“Moana” movie review

I had the honor of seeing “Moana” yesterday with some friends. I’ve been watching the trailers for this movie forever and been waiting for so long. I was expecting to be impressed, just by watching the animation and the clever lines from the trailers, but Disney has outdone itself again with this masterpiece!

First of all, the tone of the movie is a little bit different from the previous Disney Princess movies. Moana’s movie seems a little more self-aware, producing gems like:

“You wear a dress and have an animal sidekick, you’re a princess.”

“When you write with a bird, it’s called ‘Tweeting’.”

And let’s not forget the songs! “How far I’ll go” is not only inspiring, it’s amazing! Ali’i has an amazing voice that fits Moana’s character and adds a strong element to her character. The first reprise is interesting, because even though Moana is upbeat and hopeful about the adventure and travel, she actually fails terribly to get past the reef. This leads her to question her decision and debate whether she’ll turn to her responsibilities or turn to where her heart is pointing her.

Moana is easy to identify with, she tries to be responsible and smart, but just keeps going back to being herself. The movie’s message comes across as a mix of ‘be yourself’ and ‘find where you belong’, without being cliche or repetitive. The other characters in the story, Maui, Moana’s Grandmother, her parents, and even Heihei, were awesome and well written. Instead of your typical Disney Parents ( I.E dead or abusive and cruel) Moana’s parents are loving and try to teach Moana as best as any parents can.

Her adventure with Maui takes her across the ocean to face various villains, one of whom is hilariously vain and while not *evil*, he does present a problem because he’s a giant hermit crab whose made his shell from jewels, gold, and Maui’s magical fish hook. Did I mention that the crab has one of the catchiest song/dance numbers in the entire film? I’m pretty sure ‘Shiny’ is going down in history right alongside ‘Under the sea’. Speaking of that song, he also mentions Sebastian at one point after the credits.

Through her adventure, Moana and Maui teach each other valuable lessons about being humble and knowing what you want to do, and what you are able to do. At one point Maui mentions that without his magical fish hook, he’s ‘nothing’. He sacrifices that fish hook during the battle at the end of the movie. Of course, he gets it back…. but I think I’ll end there and not spoil too much for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet.

So, all in all, I’d recommend seeing this movie multiple times. It is simply amazing in it’s writing and animation, and the morals the story teaches are simple and easy to understand. While it is at some times predictable, it shines with it’s own unique form and excellent story-telling.

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“Fantastic Beasts” A review

I went to see ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them’ with my sisters and mother. This is the first “Harry Potter” film my sister had ever seen and the first one I’ve seen since the ‘Deathly Hallows’ came out in theaters. I wasn’t sure what I was expecting, since the book ‘Fantastic Beasts and where to find them’ was not only very short, it had no plot at all. It was simply the fun guide to the magical creatures and animals that roamed the world that harry potter lived in.

So when the film started, I kept my mind open. I’ll admit now, it started off slow, but I loved every minute of it. The sets and costumes were stunning, and all the world-building that went into it was phenomenal. It’s important that you read the headlines of the newspapers at the beginning of the film, as they cast light on one of the characters in the film who holds an important piece of the wizarding world.

Because I took an oath to put out NO spoilers for the film, I will instead concentrate on the writing and acting of the characters. They were all brilliant and believable, but in all honesty, I must say that the fellow who played ‘Jacob’ really stole the show. His level of expression and vocal fun makes him almost cartoony compared to the stoic and quiet characters that are Newt and the others. Queenie makes me think of Luna Lovegood, not only in her speaking mannerisms, but in her appearance.

The animals are hilarious and believable, with many being inspired by real life creatures such as Rhinos and eagles. Newt Scamander comes across as a British/Wizard Steve Erwin with his interactions with the magical creatures. These include a Thunderbird named Frank. Yes, Frank the Thunderbird, whom Newt is attempting to return to the deserts of Arizona where he belongs.

So, because the ‘Harry Potter’ Fandom is under an oath of general silence, I can’t give away much more without giving away the plot, but let me say give you a hint with a riddle.

 

The foe of a friend

The friend of a foe

Who held death in his hands

and twice let it go?

 

Moose Lake Agate stampede

Today was busy, but very fun. I spent the day with my family up in Moose Lake, Minnesota for the yearly agate festival and stampede. There were a ton of people there and many sellers of all kinds. The grab bags are typically the best deals, in my opinion, but I did find some pretty beads to make jewelry with and a neat agate that kind of looked like Jupiter.

Our trip started off at five in the morning, this went about as well as you think it would, with everyone trying to get everything done at once, even though we thought we were prepared for everything the previous night. Everything from the pets (we can’t leave them for more than a few hours, we had to replace my birth certificate because one of the dogs went psychotic) to the family (WHY DOES ANNE HAVE TO HAVE A GIANT BACKPACK!?) and the bags and tools for looking for agates.

It was a three hour drive from our home to Moose Lake, and we only made a few rest stops. At one of these spots, Anne found a four-leaf clover. We figured this meant that the rest of the day would be pretty good. It was! For the most part. We explored the festival and the bazaar sort of area first, but there were multiple hosers smoking like chimneys and I ended up having an asthma attack (thank you, Anne, for carrying one of my inhalers) and went inside where the smokers weren’t.

I would definitely recommend the Agate festival for people who love cool, hand-made things, gemstones and rocks, and cool fossils. There’s also a lot of neat people to talk and listen to. A lot of people at the festival have been around the world in different places, either just traveling or looking for more rocks. The festival is pretty kid-safe (aside from the smokers) and the stampede itself is fun, but might be somewhat overwhelming for smaller children.

The stampede usually starts around 2:00, but before that two large trucks filled with gravel, including agates, granite, fossils, and more, along with twelve dollars in quarters, are dumped along the street. A police line keeps people from running in before the bell sounds and everyone runs in to collect rocks. It’s a lot of fun, but the driver of one truck screwed up one year by dumping every rock in a single pile at the end of the street. Needless to say he narrowly escaped being stoned by fossils and was subsequently fired.

Aside from that one incident, the agate festival at Moose lake is one of my favorite summer traditions and one I would most certainly recommend to anyone who has a means to get there.

Angry Birds: A review

Most people are familiar with the phone game franchise the ‘Angry Birds’. It’s popularity seemed to have beaked around 2012, but as of this weekend it seems the interest is back with a gusto.

 

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Photo: Rovio Entertainment

 

The Angry Birds movie has opened in theaters in America to the tune of $39 million dollars, which isn’t bad at all, and is actually very good for the franchise itself. It also has about $94 million worldwide right now, and on a budget of about $80 million that means that they’ve already broke even.  While it has mixed reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, I knew I had to see it for myself. I went with my relatives to the theater today to see it.

Just a disclaimer though: I’m a sucker for kids movies and animation in general. Animation as an art form makes me giddy no matter what movie I’m seeing, so maybe this review will be a bit biased. Although, just for the yolks who haven’t seen it, I won’t give any major spoilers.

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The Doctor’s new companion is…

…. Pearl Mackie! She will be playing a girl named Bill, who has the fashion sense of Rose Tyler and apparently Donna’s attitude. The new companion was named on Saturday on the BBC network, with many people cheering on afterwards.

Bill and the Doctor can be seen interacting in the new trailer released by BBC, which shows a bit of Bill’s personality and the contrast between her and the Doctor. In my opinion, Clara was a little bit of a Goody-two-shoes and was too similar to the Doctor in personality (or was that the point?) so having a decent foil would provide more friction to the show. If I had to pick the companion myself I would have chosen Faye Marsay, the lady who played Shona in the Last Christmas special, but Pearl Mackie is good. A companion who isn’t so perfect or flawless would be good for the series.

Bill comes on as the companion to replace Clara Oswold, who left last season after basically being turned immortal and dead at the exact same time. (Long story.)

 

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This also comes after Moffat stepped down as the writer of Doctor Who in January, which was also followed by a lot of cheering. With a new companion and a new writer, the show could be headed in an entirely new, possibly better direction.

Duolingo App review

Duolingo was launched in 2011 from Pittsburgh Pennsylvania as an outlet for people to learn new languages at no cost. It’s become fairly popular and updates with new languages on a regular basis. Some of these languages include Turkish and Irish Gaelic. They recently announced on their Twitter account that they’ll be adding Korean. Many people are learning new languages with Duolingo every day. I’m going to tell you about my experience with it.

I started researching language and learning apps as soon as I got my first smart phone last Christmas. I had never had a cellphone before that point and thought it would be cool to have tools and utilities that I could use to learn new things. I already know quite a bit of German, my grandmother herself being from Germany, and I’ve taken two semesters of German in my high school. I wanted to be fluent, though.

That’s where Duolingo comes in. You can learn multiple languages at the same time with its system. It also times and keeps track of your progress and you can set your level of learning and how fast you want to learn with everyday practice. It also gives you a percentage level to look at to see how fluent you are in the language you’re learning. If it’s correct than I’m 24% fluent in German. It also gives you notifications daily so that you remember to practice and don’t slack off.

Duolingo works in a different way than most language classes, though. Instead of giving you list upon list of vocabulary words to memorize or complex grammatical charts, Duolingo feeds you the grammar and vocab slowly as you pick it up piece by piece. A bit like how a toddler or a baby learns to speak. This model works great for me, but others might not like it or find it tedious.

So, all in all, I’d say the app is worth trying. It works fine on my phone and I haven’t experienced any of the audio problems that others seem to have. Although the microphone seems to think I have an accent (“It’s MinnesOta not MinnesoTA!”) and will occasionally misunderstand me.

 

‘The Angry Birds Movie’ launches OST, Blake Shelton’s music video — CINEMA BRAVO

Atlantic Records has announced its release of “The Angry Birds Movie (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)” due everywhere on Friday, May 6th. The Columbia Pictures and Rovio Entertainment 3D animated comedy “The Angry Birds Movie” arrives in theatres across the Philippines on May 11th. “The Angry Birds Movie (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)” is available now for […]

via ‘The Angry Birds Movie’ launches OST, Blake Shelton’s music video — CINEMA BRAVO

‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ – a quick thought

It’s been a few days since my last post. This is mostly due to the flu and rather depressing weather as of late. Now that I have time to write I thought I’d write something in memorial of the late Harper lee, author of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’.

Like a lot of kids, I was forced to read a lot of rather questionable books in the course of my schoolwork (Pride and Prejudice sucks.) Some books wind up drier in writing than a week old meatloaf and more tasteless than Miley Cyrus. As much as I love the classics, I must admit that Greg Heffley (the main character of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series) had a point when he mused that in order for a book to be considered a ‘classic’ it must be at least fifty years old and someone has to die at the end.

Most of us know that ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ falls into both categories, but unlike ‘A tale of two Cities‘, ‘Lord of the Flies’, and ‘Romeo and Juliet’ this book is actually entertaining and thought provoking. We are still facing a lot of racial tension in this day and age and I think we could all learn a lesson as told through the eyes of Scout Finch. The biggest lesson I pulled from this didn’t exactly come from the book itself, but more from the way I took it in . When I started reading it my Mom and I would sit out on the front porch and talk about it until it was past dark and the fireflies were out dancing.

So maybe the lessons we pull out of a book are more dependent on a reader and their circumstances than the actual book and writing itself.

The Year in Movies

To wrap up 2015 with a bang, I’ve compiled a list of the top movies of 2015 that I saw. Some of them were immensely better than others in my opinion. WARNING: THERE ARE SPOILERS AHEAD OF YOU!

Let’s get this show on the road! Starting with….

 

7 – Minions

 

minions

 

A spin-off-prequel of the much beloved (and frankly, hilarious) Despicable Me, the Minion movie takes us back to the 60’s and the story of the Minions and how they came to serve Gru. Our main Minions are Stuart, Keven, and Bob as they travel thousands of miles in search of a villain to serve.

While it was pretty hilarious, the Minion movie doesn’t have any of the emotional punch that Despicable Me boasted.  It’s good for a laugh and has some pretty funny Easter eggs and references to the other films, so all in all it’s sitting at number 7 on my list.

 

6 – Inside Out

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This is one of Pixar’s best movies of the year, I’ll give it that. It’s the story of a girl named Riley told from the point of view of her emotions. The story follows Riley as she grows up and her emotions and personality changed over time.

It’s an excellent family movie overall, but the reason it sits at number 6 is because of the characters. They are stereotypical to the point that it’s painful. There are many other ways that Pixar could have designed and filled out the characters (E.G not all Minnesotans play hockey, not all Dad’s are obsessed with sports, Sadness being a frumpy person and Joy a pixie, etc.). While the story line itself is part of the Pixar magic we all know and love, the characters could have been done better.

 

5 – Goosebumps

 

goosebumps

 

I had the pleasure of seeing this movie in an entirely empty theater with my younger sister right near Halloween. The movie serves to tie the books together in one place, and actually manages to do so rather well. Jack Black is an awesome R.L Stein. (SPOILER: R.L Stein makes a good Jack Black, too)

Possibly the reason this movie did as well as it did, was that it catered to an audience of people who’d grown up reading the Goosebumps series. The series is older than I am. My favorites are The Ghost next Door and The Werewolf of Fever Swamp.

The CGI in the movie is fairly good, and the multiple references to the other books are clever. Slappy is as creepy as ever.  The ending, while a bit too convenient for most people, is a pretty good ‘Happy ending’ for any smaller kids who might have been spooked by the monsters.

 

4 – Cinderella

 

cinderella

 

A live action reboot of the classic Disney film, the 2015 Cinderella is an excellent piece of storytelling, if a bit old. It follows the story line of the first, animated Cinderella movie almost to the detail. The best acting in the film seems to come from Lady Tremaine, A.K.A Cate Blanchett. She plays a very good villain. Lily James sounds like she’s out of breath the entire film, though. Maybe it’s that corset.

Still, the movie is at number 4 because it captures the spirit of the original classic so well while putting a newer spin on it. The dress worn by Cinderella in the film is incredible from a costume standpoint and is just as beautiful as the original Cinderella’s.

 

3 – Avengers:  Age of Ultron

 

avengers

 

Yes, I put a super-hero movie ahead of the others. Avengers: Age of Ultron is the sequel to the 2012 movie The Avengers and comes after the events of the Agents of Shield television series. Bruce Banner and Tony Stark (The Hulk and Iron Man) decide that the world needs protecting, but since they won’t be there forever, they should make a super weapon capable of artificial intelligence to protect the planet. Their plan goes about as well as you think it would.

The movie itself is great, but some of the ideas feel slightly recycled and stale, although (SPOILER) Quicksilver being blasted like that did kick you gut a bit in the theater, especially when we witness the Scarlett Witch’s reaction to her brother’s death. The ending was solid enough and the Stan Lee cameo was pretty hilarious (If Thor offers you a drink, say no.) Which is why this movie is at number three.

 

2 – Jurassic World

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I have watched the Jurassic Park movies since I was a little kid and I cannot tell you how excited I was to see this. I even cosplayed as a “Raptor Victim” in the theater. Jurassic World picks up on an *Alternative Dimension* where the first Jurassic Parks went well and actually thrived, and now need to have newer, bigger dinosaurs so people will still be impressed by them.

If anyone had ever bothered to watch old horror films, they’d know that playing God is a very bad idea. Especially when you’re working with large, carnivorous creatures that will not hesitate to eat you. So I like to think that some of the employees deserved what they got, but Owen does seem to be one of the few people there with a stable head on their shoulders.

 

1 – Star Wars: The Force Awakens

the forceawkesn

 

Star Wars: The Force awakens was by far the best movie of this year. I’ve said this before, but it felt like you could have been watching on of the classic Star Wars films. The story telling is fantastic and the characters are deep and actually act like normal people (my favorite quote being “… and use the Force!”) and their normal mistakes. BB-8 is adorable and adds a little bit of comic relief to the story.

I’m still not allowed to post spoilers about the movie, but I’m just going to say this. Kylo Ren better keep that helmet on because his face is uglier than the back end of Jabba the Hut.

STAR WARS: The Force Awakens

I went to see ‘Star Wars – The Force Awakens’ this Sunday with my family.  So I don’t spoil anything for anyone, I’ll just geek out. My whole family dressed up to go see it (even though it wasn’t opening day) and a lot of people liked our costumes. Maria was Darth Vader and looked awesome.

Icon picture

I was a Sith

The movie itself was absolutely incredible in all terms. The music, the actors, the DROIDS. It honestly felt like you could have been watching one of the classic star wars films. They even start the same. When those big yellow letters appeared on the screen at the opening , my Mom teared up a bit because she remembered seeing the first one when she was ten and they went to a Drive-in movie theater.

To me, this feels almost like a coming-of-age ritual (which I guess it is if you come from a nerdy family) and it was so incredible to see the classic characters in a new world. We also got a pretty awesome collectible popcorn tin. Which was cool.

 

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Behold the awesomeness of this popcorn tin.

The funniest part of the whole experience was when a little girl wearing some pretty awesome Avengers pajamas stopped and stared at ‘Darth Vader’ as ‘he’ shared a soda with a Sith Lady and Rey in the lobby. It’s all made funnier by the fact that the costume character for that “Alvin and the Chipmunks” movie was dancing around in the background.