Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Movie Review: The Sorcerer's Apprentice

The Sorcerer's Apprentice by Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

Recommended For: Ages Eight to Adult
Rating: PG for fantasy action violence, some mild rude humor and brief language
Balthazar Blake (Nicolas Cage) is a master sorcerer in modern-day Manhattan trying to defend the city from his arch-nemesis, Maxim Horvath (Alfred Molina). Balthazar can't do it alone, so he recruits Dave Stutler (Jay Baruchel), a seemingly average guy who demonstrates hidden potential, as his reluctant protégé. The sorcerer gives his unwilling accomplice a crash course in the art and science of magic, and together, these unlikely partners work to stop the forces of darkness. It'll take all the courage Dave can muster to survive his training, save the city and get the girl as he becomes The Sorcerer's Apprentice.               
On one of our trips to Walt Disney World, they were advertising this movie a lot. The only thing I got from the advertisements was that it had something to do with Mickey? Or maybe not. I can't really be blamed if I thought of Fantasia when I saw the advertisements. I wasn't that interested, and I certainly didn't expect I would ever actually see it. So when my dad turned The Sorcerer's Apprentice on after Once Upon a Time (the new season of which I refuse to watch), not really knowing what it is, and Bekah said it was The Sorcerer's Apprentice, I was very surprised, but I wanted to watch it. So we did, and my sisters and I actually stayed up until 11:30 to finish it.
Technical: 5/5
I know I've stated it before. Disney does great on the technical stuff. They always do. I'm not a huge fan of Nicholas Cage, but he wasn't too bad. Funny thing, the moment I got a clear shot of young Dave's face, I said "Isn't he the kid from Night at the Museum?" He was. And right when I heard the regular Dave's voice, I was like "I've heard his voice before. I haven't seen him act in anything, but I know I've heard his voice before." A couple lines later: "Is he Hiccup? I think he did Hiccup's voice." And he did. I enjoyed seeing Jay Baruchel and listening to his Hiccup voice. (Confession: I actually like Dave a bit better than the Hiccup in the movie.) The special effects were great, and the actors were stellar (though again, I'm not a big fan of Nicholas Cage).
Setting: 5/5
New York City. Such a strange city it is. It really isn't hard to get wrong as a setting, especially when you're filming there. (At least, I would assume...) Even though I've never been to New York City, I'm pretty sure they got the setting good on this one.
Plot: 4/5
Okay, I'm trying to hold back and not give 5 to every single book and movie that comes along that I like. I mean, of course the plot could have been a bit better, but since it's a Disney movie, I'm not expecting them to complicate things. Honestly, though, it really could have been better. I can't put my finger on why exactly it didn't feel quite cohesive or...something, didn't quite deserve five and I can't quite articulate why. Just...they could have made it better. More epic. Or something.
Character Development: 4/5
I've seen better, especially from Disney, but it wasn't bad either. I don't feel as if I got to know the characters as well as I could have, but I did feel as if I knew them. Just more like acquaintances than actual friends. I did like Dave, and Balthazar wasn't bad. And I did like Becky and Veronica. Horvath was a good bad guy, if a bit Disney-typical. They were certainly enjoyable.
This was a unique movie that is definitely worth watching. It is enjoyable and fun, and even has the Fantasia broom sequence in the middle, which I loved. This is a very entertaining movie that is fun for the whole family.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Book Review: Michael Vey: Storm of Lightning

Michael Vey: Storm of Lightning by Richard Paul Evans

Recommended For: Ages 10 to Adult

Rating: PG 

The resistance movement has been compromised.

The Voice is in hiding.

Their families are missing.

Can the Electroclan pull together to defeat the Elgen once and for all?

My sisters and I have gone to the store to buy the Michael Vey books right when they came out after we read the first one from the library. And if you know our family and how we rarely buy any of our books new, you would realize how much we like this series. The Hunt for Jade Dragon, while still being a great book, felt like filler. I was expecting this book to pick up the pace some more. Instead, I got a big let-down and a set-up for the last two books. I'm hoping Richard Paul Evans will step up his game in the next book and make it better than even the first three.

Writing: 4/5

Richard Paul Evans isn't the greatest at deep point-of-view. He tries to make it deep POV in his books, but it isn't. However, the sentences flow well, and he has mildly good descriptions, though he's not so good at making the reader feel the character's pain. In short, his writing isn't the best you'll find out there, but it's certainly nothing to be sneezed at.

Setting: 4.75/5

This particular book is set mainly in modern United States and Mexico, with some in a very small country called Tuvalu out in the Philippines, which I'm honestly not sure exists outside of Michael Vey's world. (I could look it up, but I just had a bad experience Google-searching something and am not anxious to repeat it.) The setting seems pretty accurate, except for one character's comment about how it would be pretty hard going from Mexico to the US. It actually wasn't, but the characters' surety about the ease in which they got through being a trap by their enemy seemed pretty idiotic to me, especially since they had a really smart guy with them who would've known how hard it would be to travel from Mexico to the US. Other than that, though, the setting seemed pretty accurate.

Plot: 3.5/5

There...really wasn't one. There was enough of one not to make me throw the book out the window from boredom, but it really wasn't worth speaking of, and there wasn't even any climax! I'm serious, there was absolutely no climax, just a set-up for the next book. The plot certainly wasn't one of Richard Paul Evans' best works.

Characters: 5/5

While there weren't as many character moments as in the other books, I still found the characters to be the same ones I've known since Book One, which was a relief. I'm happy to be able to give at least one category all five stars.

In short, if you've read the first four Michael Vey books, you're in for a disappointment on this one, but you should still read it. Plus, I think Book Six is going to be really good. *fingers crossed!* Richard Paul Evans has promised a lot of action in the next one.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Friday Favorite: Eight Mules from Monterey

Eight Mules from Monterey by Patricia Beatty

Rating: PG

Recommended for: Ages 10 and up

 A library in a saloon? In a general store? Sounds crazy, but not to 13-year-old Fayette Ashmore's mother. During the summer of 1916, her job is to establish libraries wherever she can in the rugged country surrounding the town of Monterey, California. Escorted by a mule-driver nicknamed Possum, Mrs. Ashmore and her two children soon find themselves in all kinds of crazy situations.

 I love many of the Patricia Beatty books that I have read, especially the comedies. I don't  remember many of the details of this book but it was good and entertaining. It is also set in a time and place that you don't find much in stories.

 A letter comes from five women asking for some books and so Fayette's mother is sent to take some books. Fayette and her brother must go with their mother to deliver the book. Throughout the story, Fayette is trying to get rid of an Edgar Allan Poe book. I think she thought that it was giving them bad luck but the details are dim. I do know that she didn't like the book and didn't like it when her teacher read it. 

 They had many adventures that I can't remember but when they reach their destination, things aren't exactly what they thought they would be. I do remember enjoying this story. One thing that I love about this book and some of her other books is that it is set in the west during a period that I don't know much about.

This is a great book and I would recommend it for people who love comedies and historical fiction.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Book Review: Little Dorrit

Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens

Recommended for: Ages 13 to Adult (reading and interest level, mostly)

A novel of serendipity, of fortunes won and lost, and of the spectre of imprisonment that hangs over all aspects of Victorian society

When Arthur Clennam returns to England after many years abroad, he takes a kindly interest in Amy Dorrit, his mother's seamstress, and in the affairs of Amy's father, William Dorrit, a man of shabby grandeur, long imprisoned for debt in Marshalsea prison. As Arthur soon discovers, the dark shadow of the prison stretches far beyond its walls to affect the lives of many, from the kindly Mr Panks, the reluctant rent-collector of Bleeding Heart Yard, and the tipsily garrulous Flora Finching, to Merdle, an unscrupulous financier, and the bureaucratic Barnacles in the Circumlocution Office. A masterly evocation of the state and psychology of imprisonment,
Little Dorrit is one of the supreme works of Dickens's maturity. 
I'll just admit upfront, the main reason I chose Little Dorrit was because of the cast of the newest miniseries, primarily Arthur Darvill, Freema Agyeman, and Andy Serkis. I did know already that I love Dickens, so that was one factor in choosing to listen to this while sewing, if smaller than the cast influence. However, I was not prepared to love it as much as I do. It is my favorite Dickens book so far, it is just that good. I love it, and I can't wait to see the miniseries. I hear it's excellent.

Writing: 5/5

Dickens is a master of the English language. Sure, it's a little difficult to understand at times, but I guess people used to be smarter. But still, it really did pull me into the story. I was in the Marshalsea. I was with Arthur Clennam. I experienced what Amy Dorrit experienced. And I gotta say, I got really mad at the Dorrits when they were belittling Arthur. How dare they! But that's how invested Dickens made me in this story. Plus I loved the way the parts where Arthur was determined not to fall in love with Pet Meagles were written. It made me laugh.

Setting: 5/5

Dickens wrote about the world in which he lived, so I assume it was historically accurate. Little Dorrit focuses on debtor's prison, specifically the Marshalsea prison. It's rather different from what I expected out of a prison, it's not just a bunch of cells. They actually have rooms they stay in, and they have lots of visitors, it's just the actual prisoners of the Marshalsea obviously can't leave, and they do have a certain time every day when they lock the gates so no one can come in or out. As far as the settings outside of the Marshalsea go, they're pretty much the same as any other Victorian novel. I do quite love it.

Plot: 5/5

Dickens is a master. The plot is so complex, so many different storylines that come together in the end. I admit, I'm still a little confused about the ending, but, well, I'm confused about the ending of every Dickens book. Little Dorrit is a lot easier to follow than Bleak House, though. The story follows the Dorrit family and Arthur Clennam, primarily, but there are also plotlines involving characters such as Henry Gowan, the Meagles family, Miss Wade, etc. And there's Blandois, or Rigaud, whichever name he's using at the time. I don't want to spoil the twists and turns, but there are so many, and it certainly kept me interested. Be prepared for suicide and blackmail and secrets brought to light.

Character Development: 5/5

Arthur and Amy are my favorites. Arthur's my favorite Dickens guy character for sure. He's not as irresponsible as Pip Pirrip, nor as ridiculously immature as Richard Carstone. I still like him better than John Jarndyce and Allan Woodcourt, and there's no comparison whatsoever to Ebeneezer Scrooge. He's one of my favorite characters from the classics, yes, I like him far better than Mr. Darcy. He ranks below Sir Percy, though. Arthur is pretty awesome. He's so good and kind and thoughtful. He's so helpful and so determined to make things right. He'd far rather take the blame for poor business decisions than let his partner have anything at all to do with it. And I like his name too. Amy, better known as Little Dorrit, is also very sweet and kind. I love her very much as well, and I feel sorry for her for having to deal with her family, though she never complains and always thinks the best of them. I have to admit, I was rather disappointed that her brother Tip is such a jerk loser. I can't bear to think of Rory Williams being such a guy. As is the case with all of Dickens' books, Little Dorrit is full of colorful characters. Affery Flintwinch, who's always having strange "dreams" who is so scared. Jeremiah, her husband, who is kind of scary. Mrs. Clennam who hasn't left her room in 15 years. John Chivery who is always composing a new epitaph for his tombstone (Alonzo from Doctor Who!). Spoiled Pet Meagles. Mentally handicapped Maggy. Talkative Flora Finching. Father of the Marshalsea William Dorrit. There are so many, all so unique.

Read Little Dorrit. Just do it. It's my favorite Dickens so far because it's just. so. good. You must meet Arthur Clennam and Amy Dorrit. Learn about debtor's prison. And prepare yourself for an intricate, amazing story by one of the best classic authors ever.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Friday Favorites: Sarah, Plain and Tall

Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan

Rating: G

Recommended for: All ages

What kind of woman will answer the ad that Anna and Caleb's father places for a wife and a mother? Will she be kind and loving? Will she make their father happy? And once she arrives at their prairie home, will she want to stay? That's what Anna and Caleb want to know as they eagerly make plans for the arrival of Sarah--a warm, wise, and wonderful woman whose long-awaited visit just may change their lonely lives forever.

This is one of those books that was always a part of my childhood. I can't remember when I first read it, it seems I've always known about this story. I do, however, remember seeing the movie for the first time and being severely disappointed by the "yellow bonnet." It was not a bonnet, it was a straw hat with what looked like a piece of yellow tulle over it. Sorry, but Glen Close doesn't fit the story. Because it's a sweet book, a simple, but beautiful story.

Anna and Caleb's mother died, and so their father sends for a mail order bride. Sarah comes, and they all get to know each other as they decide whether or not she will marry their papa. But Sarah comes from a very different life. She has always lived by the sea, while they live on a pioneer farm. Sarah misses the sea, but the children know they will miss Sarah if she returns to it.

Sarah tells them about the sea: the colors, blue and gray and green, the sand dunes and how she would slide down them, the waves. Their eyes are opened to a new life, a new place, which they actually visit in the second book. And she gives them something they haven't really experienced: a mother.

Sarah, Plain and Tall is a small book, it's written for children who have just begun chapter books, but it's an enduring story. In fact, I hadn't known there was a fifth book in the series, so when I saw it at Goodwill, I quickly snapped it up. These are quality stories for young children, especially those interested in pioneer life as I was. Sarah, Plain and Tall is well worth its Newbery, and an essential childhood story.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Movie Review: Disney's Robin Hood

Disney's Robin Hood by Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

Recommended For: All Ages

Rating: G

Join Robin Hood, his trusted companion Little John and his hilarious band of Merry Men as they outfox greedy Prince John to save the good people of Nottingham. Dashing from one daring deed to the next, Robin won’t rest until he wins the hand of Maid Marian and restores King Richard to the throne.

Is it bad that of all the Robin Hood retellings I've read or watched, this one is my favorite? I'm just not that big a fan of Robin Hood for multiple reasons, though not as bad as my sister, who went downstairs to sew in the middle of this movie. Yes, I just now saw this, and yes, it's my favorite. Because it's a Disney movie, I can put the rather large moral problems of stealing taxes back from the government behind me (I'm sorry, no matter how bad your government is acting, that isn't how you go about fixing the problem.)

Technology: 5/5
Simply put, it's a Disney movie. It's going to be well-done. I enjoyed the familiar voices from other beloved Disney movies, like Baloo from The Jungle Book as Little John. It was funny to see the animation scenes they recycled from Snow White and The Jungle Book. I really enjoyed the fact that they had Robin and Marian's wedding at the end and King Richard coming back from the Crusades and setting everything to rights, including punishing his brother Prince John and Hiss. Another great job by Disney in this department.

Setting: 5/5
Set in an animal version of England during one of the Crusades, it's rather hard to rate this setting. However, I think it was rather historically accurate, for an animal Disney movie, that is. It was a well-rounded setting, that's for certain.

Plot: 4/5
I'm not exactly sure what the plot was...still, for a Disney movie, it was good. It was exciting and mature, yet childlike. Just as a Disney movie should be. I don't remember any plot holes, and while it wasn't the most spectacular plot it could have been, it was still pretty good.

Character Development: 4/5
While not as developed as they could be, Disney never fails to make even their most minor characters interesting. The vultures were a familiar friend, for instance, and just as nutty as ever. Prince John was entertaining; he was evil, yet cries of "Mummy!" accompanied by thumb-sucking frequented his conversation. Robin Hood was adventurous, yet sometimes serious, and completely in love, a good balance. Little John was a funny supporting character, and Maid Marian was a nice character, although Disney seemed to be under the delusion that Maid was her first name and Marian was her last name. The characters, in review, while a little Disney-typical, were still enjoyable.

Although most of the people out there probably won't understand me not being a fan of anything Robin Hood, I will brave the confusion and thrown things. Meanwhile, I will enjoy Disney's Robin Hood and gather ideas for my Robin Hood/King Arthur mashed retelling. I recommend this movie to children of all ages. This is a good one for family movie night.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Book Review: Don Quixote

Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra

Recommended for: Ages 12 and up

Rating: PG (for violence)

 Don Quixote has become so entranced by reading chivalric romances, that he determines to become a knight-errant himself. In the company of his faithful squire, Sancho Panza, his exploits blossom in all sorts of wonderful ways. While Quixote's fancy often leads him astray – he tilts at windmills, imagining them to be giants – Sancho acquires cunning and a certain sagacity. Sane madman and wise fool, they roam the world together, and together they have haunted readers' imaginations for nearly four hundred years. 

This is a great classic, which is amusing and interesting. I enjoyed reading this story very much.

Writing: 5/5
 The story was written in a way that was easy to follow and you got to know the characters. It was different from the way most classics are written. It gives you an idea of what the minor characters are thinking when they see Don Quixote. It is also good at describing what is going on. I think that it is a translation, so there are probably different versions.

Setting: 5/5

 The story is set in Spain many years after the Age of Chivalry has ended. It never says what year it is, but Don Quixote uses his grandfather's armor and there are muskets. There wasn't anything spectacular about the setting since the castles were really inns and the giants were really windmills or are they are "just enchanted" so that they look like that. It is mentioned that there are cork trees, which I know grow in that area. 

Plot: 3.5/5

 The story is of Don Quixote trying to bring back the Age of Chivalry by becoming a knight-errant, by helping princesses and doing other heroic deeds. There were several minor characters that they came across that had cliche love stories, one of them being that a girl wasn't allowed to marry her lover because he was poor. Other than that, I liked the plot. Even though there wasn't really a villain (except the "enchanter" that's out to get him) and the characters wandered around, there was plenty of tension. It is a comedy about a man who seems sane except for when it comes to being a knight. It has a very conclusive and a sad ending. The ending was good, though.

Characters: 5/5

 The characters are unique and interesting. They all have their motives that drive them to do what they do. Don Quixote tries to be like the characters from his chivalry books. Once he even can't sleep because he is thinking of his lady love, the famous Dulcinea del Toboso, just like the heroes from his books. He takes knighthood very seriously and even has a squire, Sancho Panza. Sancho was promised an to be given an island to be governor of. He likes food, comfort, dislikes danger, and uses many proverbs, even if they have nothing to do with what anybody is saying. He is loyal and he loves his donkey. There are then Don Quixote's friends who try to get him back to his niece and housekeeper to try to cure him. There are minor characters that humor them and some that use them for amusement.

 This is a good story and I do recommend it as a good classic, and an amusing story about trying to be a knight after the Age of Chivalry.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Friday Favorites: The Chronicles of Narnia

The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis

Recommended For: All Ages

Rating: PG

Four adventurous siblings—Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy Pevensie—step through a wardrobe door and into the land of Narnia, a land frozen in eternal winter and enslaved by the power of the White Witch. But when almost all hope is lost, the return of the Great Lion, Aslan, signals a great change . . . and a great sacrifice.

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is the first book in the magical series The Chronicles of Narnia, a wondrous fantasy adventure for all ages. The next book in this amazing series is titled Prince Caspian.

When I was four and I had just recently started listening to stories at night with my older two siblings, my parents decided to introduce us to the wonderful world of Narnia, and we read all seven books out loud at night (not the same night, many multiple nights until we finished them). Ever since, The Chronicles of Narnia have been a beloved favorite that the movies never have lived up to. It is my humble opinion that either you love Narnia, you read them in the wrong order (I know quite a few people who have done so), or you haven't been introduced.

Let's see, what can I say about The Chronicles of Narnia? They're awesome, they're wonderful, they have great scope for imagination...did you know that it never says in the book that Edmund was stabbed in the stomach by the White Witch's wand? (I guess we all just assumed...)

But for all you non-Narnia fans out there, you need to go read them. Now. Start with The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe or you probably won't love them. I don't care what everybody including the publishers say: you cannot start with The Magician's Nephew. End of story. I could give you a dozen reasons, but I will refrain. Still, though...

If you asked me what is my favorite Narnia book, I really couldn't tell you. They all have such wonderful memories and are just so awesome...but if I had to pick, I would probably pick The Last Battle. Not just because everything's (literally) perfect at the end, but's so awesome. (I know, I'm using that word a lot. Bear with me here.) Shift infuriates me, and yet, he is part of what makes me love the book so much. He's so much like men of today, and how they triumph over's just awesome.

Who's my favorite character? I don't know. Aslan? I love him, but...maybe Lucy, or Peter. Possibly Shasta or Aravis, Eustace or Jill, Rilian, or perhaps Caspian. I love Tirian, and you can't forget Reepicheep. And then Digory and Polly... They're just all so wonderful.

These books are a classic for a reason. Nobody, and I mean nobody should miss out on them. And you can't just watch the movies, either. The Wonderworks version is not very well made, and while The Silver Chair is a mostly faithful adaption, they...probably aren't worth it. (Except The Silver Chair, maybe.) And plus, the beavers in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe are seriously creepy.

See? Creepy.

The newer movies...The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe is enough like the book to be good, but Disney ruined Prince Caspian, and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader wasn't very well made and the screenplay definitely wasn't well-written. Basically, if you want to be perfectly happy with them, sick to the books. And please read them. In the proper order. Now I'm off to work on a fanfic with Jace from Ilyon Chronicles in it.