movie

It’s Anything but Ooky, “The Addams Family” Review (2019)

Warning: contains spoilers***

Morticia and Gomez are getting married, but the civilians are crashing their wedding as an angry mob. They move to a house on the top of a hill and have a Frankenstein-like servant.

Thirteen years later and the Addams couple has two children. Pugsley is being forced to train for a sword-fighting event he doesn’t seem to value and is pretty unprepared for. Wednesday is her usual grim self who tries to kill or hurt Pugsley.

But one of the family members discovers a commercial where a woman named Margaux Needler offers a service to renovate people’s houses in any way they like. Unfortunately, when the Addams family leaves their home and go out in public, everybody is afraid of them. Wednesday, however, befriends Margaux’s daughter, Parker, and attends school with her. Stakes raise from there.

I was surprised how short this film was. As a fiction writer myself, I was able to point out all the major plot points, which kind of made the duration predictable. Due to past movie-watching experiences, I kind of predicted that Margaux would turn out to be the villain.

One thing I found a bit strange was that the setting was changed to modern times, like this decade, despite how this was originally created in the mid-twentieth century. I understand the creators probably wanted to make this more relatable to young audiences today. But since it’s animated, they wouldn’t have needed to struggle with finding outdated technology as much as if this were live-action. I could be wrong, though.

That being said, there are many moments that I admire, such as when Wednesday brought the dead frogs in science class back to life. There was also a reference to “It” by Stephen King. One moment I found a bit strange was when Uncle Fester compared a certain woman’s breath to a baby’s diaper. I sure hope he meant a clean one.

Anyway, in spite of not being too familiar with the original “Addams Family” show, I enjoyed this just enough. Some of it wasn’t super engaging. Nevertheless, it was still, overall, a good watch. I’d rate this 4 out of 5 stars.

travel

An Amazing Experience Happened at Alice’s Tea Cup in New York City

I discovered this place while on a trip with Girl Scouts several years ago. I was resistant to it at first as I was craving something else for lunch. But then I stuck with eating there and tried some new things.

I had a tomato soup (which I can no longer eat due to a tomato allergy I developed a couple years ago) as well as a tier with a sandwich, scone, and cookies. They were delicious. I’m actually glad that I gave into this restaurant. After that, I’d visit Alice’s Tea Cup on my own.

However, despite the amazing scones, sweets, as well as the variety of tea flavors (many of which you can’t buy at your local grocery store), the food prices are pretty expensive. I can’t remember the price of the cheapest tier at the top of my head, but I believe it wasn’t less than $40. I don’t think there’s a menu online—at least last time I looked. It could’ve changed by now. But yeah—if you’re on a budget, it’s best to save this place for rare occasions.

The space is very small, probably because it’s in New York City, and I think that’s typical there. It’s also got “Alice in Wonderland” images on the walls and in their overall theme for the place.

There are three locations. Two on the east side and one on the west side. The west side location was the first one I’ve been to and the one I prefer the most. Even though I don’t visit New York City that much anymore, I would eventually love to return to Alice’s Tea Cup.

Writing

Your Story Might Work with Fewer Words

Image from Pixabay

Sometimes, less is more with writing. If you write regularly and have studied the craft for years, you may have heard the term, “kill your darlings”. That means you should eliminate anything in your project that isn’t necessary, whether it’s content, like a subplot, scene, or character, or unnecessary words.

This was a big struggle with my own writing. In my early writing days, I would write too little. However, as my skills improved, so did my ability to produce more words in my work. Little did I know that a good number of those words were not needed.

This was especially an issue with my series’ second installment, “Wizardry Goes Wild”, which is now retitled “The Unruly Curse” and has been given several changes, including…a shorter word count. I’ve discovered, when editing that story, that nearly 20,000 words weren’t necessary. Reviewers had even complained about the writing, and I’d thought they had been crazy, as it’d felt perfect and flawless to me. In fact, I’d thought it’d read like a traditionally published bestseller.

Anyway, due to the unsatisfying reviews (but not enough that the overall rating was poor or even just neutral), I pulled “Wizardry Goes Wild” off the market and edited it. I had eliminated 13,000 words and republished it as “The Uncontrollable Curse”. In spite of the reworking, the reviews were, at most, just as unpleasing, if not, more.

That was when I got a content edit from an editing service. Although this wasn’t their idea, I removed two chapters from the story. They didn’t serve much of a purpose.

When I republished book 2 the third time as “The Unruly Curse”, the readers gave better reviews than the previous times.

So, remember, always read through and edit your work, as well as have someone else do the same. And I suggest it’s NOT somebody you know personally, as he or she may be biased and afraid to hurt your feelings. After all, your story may need fewer words than you might realize.

fiction

Confessions of a Zookeeper Parent: A Flash Fiction Piece

Summer is coming, and my eighteen-year-old son is about to graduate high school. My twenty-year-old daughter is completing community college and will go off to a SUNY school this fall.

            However, I am fighting against letting my son go to his senior prom or have a graduation party. Why? Because he barely passed this year. He should consider it a miracle that he can graduate this year.

            My daughter also passed just by the skin of her teeth. She’d had to abandon her dream of going to an ivy league school last year.

            As a zookeeper, I wish I could take my children to work with me and teach them responsibility with helping out. I was considering a farm trip where they’d have to collect eggs from chickens and clean up a barn. However, I can’t afford it this year.

            And I don’t think the zoo I work at would allow me to bring my kids, even if they’re overage. They’d probably say that it’s too dangerous. It makes sense to me as most of the animals we have to deal with are unsafe. They’re technically not meant to be tamed and around humans.

            I can’t think of a position they could do that would keep them safe as well as teach them responsibility. Helping out with directions would be too easy for them.

            I might know someone who could keep them busy and give them little, if any, time for fun. He’s a farmer, but he lives in Nebraska. I’m in New York, and I had trouble finding affordable tickets to fly anywhere, especially since it’s a peak travel season.

            Well, I can’t think of any big, famous tourist sites in Nebraska. A lot of people I know like to go to Disneyworld, Alaska, and other popular destinations for the summer. I’ll try looking at plane tickets to Nebraska online. If I can get permission from this farmer to let my kids help him, maybe then I’ll send them off there. I’m going to be a tough dad.

cooking

A Trick to Crispy French Fries

Image from Pixabay

Most of us love French fries, even though too much of them aren’t healthy. Technically, that applies to everything, including food that is good for us. But that’s a different topic.

Anyway, many recipes will tell you to soak your fries for some time before you put them in the hot oil. I supposed that’s a good trick. However, here is the technique I use. It is far quicker and maybe even better. That is…to microwave your potato strips until they are soft enough to poke something all the way through them.

You could boil them, too. But then you have to wait for the water to heat up. Anyway, what I do is cut the potatoes into strips, microwave them till they’re soft (I can’t remember the number of minutes at the top of my head now), heat the oil in a pot or deep pan, put the potatoes in them, and cook them till I like them.

Did you notice that I omitted the peeling stage? You can still peel the skin off, as that’s conventional for making fries. However, I’m too lazy to do that. So, I keep the skin on. Believe it or not, the skin is actually kind of good for you. Or it’s, at least, tolerable.

Another thing to know is that if you use steel pans or pots, you need to heat the object first before you put in the fat, like oil. Then the base has to get hotter, too. Otherwise, your food will stick and cleaning up will be a pain in the butt.

So, there you have it. Does this sound like a good way to make French fries?

art

Mini Art Show: Witch in Detention

How did I come up with this, you may ask? Well, it was inspired by one of my own novels, believe it or not. In one of them, my protagonist is cursed with uncontrollable magic powers and is constantly misunderstood by others. This, unfortunately, used to happen hundreds of years ago, as well. Those who were miscomprehended and accused of being witches were… removed from society. Actually, they were killed.

But that I wrote book is set in 2010. While many things have changed in the past 9 years, the consequences my MC received for unintentionally doing wizardry would probably happen today. One of the punishments she gets is detention at school. Despite the seriousness of past witch hunts and even what my protagonist goes through, I turned this tragic idea into a comedic one.

So, as you can see, the witch looks pretty typical for a paranormal figure. You might think she looks more like a Halloween witch. That was deliberate. And no—she’s not the one from “The Wizard of Oz”, nor was that witch behind any inspiration for this piece. After all, don’t you notice the orange hair?

The cartoony look was not really done on purpose. Nor was the fact that I did it in Photoshop. However, I think a more realistic appearance wouldn’t have worked out as realism often doesn’t promote satire or humor.

The idea stood out to me for a while. It wasn’t until recently, though, that I decided to turn it into a visible image.

fiction

Unlucky Twelve: A Flash Fiction Piece

Image from Pixabay

Days like this make me want to cry. It was my twelfth birthday and I’d hoped for a fantastic time.

            However, instead things had gone wrong. I’d received my math test back with a grade of fifty—an F. Another thing that’d ruined my birthday had been when I’d fallen down on the basketball court and my pants had come down a bit. Everybody had laughed at me.

            My parents had lectured me about the failing grade I’d earned on my exam. I’d even cried after. They’d yelled, too.

            Who’d want to spend their birthday in misery? Yes, there were people who’d had worse birthdays, such as Shakespeare. He’d actually died on his birthday.

            Still—this is a day I wanted to forget. My older brother had been treated nicely on every birthday he’d had that I could remember, including his twelfth.

            Yes, turning twelve wasn’t as significant as turning thirteen, when you actually became a teenager and could do teen activities. You also could no longer be considered a little kid.

            If my twelfth birthday hadn’t gone right, I could only hope that my thirteenth one would turn out better—a lot better.

            In fact, my parents hadn’t gotten me a cake tonight. Why? Not because of my poor math test grade. But because they’d been busy supporting my brother at his basketball tournament. So, they’d forgotten.

            A few people at school had wished me a happy birthday here and there. But overall, I wish I could have my memories of this day wiped and not remember a single thing.

            Maybe I could have a party at some point later. I hadn’t thought about doing something. But perhaps that could make my mood better. I would have to come up with an idea. Then I, Ally Preston, would feel happier.

movie

Have You Noticed These Unique (and Kind-of Strange) Details in Disney Movies?

Who doesn’t love Disney? Many of us grew up with Disney classics whether they were older like “The Little Mermaid” or more recent, like “Frozen”. While I absolutely adore and enjoy Disney films, there are some details that have stood out to me in recent years. And I am not exactly pleased by them.

1: Good looks on human characters rarely exist after age 30

Many Disney protagonists are young, often ranging from younger child to teen to young adult. Since the turn of the century, however, there have been more adult main characters older than teens. I’m assuming Carl from “Up” is the oldest Disney protagonist to date. He’s in his 70’s.

Anyway, as I look at the secondary characters, as well as the villains, who are either supposed to be (or are possibly) over 30, I notice that many of them lack the attractive looks that the characters in their 20’s or younger possess. There are exceptions of younger characters who aren’t as handsome or beautiful, but a lot of adult Disney characters have large or long noses and are too skinny or heavy. Very few are as good-looking as the young people.

Um…hello? People can be as good-looking as late as their 50’s, 60’s, or even 70’s. Some mature TV shows, such as “The Simpsons” and “Family Guy” are better at acknowledging this fact. Believe it or not, both Flanders and Quagmire are in their sixties. But they look incredibly youthful and good for their ages.

It’s not just in Disney’s 2D-animated movies where this happens. I looked at the extras in “Frozen” and saw this same detail there too.

2: Males often have drastically bigger hands and feet than females

Regardless of age, males’ hands and feet in Disney movies are often very big and wide, while females often have much smaller and thinner hands and feet. In fact, there are times where the males’ hands are so big that they could injure the females’ tinier and skinnier hands. The only exception I notice where this detail is absent is in “Tarzan”, when Tarzan and Jane place each other’s hands together. The sizes are similar, but it was for plot convenience. Since noticing this detail, I’ve always wondered if this promoted male superiority. Hopefully, not.

3: Non-verbal animals understand human language way too easily

While Disney is known for talking-animals (although it’s rare that they speak to people), when the animals make the same sounds as their real types do, they understand words much too easily. This was especially strange in “Pinocchio”, when he and Jiminy Cricket are asking the sea creatures about the dangerous whale, and underwater. That went a little too far with believability and setting examples for children. Kids, don’t try this in real life.

Anyway, to an adult, this looks too bizarre. In real life, animals can only understand tone. Even highly intelligent animals, such as dogs, don’t understand English. Parrots may mimic words, but their brains aren’t going to process language the same way humans do.

So, there you have it. Are there any unique details you notice in Disney films?

movie

It’s the Endgame of Avengers as We Know it (2019)

Twenty-three days have passed since Thanos wiped out the world’s population. The remaining Avengers get together to figure out how to fix the problem. The final idea is to go back in time to stop Thanos from succeeding.

The group tests the time machine until it works. They have to go to different years and different times. Of course, things go wrong while the people are in the past.

I found this film to be interesting, despite never being a huge Marvel Cinematic Universe fan. One scene I thought was funny was the one where the remaining people are testing the time machine and Scott, one of the guys, was their guinea pig. He became a child, old man, baby, and then returned to his actual age. It reminded me of that “Codename: Kids Next Door” episode where the delightful children had a special device that made one age forward or backwards.

It was three hours long. Although it was recommended that people not go to the bathroom during the movie, I actually had to. But I didn’t miss much.

Anyway, some scenes were amazing, some were intense, and a few were sad. Except for the time-machine experimenting moment, I didn’t get super-passionate about a lot of the story. And it’s probably because I’m not a big superhero movie fan.

I would rate this movie 3.5 out of 5 stars. I would still recommend it, though.

cooking

Making Mac and Cheese Without Following a Recipe

Yeah, you read that right. You probably would look at me like I had four heads. But I assure you that this is correct.

It’s no easy task making a meal without a recipe. However, the reason I did that was because I couldn’t find the recipe anymore. Thankfully, though, I’ve used that one enough that I had it pretty much memorized.

That being said, I made a lot of the mac and cheese—perhaps too much. Without a recipe in hand, I couldn’t cut the measurements in half. So, I just had to estimate.

I probably used half a box and elbow pasta, a quarter cup of butter and flour, some salt and pepper, maybe a teaspoon of mustard powder, two cups of milk, and two 8-ounce packages of shredded cheddar cheese. After I cooked the macaroni, I mixed the other ingredients in a pot, blended it in with the pasta, topped remaining cheddar on the mac and cheese (so it doesn’t burn), and then baked it for 10 – 15 minutes. It still came out delicious.

I’ve been cooking since I was twelve. I’m now 25, and will be turning 26 in November, a couple months from now. Anyway, have you noticed that it’s easier to cook savory dishes without a fixed recipe than sweet dishes? That is because there are necessary precise chemical reactions that need to happen for the sweet food to successfully cook. With stovetop savory meals, you have more freedom.