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As usual, I will avoid any specific spoilers.

I went to see the new TMNT movie with some reservations.  It has gotten mixed – at best – reviews from places like Rotten Tomatoes and IMDB.  My expectations for the movie were therefore somewhat muted when I finally got to see it.

The movie was not a disappointment.

Don’t get me wrong.  This was by no means one of the best superhero movies I’ve seen.  But for someone looking to relive a little bit of their childhood, it worked.  It far surpassed the 1900’s attempt to bring the Turtles to the big screen.  There were moments – as such movies often have – that strained the suspension of disbelief, but not to the point that I disengaged from the movie. 

One of the things I was most worried about was the personalities of the characters.  From surly Raphael to carefree Michelangelo, I thought they captured them as I remember them from the original cartoon.  And that meant a lot for a movie whose buzz comes from nostalgia.

Beyond that, you know what you’re getting when you see a Michael Bay movie.  If you like his movies, and like the TMNT, you’ll probably like this one as well.

 

It was inevitable that I would see the new X-Men movie.  I haven’t seen all the recent Marvel movies, nor indeed even all the recent X-Men movies.  But once upon a time, my introduction to comic books (at least insofar that I actually started buying them in earnest) came via the X-Men cartoon.  And the first season of that show peaked with the inclusion of (a version of) the story.

As anyone who has seen movies based on other media would expect, there were some significant changes to this story.  Even the cartoon series referenced above was a significant change from the original comic storyline.  At its heart, though, the story is the same – an X-Man travels backwards in time to prevent a trigger for what will become a global catastrophe.

I would certainly have had a more nuanced appreciation if I had seen the recent “X-Men First Class”, as this definitely figured in the movie.  I thought, though, that the movie remained relatively true in spirit to the parent material.  Conveniently for the filmmakers, the end result of the movie is that the events of the original trilogy (which were released from 2000 – 2006) to have no longer happened.  This seems to be a recurring ploy for filmmakers lately (for example Star Trek).

I only have two complaints with the movie.  The first is an old complaint on the casting of Hugh Jackman.  He does a respectable enough job with the character – my issue isn’t with his acting.  In the comics, Wolverine is all of 5′ tall – so a 6′ tall version is a little off-putting (though it does not have a meaningful impact on the story).  The second complaint is perhaps even more frivolous.  **Spoiler Alert**  In the movie, magneto uses metal railroad tracks, which he extrudes into wires, to reprogram the sentinels . . . Perhaps its pointless of me to expect a movie about people who gain psychic, telekinetic, and other strange powers from a simple genetic anomaly to be technically sound, but this one stretched my suspension of disbelief.

If you do go see the movie, be sure to stay until the end of the credits.  There’s a teaser for the next movie, which has me a bit excited.  If you’re an X-Men buff, you’ll recognize the character shown.  If not, have no fear, a little Googling will show you everything you need to know.

I know this is far from a novel observation – but it’s quite ironic that Disney released Frozen in a year that (for those of use in the Eastern half of the US) has been one of the coldest, snowiest on record.  I’ve heard that Michigan, where I live, has been among the hardest hit when compared to our typical winter.  I confess I’m not sure what they used to decide that, though.

I was convinced to take my older two daughters (4 and 7) to see Frozen twice.  And by the soundtrack – which they proceeded to memorize.  So now the songs have been perpetually stuck in my head for about 2 months.  And of course, the DVD will arrive as soon as it’s been released.

The good news is that I enjoyed this movie.  I enjoyed it quite a bit, actually, and I’d venture to say that it’s one of Disney’s best efforts.  I wouldn’t say it’s the best, but  in my opinion it is one of their best efforts – ever.   The movie includes some pretty decent songs – which are a little too catchy, as I mentioned above.  The plot isn’t entirely unpredictable (hey, this is Disney after all), but there’s a significant plot twist which puts some thematic distance between this movie and its predecessors.

MINOR SPOILERS BELOW

What most strikes me about this movie, though, is the (for lack of a better word) heart.  The sacrifices that the two sisters – Anna and Elsa (the one “cursed” with winter magic) – make for each other touched me deeply.  One of the early scenes – and first catchy song –  has Anna pleading with Elsa to play with her.  Elsa can’t – for fear of hurting her younger sister with her uncontrolled power.  Doubtless, part of the reason this scene struck me as much as it did, was the presence of my own young daughters.  My heart broke for this young girls, who want nothing more than to be carefree playmates – but cannot.

If you’re a Disney fan, you’ll like this movie.  If you’re not a Disney fan . . . You’ll probably still like this movie.

On Thursday night I introduced my oldest daughter to The Princess Bride.  This followed the pattern of almost every new movie she’s seen since she was two – which was five years ago now!

I suggested that we watch a movie.  “Hurray,” she says.  “Let’s watch [whatever her current favorite is].”

“No,” I say, “Let’s watch a ‘new’ movie – something that I’m sure you’ll like, but you haven’t seen it before.”  This is followed by much complaining and arguing, where I’m told how she won’t like it at all.

When I get tired of trying to convince her rationally, I tell her, “I don’t care, we’re watching the movie I say!”

The movie starts, and she goes off to pout on the stairs.  After a few minutes, I find her and tell her that I’m trying to do something special with her.  She grudgingly follows me back to the living room and cuddles on my lap, resigned to watching this terrible movie.

After two minutes of watching she’s rapt.  By the time the movie is over, it’s the BEST MOVIE EVER.  Now, she’s begging to watch it, and constantly quoting it, particularly the bit about “inconceivable”.

So I chuckle to myself, knowing that we’ll do this all over again in another month or two, when I decide it’s time for her to watch another “new” movie.

I’ll admit it, I have a weakness for high school coming-of-age movies.

Why? I can’t put my finger on it exactly. I think I had a pretty typical high school experience. I wasn’t popular, but I was liked well enough by most of my classmates. I was bullied a bit, and picked on some, but that was more in middle school than high school, and I can’t say it’s more than any typical kid gets – certainly not enough to dwell on all these years later. But high school represents a crossroads for everyone. There are more opportunities to make older (and then younger) friends than you’ve had before. There are new freedoms and experiences commingling with being nearly an adult.  And at the end – no matter what path you choose, there is an ending.

In Perks of Being a Wallflower, Charlie (Logan Lerman) is just entering high school after a rough time in middle school.  His psyche, though, has more significant damage than the typical Freshman.  I won’t detail what to avoid spoilers.  There’s discussion throughout, though a key point of it isn’t revealed until the end of the movie.  He falls into a friendship with a group of Seniors, and it’s his relationships with them that really drive the movie.  Most everyone in the movie is messed up in one way or another, but it isn’t over-emphasised.  It just serves to make them seem human.

In the end, Charlie is able to face his demons.  And although his new-found friends are all leaving for college, things will be all right.

The cast does a superb job, making you forget that they are anyone other than their characters – not an easy task for a movie starring Hermione Granger (Emma Watson), Percy Jackson (Lerman), and Tinkerbell – voice (Mae Whitman).  Watson debuts her American accent with ease (though if you listen closely there are just a couple of places where her normal British enunciation tries to sneak out).

I’d certainly recommend this for anyone who, like myself, has a soft spot in their heart for high school movies, and I’ll definitely be looking for the book.

As a follow-up to my last post, I wanted to do a short review of Star Trek: Into Darkness.  I’ll try to avoid major spoilers, but there will be at least one (the identity of the villain, which most everyone suspected anyhow).

As anyone who saw 2009’s Star Trek knows, the timeline has been changed from the classic Star Trek, to allow a reboot with novel story lines.  The latest installment takes full advantage of that (as we all suspected) to resurrect the greatest of all Star Trek villains (imho), Kahn.  The circumstances surrounding the discovery of the Botany Bay (the ship on which Kahn and his men were held in suspended animation) are vastly different in this new timeline.  As such, there is a new dynamic between him and the crew of the Enterprise.  I won’t go into details to avoid plot spoilers.

I will say that it was more action packed and less intellectual than Wrath of Kahn

Into Darkness takes full advantage both of the new timeline to form a new plot for Kahn, as well as the memories of devoted old Trekkies like myself to form a strange dichotomy.  Many of the elements in the movie echo the Wrath of Kahn, but they are not the same.  At one poignant moment, I actually knew the lines before they were spoken.  The identical lines were uttered by a different character (and referring to a different character) in the Wrath of Kahn

I am uncertain, still, how I feel about this mirroring of the classic Star Trek story line.  I very much like the idea thematically.  Some aspects of your destiny are unavoidable.  No matter what the specific circumstances are, when Kirk meets Kahn, it will be bad.  But the quantity of this seemed off.  Did they push this too far?  Not far enough?  I’m inclined to say that, for me, it would have worked better with either a softer touch or a heavier stroke. 

On the whole, I give the movie a thumbs up.  I’m not ready to say it was one of my favorite Trek movies, but it was definitely above average.  And competing as directly as it did against one of my favorite movies put it at a disadvantage to start.

I think Star Trek fans of all stripes will enjoy this one!

“The irony of all existance is that ‘Good’ would be totally impotent without the contrast of ‘Evil’.”

From The Flight of Dragons. 

I first saw The Flight of Dragons when I was only six or seven years old.  (At the risk of dating myself) It was one of the first movies we rented for our first VHS.  It was immediately one of my favorite movies, and although my perspective has changed with the years, my appreciation of the movie hasn’t.

A little background:  This movie is actually a blend of two fantasy books.  The first is The Flight of Dragons by Peter Dickenson.  Despite my periodic attempts, I haven’t yet put my hands on a copy of this.  The other is the Dragon and George by Gordon R Dickson. 

One of the things I love about this movie is how it blends science and fantasy.  This is always one of the challenges for fantasy writers.  Obviously, we live in a world of science where magic isn’t considered real.  Should there be a bridge mechanism, that ties our world to the magic world?  Should the story be set in a world with no tie to ours?  Or do only “special” people get to see the magic world?  This movie takes place in the distant past, before mankind makes the decision to turn its back on magic in favor of science and logic.

But what really cements this as one of my favorite movies is the climax.  The hero is faced with an impossible battle.  He cannot win, and make his quest a success.  He will not survive this stand against evil, but he does not back down.  The personal sacrifice is no reason to allow evil to proceed unhindered.  The movie to this point has firmly established that the heroes are vulnerable.  As a result, this is one of my favorite moments in any movie.  As a writer, it is thi s moment that I try to reach.

Everyone has works of fiction (whether movies, literature, stage, or even stories told by the campfire) that resonate with them.  These works, especially the ones from our youth, help define who we are, and who we want to be.  As a writer, I’d love to be responsible for that kind of connection to readers.  [As an aside, “trying” to write powerfully moving story is a good recipe for disaster.  If this doesn’t happen organically, it won’t happen at all.]  I thought I’d share some of the works that inspire me as a writer and a person.

I saw the NeverEnding Story in the movie theater when I was pretty young.  I don’t know what I found appealing about it at then, but in the time since I’ve come to appreciate it in many ways that I didn’t comprehend all those years ago.  In many ways, this movie (and the book it is based on) is a celebration of imagination.   At its heart is the message that without dreams – even fanciful ones – we lose ourselves.

The movie is filled with some great moments, but my favorite **Spoiler Alert** is when the movie breaks the 4th wall twice – at the same time.  The characters in Bastian’s book refer not only to Bastian, but also all of us watching the movie!

Along the journey, we also find many lessons:

  1. The hero’s journey is hard, and filled with sacrifice
  2. Even the wisest do not always know the answers
  3. It is always darkest before the dawn
  4. Among the hardest challenges in life are confidence and knowing yourself

I read the book years later.  Although I enjoyed it, I didn’t feel the resonance I did with the movie.  I don’t think this reflects poorly on the book, though.  It’s more likely simply because of the stage of my life at which I found it.

There will be more of these to come.  In the meantime, I’d love to hear about what inspires you!