totally not, but something even more awesome. What sealed the deal were two "hobos" outside the door: a scuffed-up Storm Trooper with a sign reading, "Teenagers blew up the Death Star, every little bit helps" as well as a bloodied Black Knight.

Inside was a neon and darklight carnival that we quickly guessed was set up for geeks in mind, as in the downstairs area there were no fewer than 10 pinball machines, and an adult-themed claw game with such things as dildos, condoms, hemorroid cream, and a giant stuffed unicorn. The upstairs area had a lot of stuffed animal heads and other things on the wall. Seriously, is this not awesome? The drinks menu was in keeping with the theme of "We are crazy, but also cool" as you can see in this picture:
The menu also had awesome things on it. I for instance, had a really nice quinoa salad thing, but as was becoming too much of a habit on this trip, I was neglecting to take any pictures. It also didn't help that everything was under dim lighting and my phone camera didn't have good flash. Coincidentally, we had wandered into Unicorn on a night where a cosplayer club was having an outing. I recall seeing Naruto, a couple of what might have been Pokemon, catwomen, and some sort of other ninja. It was quite fun, and definitely a place I'd love to go to if I lived in the city.

The next day we headed to Ballard to do touristy things. We drove through the neighborhood before going to one of the boat lock parks, and got to see one of them working. I took a couple videos of it, here and here. Then we drove past the Fremont Troll and waved at him before going to lunch at JhanJay Vegetarian Thai over in Wallingford. I certainly will miss how many nice vegetarian restaurants there are when I return to Nevada. Here's my Thai tea as I remembered I had a camera phone:
After some excellent spicy tofu, we wandered along the street and found a kid's toy shop where I got Sirenidi a rainbow puzzle toy. Then we went to Gasworks Park where my friend was ecstatic for the two hours we wandered around looking at the machinery and overgrown bushes of blackberries (she's really into industrial post-apocalyptic stuff). 

There was going to be more in this post, but once again I went too picture crazy. Until my next moment of free time!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Road Trip 2012 Part One

The road trip is a brilliant idea provided you have the funds (or a decent credit card) to make it happen. It also helps to have good travel companions. This fact makes me realize why I hated car trips with the family for so many years. Being crowded into a back seat with my brothers and sister for several hours is not nearly the same as swapping driving duty with my bff Jennifer from high school for several hours. For one thing, we manage to talk a lot more about things we have in common. Plus, with good travel companions, even the shitty parts of the trip become something to laugh about and share for many years. Also, I reeeaaallly like my car, Rosalinda.

At first, the plan was to drive up to Oregon early in the morning with plenty of time to stop and stare at interesting things along the way. However, my friend's flight was delayed as she arrived at LAX airport far too late to make the departure, and therefore had to summon financial support from outside sources to make another flight. This outside source didn't take into account we wanted to go NORTH to OREGON, and instead of looking for any city that would suffice to keep us within our time frame, such as Sacramento, decided to just rebook a later flight to Reno. Killing time with taking my brother to work and double checking all supplies packed in the car, my friend didn't arrive until around 2:30 pm, so it wasn't until 3:00 pm that we were able to leave Reno.

The drive north through Susanville was very interesting, and I wish we both had been able to get better pictures, because all of the smoke was so thick the landscape looked like a post-apocalyptic setting. It also helped that it was very empty with only scattered buildings and farm houses. I had been a very good Girl Scout by the way, and had plenty of food and self-defense items should we have run into zombies or punk bikers looking for fuel.

Towards evening, we stopped in Burney, CA at a Chinese restaurant my friend insisted looked too sketchy, but that I insisted was the perfect way to get the experience out of the way early on in the vacation. It was pretty decent Chinese food, and they even had pretty good vegetarian options. The drive further on skirted past a solid chunk of national forest, and we managed to hit Mt. Shasta National Park around sunset, which still looked pretty cool with all the smoke in the distance turning the sun a brilliant shade of red. Stopping in Weed, CA, we didn't find the tacky gift shop that tried to extol the virtues of the town's name in the form of gratuitous amounts of merchandise. It was still worth a chuckle, and we made good time the rest of the way up to Bend, OR. Understand that it was past midnight by then, so we both promptly passed out.

The next morning, Jennifer found out that the bookings did not include breakfast, as she has previously thought. This was an unfortunate development for our budgets, and neither of us felt particularly excited about the buffet or breakfast menu, so off into town we went. Luckily we were both modern young women with smart phones, and could map our way a few blocks to someplace claiming to be a cafe. I say "claiming" because the place wouldn't open until 11 am. Ludicrous! So to kill about 40 minutes of time we wandered around the strip mall area, and found the awesomest spice store! We seriously spent about 20 minutes browsing and smelling and tasting. I am asking for spice blends for the holidays. So to anyone wanting to impress me, is the magical place where dreams are made. Or at least really awesome curry blends. The lady there was really nice to us two tourists not intending to buy anything, and even recommended an awesome breakfast place. McKay's Cottage is one of the prettiest little cafe/restaurants, and it helped the weather was so nice to sit under the trees. Look at all the happy customers!

Jenn ordered an Eggs Benedict served on foccacia with red bell pepper, spinach, and perfect crispy, chewy bacon, while I splurged and got Stuffed French Toast. They frickin made it out of croissants, with mascarpone! *Drool,* Sorry, it still brings good memories. Of course, that breakfast had the unfortunate result of making my friend fall in love with Oregon, when the whole goal of the trip was to visit Washington and keep it in mind as a future place to live. It became a good-natured argument the rest of the way to Seattle.

We actually had to stop in another little place in Oregon, because my shoulders started hurting, and we found the most awesome gel massager thing at Ross! We also got a skull pillow for my car, a neck aromatherapy cushion-thing, and also the brilliant invention of shoe straps to turn dress shoes into strappy dress shoes (Fact: I never thought I could wear strappy dress shoes because usually they have needle-thin heels and I feared breaking something, so I usually avoided them). And that is how I had possibly the best nap while riding in a car, ever.

It also meant my first view of Seattle was unimpeded by trying not get anyone killed with my car. Seattle at sunset was very pretty, and there was just enough light to see how the buildings and highways stacked on top of each other, and how there were so many growing things, as though all the manmade things were a new breed of organism sprouting out of the hillside and flowing down the hills into the water. There was also Safeco stadium, which I at first thought might have been a shopping center and couldn't imagine walking through it when my local Whole Foods makes me twitchy, but then my friend started trying to remember who the Seattle sports teams were and I felt silly. Also, for anyone traveling to Bothell, Washington, the area we stayed at did not have good bars. Just saying.

The next morning, we planned a semblance of an idea of how we would explore the city. Neither of us expected parking to be such an issue, but we probably spent about 30 minutes hunting for a decent parking garage to keep Rosalinda for a solid chunk of the day, and very few places were able to cover more than two hours at a time without reaching ludricrous costs. Then we wandered Pike Place for about five hours. I was on the hunt for a pelican souvenir my father requested, as well as a new hemp necklace. This excursion was actually the most fun I'd had shopping in a long while, because Nevada hardly has anything close to the kind of odd little finds that Pike Place has unless you manage to score at a craft fair in good weather, and few of those come with numerous food stalls to explore as well. So besides browsing the shops, we walked past the first Starbucks, a few promising bakeries, and managed to find our way to some awesome indoor vendors on the lower levels. I took a picture of the wall labeling the ladie's bathroom by the staircase, for obvious reasons:

Our first place we browsed after going through the obviously touristy tacky nick-knacks was Market Magic Shop where they have lots of vintage stage posters, prank products, and of course, magic tricks. I scored some hilarious postcards there:
 Next place of interest was this odd little smoke shop. Inside was no hemp jewelry, sadly, but they had really nice figurines in the windows. I was very tickled by the statue of the cat-girl fairy. Plus the monsters and things were so cute!


The next place we were intrigued by was apparently the oldest comics shop in America, Golden Age Collectables. Besides the awesome life-size carboard displays outside the shop, the inside had lots of cool things too, including one of the best Dr. Who posters I've seen. There was lots of memoribilia from various franchises, including color as well as black and white photo prints of music and movie people. I only wished I was wealthier to have such items on display at my own place, a Tardis would be very cool to show off. Still, I scored some awesome pictures and buttons.


Walking along the pier, we came across Ye Olde Curiosities Shoppe with a pipe organ outside it, so we paid the quarter and listened to the aggravatingly loud music. Browsing the shop was another fun experience, it reminded me a lot of the Ripley's Believe It or Not Museum in San Francisco. There were lots of interesting things in that shop:

I even paid out a quarter for one of those vintage fortune teller puppet machines xD

We ate lunch at Ivar's Acres of Clams. I had an awesome White Peach Sangria, the Alaskan Chowder, and a summer salad. My friend ordered a beer, the traditional Clam Chowder, and these scallop slider things. Both chowders were good, the traditional being creamier than the Alaskan. The salad was the perfect balance of sweet, sour, with really creamy goat cheese. The scallops were smoked and served cold, and it was an interesting combination with the crunchy sweet flat crackers they were on. I also ordered some fried calamari because that's my favorite, but I got too full, so we boxed it up and carried it with us the rest of the time we explored the pier.

Something I really enjoyed about Seattle was how thriving the arts community was there. Among all the stalls for handmade crafts were street musicians and even street artists! The pier was very nice, and I'm a little sad we couldn't make time to go to the fairgrounds on the boardwalk. Practically every cafe also had local artwork for decoration and sale, I was severely tempted many times to make purchases, and Jenn was not helpful with resisting. While I took many more pictures of the actual city, I'll wrap up this part of the road trip recount with the remaining pictures of the pier and Pike Place: