Movie of the Month: Inside Out

Check it out! I actually made it to a show before it left the theaters!  Yippee! And the kids sat through the whole thing, which means I got to watch the whole thing from beginning to end without having to leave for a potty run or break up a fight. This, my friends, is a small miracle in itself.

INSIDE-OUT-18What can I say about this movie that hasn’t already been said? Being a Disney, it’s gotten more than it’s fair share of media attention. People are calling it revolutionary and unique. And they’re right. We haven’t seen anything like this before.

The story of Inside Out is layered.  The inside layer is a story all about Joy, one of the emotions that live inside of Riley’s head. Joy is determined to help Riley always be happy no matter what happens. Joy lives along side her fellow emotions anger, sadness, fear, and disgust. Each of these emotions can use the master control panel that control how Riley reacts in any given circumstance.

io_Joy_standardThe outside layer is Riley’s story, a happy eleven-year-old, who loves her family and being silly and playing ice hockey. However, everything changes when Riley’s family moves from the Minnesota to San Francisco.  Riley finds herself in a new school and new surroundings, everything is different and for any child, different is stressful and scary.

Still, Joy is determined to make things work and help Riley put on a happy face, even when she has some very real problems that need to be addressed. Joy forces Sadness to stay out of the way and refuses to let her take the controls. Joy’s efforts only make things worse and she and Sadness accidentally both get sucked out of headquarters and down into long-term memory storage.

This means that Riley can’t feel either joy or sadness and is stuck with fear, disgust, and anger.

Joy and Sadness must find a way back to headquarters before Riley makes a decision that might destroy her life.

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My Review:

I thought Inside Out was adorable and perfect for my young kids. It opens up avenues of discussion about what different emotions are and why each are important at the right time. The movie is clever, funny, and poignant and will send you home thinking about it for a long time.

One of my favorite parts (don’t worry, no spoilers here) is when we are allowed to see the headquarters inside different people’s and animal’s heads. Everyone and everything has the same set of emotions but each act very different depending on who or what they are. It comes at the very end of the movie and is hilarious.

If you like cute, imaginative, feel good movies with a message then you will love Inside Out. It’s not just for kids, it’s good for anyone who likes to think and feel.

However, there is a silliness warning. There are a few parts that do get a bit silly. If you get uncomfortable with things that are silly or childish then you might want to proceed with caution.

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Film Icon Christopher Lee Dies

It is a rare thing when there is an actor who is known and loved across several generations. Christopher Lee’s first films were made when my parents were barely teenagers. For me growing up, he was that guy who always ended up in the old-timey horror flicks and also a Bond villain. For my kids he will be immortalized as Saruman and Count Dooku.

There are few actors who have as long or as varied of filmography as Christoper Lee. IMDB clocks in 281 credits over the course of a 60+ year career. True to the workhorse he was, he die as he was preparing to start filming for his latest movie.

To celebrate one of speculative fiction’s favorite actors, here are several photos of Christopher Lee through the years.

Hammer Horror's Dracula

Hammer Horror’s Dracula – Lee’s iconic defining role

Ultimate Bond Villain - The Man with the Golden Gun

Ultimate Bond Villain – The Man with the Golden Gun

We mustn't anger Count Dooku, he's got a lightsaber

We mustn’t anger Count Dooku, he’s got a lightsaber

Monsieur Labisse from Hugo, on of Lee's rare unevil roles

Monsieur Labisse from Hugo, on of Lee’s rare unevil roles

No list would be complete without Saruman the White

No list would be complete without Saruman the White

While he rarely ever took the spotlight, the roles he did take he made personal and memorable, and that’s the stuff that makes a man a legend.

Rest in peace – you’ve deserved it.

Movie of the Month: The Hobbit, Battle of the Five Armies

I’m ashamed to say that I’ve put off seeing the last installment of the Hobbit trilogy. It’s not that I didn’t want to see it, but I was disappointed with the first two and so when the third finally rolled around  the excitement simply wasn’t there to rush out and see it.

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Most Lord of the Rings fans agree that turning the Hobbit into a trilogy was a huge mistake on the part of the lovely people at New Line Studios. The book of the Hobbit is tiny and the choice to turn it into an 8+ hour-long saga was purely a marketing decision. They thought it would bring in the same huge crowds and mania that LOTR did.

It might have worked, had the world of Middle Earth been new.

Because we are all very familiar with the sights and spectacle of Middle Earth it doesn’t hold our attention as long. That, and there simply no epic setting reveals like there were in LOTR. In LOTR there was the introduction of Hobbiton, Lothlorien, Rivendale, Gondor, and the halls of Moria, to name a few. These settings were dramatic and beautiful and captured the imagination. In Hobbit there really isn’t anything that can rival them. The halls of Thranduil don’t quite measure up to the other Elven realms and the the Dwarvish interiors of the lonely mountain are not as impressive as what we saw before in Moria.

Which brings us to the story. Because the Hobbit was a short book, and one of the rare instances where it would actually be faster to read the book than to see the movies, lots of extra material had to be added to flesh out the story. Much of this material is pulled from Tolkien’s supplemental material and stays true to the history and cultures of Middle Earth, and to that effect makes the Hobbit an enjoyable movie to anyone who is a fan of Tolkien’s works.

However, for those who need a movie that doesn’t drag along through lengthy exposition and introductions, the Hobbit was a bit of a chore to watch. Much of the scenes that were supposed to create sympathy for lead characters ended up being forced and well, boring.

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As for the final chapter of the Hobbit, it has its fair share of thrills and spills and emotionally charged material. We finally see the defeat of the dragon, but with it comes the near downfall of Thorin, the Dwarvish king. With Smaug out of the way, Thorin can take the lonely mountain throne at last, and with it, its massive trove of dragon gold. Dragon gold brings with it intense greed and paranoia which infects Thorin, turning him against his kin.

The mountain hold and it’s treasure attract the armies all fighting for what they believe they are entitled to. Men, elves, orcs, dwarves, and eagles all join in the fight. Thorin, with the help of Bilbo and his kin, is reminded what is really important and leads the charge against the orcs. The fight doesn’t go well, there are heavy losses on all sides. Thranduil hates that elvish blood is being spilled for what he deems a fruitless endeavor. Bard, the reluctant leader of men, does his best to protect his people. In the end it’s the dwarves who pay the heaviest price.

In a scene much like when Boromir dies in LOTR, Thorin pays for the victory against the Orc general, Azog, by sacrificing himself. The movie ends on a bittersweet note where the good guys win but we ask ourselves, was it worth it?

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After everything, I give the last installment of the Hobbit a 6 out of 10. I liked it, it was enjoyable, but in the end it didn’t quite meet my expectations. It moved slowly, many of the emotional scenes felt forced, and in the end we didn’t get our happy ending.

Did you see The Hobbit? What did you think? Let me know in the comments.

Movie of the Month: Interstellar

interstellar-3840x2160This month’s featured movie is the sci-fi adventure Interstellar, a hard-hitting space drama that’s torn between the efforts to save humanity and one man’s fight to stay connected to his family.

If you like movies similar to Inception, where there is plenty of brain bending to make the story work, then Interstellar is right up your alley. It’s not as far out as Cloud Atlas, so don’t worry – but there are a few 2001: Space Odyssey type elements floating around that make it a little strange.

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Matthew McConaughey plays Cooper, a pilot turned corn farmer in Earth’s last desperate attempt to continue to feed itself. Humanity is indeed on the brink as blight kills off crops, much like the great potato famine. It is clear that the situation is not going to improve and so an undercover NASA program is tasked to find a way of preserving the human race.

Their solution is to find a new world to colonize. Sounds simple enough, right? Wrong. The nearest habitable worlds are light years away and any efforts to find them are futile simply because of the amount of time it would take. Interstellar had a whole team of astrophysicists figure out how it could be done and then used their calculations to generate the imagery in the film, cool eh?

In Interstellar, there is a singularity located conveniently within our solar system that leads to a different system with several potential habitable worlds. However, due to a bunch of theory of relativity issues, any landfall the explorers make results in epic time loss for those on earth and also anyone who remains on the ship. This results in a very fast paced film as Cooper fights for every second lost in order to reunite with his daughter.

It’s the last third of the film that gets a little screwy. The explorers find themselves in a hopeless situation. There is no way to return important data back to earth for NASA’s colony ship to be able to break free from the surface (another plot strand…) and there is no way for the explorers to survive on the current alien world. They have to decide if they are going to sacrifice themselves to save humanity or save themselves but doom civilization.

interstellar-anne-hathawayThe only way to get the needed data back is to send a probe into the black hole. Cooper and Amelia (played by Anne Hathaway) must separate to give the greatest chance at success.  Amelia’s ship has colonizing equipment to set up another home world and can ensure the survival of the species should the worst outcome happen, so her success is critical. Cooper takes the other part of the ship and heads into the blackhole.

He ends in a time bent fifth dimentional tesseract that enables him to pass on the needed information to NASA. I said it got trippy –  this is the epicenter of trippy here and why I reference Space Odyssey.  Turns out that all the strange phenomenon that they had seen in the beginning of the film was actually Cooper in the fifth dimension trying to communicate with his daughter in the past.

Do I recommend Interstellar? Yes, with caution. This is a film meant for people who love to think in an abstract and twisted way. Those who just like a good story that doesn’t demand much of the watcher will find themselves lost and confused quickly. If you like time travel paradoxes, you’ll like it. If you don’t, then I wouldn’t recommend it.

Movie of the Month: Big Hero 6

I’ve been super excited to see Big Hero 6 ever since the buzz started about it, and honestly I knew nothing about it.  I mean nothing.  I saw the trailer with a cute huggable robot and instantly assumed that the whole plot was wrapped around a child who had a family member who suffered from a terminal illness – thus requiring the need of a nurse robot in the home.  I even went on to imagine when the family member died that the child went on to have some sort of relationship with the robot. Sort of like Hachi: A Dog Tale, except the dog is an adorable robot. My writer sense kicked in a bit too soon, and boy was I wrong.

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Warning: There be Spoilers Ahead (but, I’ll do my best to be fairly vague…)

Big Hero 6 is an action superhero movie.  There is a villain, there is lots of techno science, there is revenge, and there is a fluffy innocent robot whose primary concern is the health of Hiro.Big-Hero-6-Movie-Reviews1

Hiro is a brilliant 13 year old who is intent on amusing himself instead of using his amazing mind. I love that his name is Hiro and sounds like Hero, because that is quite literally what he makes himself, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Hiro’s biggest inspiration is his older brother Tadashi, who is also a brilliant robotics engineer. It is Tadashi who finally inspires Hiro to makes something of his life and encourages him to work toward joining the acclaimed “Nerd Lab” at the university.  Hiro’s resulting invention is so groundbreaking that he is offered acceptance to the university on the spot.

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All this changes when tragedy strikes. Hiro is left grieving and has a hard time moving on. The registration period for the university comes and goes and classes have started. One day, Hiro accidentally activates Baymax – the cuddly health care robot and Tadashi’s final project.

42d0d37dbfde1a9c6cbd9215b72a430f2484c2c9Baymax serves as the much needed catalyst that gets Hiro moving forward once again and also reveals the villain.  After that, it’s a roller coaster ride of thrills, adventure, and danger, combined with just enough humor to keep it fun for all ages.

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Needless to say, I loved it and my kids loved it too. My three year old randomly quotes from it saying, “Hi, I’m Baymax, your personal healthcare companion.” Everyone is doing the Baymax fistbump. We are pumped about this movie, and the world is as well.

A Case of the Feels: Severus Snape

Every once in a while there is a character that has such depth, such surprising tenderness, that it catches you off guard. The Harry Potter universe is filled with people and creatures that have captured the imagination of this generation. It has become a household name.

There is one character that deserves more time in the sun than he has received, and that is Severus Snape. In the earlier half of the story we were led to believe that Snape was the enemy and in league with the Dark Lord himself.  However, as the story unfolded we started to see an entirely different person hiding beneath that tightly buttoned exterior.

And I love JK Rowling all the more for it.  It would have been so easy to keep Snape as a stereotypical villain, all bad and moody and foul. But no, she injects a passion and a humanity in his character with his love he had for Harry’s mother, Lily.  A passion that is carried over onto Harry himself after her murder. Suddenly, he becomes this conflicted and wonderful character with a huge depth of feeling that must be keep suppressed at all times.

Brilliant YouTuber Kcawseome13 created a montage of all of Snape’s key scenes in chronological order that perfectly demonstrates the true nature of his character. If you have 14 minutes, I recommend it.  Not only is it fascinating to watch, but it is created beautifully. Have a tissue handy!

Movie of the Month: Guardians of the Galaxy

Over Christmas vacation we finally got around to watching the latest movie offering from the world of Marvel Comics, Guardians of the Galaxy. I know, I know, it’s been out for ages, relax already. After hearing so many good things about it I’ve been eager to sit back and put my feet up and enjoy.

And I did.

[Warning: Spoiler Alert!]

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Peter Quill, a.k.a. Star Lord, is a space scavenger seeking his fortune and he believes he has found it when he is commissioned to find a valuable orb on the dead planet of Morag. He’s not the only one who wants it either. When he finds it first he becomes the target for the universe’s most despicable baddie, the megalomaniac Ronan, who sends his assassin Gamora to hunt the orb down. Peter has also double crossed his partner Yondo Udonta, who now will do anything to hunt him down. Lastly, bounty hunters Rocket, a genetically modified raccoon, and Groot, a sentient house plant/tree, want Peter as well but ultimately they end up joining him for a share in the money. Peter is captured by the benevolent Nova Corps on Xandar and thrown into prison where they meet Drax who has a score to settle with Ronan. Long story short, Peter, Gamora, Rocket, Groot, and Drax end up joining forces and become the Guardians of the Galaxy. They escape the Kyln prison and try to sell the orb to the mysterious Collector, who finally tells them what it actually is. Because of the orbs immense world-destroying power, the Guardians decide that the orb must be delivered to the Nova Empire for safe keeping from Ronan. Ronan, however, has other plans, and intercepts them at Xandar in his mammoth ship the Dark Aster.

If you want to know how it turns out, you’ll have to watch it!

As for me, I loved it. It was a highly entertaining romp through the galaxy with a cast of super-likable characters.  Someone told me that it was essentially the Space Avengers, and they’re right.  Each of the Guardians match up to one of the Avengers.  Rocket is Iron man, Gamora is the Black Widow, Drax is Thor, Groot is the Hulk, and Peter Quill is Captain America.  We can even stretch it to say that Yondo Udonta is Hawkeye with his super cool psychic arrow.

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If I were to choose  favorite, it’d be Rocket.  He’s smart, he’s funny, he seems to know what’s going on long before the others, he’s even cute and furry.

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News!

I have a book release coming up on January 31st! The book is “The Toll of Another Bell” a fantasy anthology from Xchyler Publishing.  You can pre-order a copy on Amazon today. There will also be a release party on Facebook with lots of great prizes. Check out the links for more details!

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