movie

Imagine the Impossible… Review of “Mary Poppins Returns” (2018)

Warning: contains spoilers***

Many years have passed since Mary Poppins has left the Banks family. Michael and Jane are now adults. Michael is widowed and has three children: John, Annabel, and Georgie. Jane hangs out in the house too.

Michael is at risk of losing his house. While his kids are in the park, Mary Poppins flies down to them. She often denies anything magical, as usual. Nevertheless, she takes them on adventures, such as making the bath like an ocean, or going inside the children’s latest mother’s bowl to a musical hall performance.

Meanwhile, the bank is giving Michael a hard time about his home. His kids are just as worried. If not, more.

I saw this film in the theaters, and after seeing it a second time, I picked up some new elements. For instance, the format of this movie is very similar to that of the first “Mary Poppins” movie in 1964. The scenes are similar to those in the first installment, as well.

I was surprised how Jack was similar to Burt. Not just by his personality, but also having those other guys in the “Trip a Little Light Fantastic”, similar to the “Step in Time” number.

The music was amazing. It followed the same mood and tone, but more modernized. I still didn’t understand why the admiral had to fire the cannon every hour. What’s the purpose of that?

One scene that stood out to me was the balloon scene. Yes, it’s a movie, and it’s supposed to communicate a message about youth as well as be satisfying to audiences. But it was strange for me—the idea of holding a balloon in the sky and seeing it as a magical moment. In real life, if just one person held onto a balloon that took them up to the sky, he or she would scream, and so would everybody on the ground. It would be a scary, panicking disaster. The emergency departments would be there too.

Another moment that was silly, even if essential to the plot, was the scene where Jack and his buddies try to turn back time on the Big Ben. No one would fall for that in real life, not to mention that Jack and his pals would’ve been arrested too.

Nevertheless, this was a good movie. I would rate it 4 out of 5 stars.

cooking

Why I Microwave My Potatoes Before Cooking Them

Image from Pixabay

Many of us enjoy potatoes in various forms: roasted, mashed, baked, fried, and so forth. We eat them at home, in restaurants, and more.

However, when you make them at home, do they take longer to cook? Are they not as soft or crunchy as commercial potatoes?

If the answer is yes, I have a trick for you: microwave them before you cook them. Okay, this obviously depends on how you cook them. If you’re baking or boiling them, then microwaving is unnecessary. But if you’re frying or roasting them, it saves you a ton of time and impatience, especially if you’re in a bit of a hurry.

When the potatoes are already soft, they cook faster. You may have crunchier fries, hash browns, or roasted potatoes. If you like scalloped potatoes, they will be softer when you put them in the oven. Say goodbye to undercooked potatoes.

So next time you make French fries for you or anyone else, consider microwaving them as you heat the oil or oven, depending how you prefer to cook them. I hope this trick works for you as it does for me. Also, if you can, try to use not-very-old potatoes. They get crystalized after some time.

movie

Satisfying vs. Unsatisfying Movie Endings

Warning: contains spoilers for the following films***

Avengers: Infinity War

Into the Woods

The Little Mermaid (both original tale and Disney movie)

Tarzan (both original tale and 1999 Disney movie)

When people watch a movie, they not only expect a good story, but also a lot of conflict. Because every fictional work, visual or written, needs problems and obstacles, many audiences expect satisfying endings, where the protagonists achieve their goals. If they don’t, then it’s either because they realized those goals weren’t what they wanted all along or they weren’t the right kinds.

Rarely these days are film endings unsatisfying. One example includes “Avengers: Infinity War”, where the characters dissolve into dust. But there is a part two now. I don’t know how it ends and I won’t look it up now. Anyway, the other example of a movie with an unsatisfactory ending is “Into the Woods”. The baker’s wife dies and so does the witch after her curse was undone. I understand that the point is that there is no such thing as “happily ever after”. But it was still unsatisfying, especially coming from Disney. Disney is known to sugarcoat their film endings.

Like in “The Little Mermaid”, where Ariel marries Prince Eric as a human. In the original tale by Hans Christian Andersen, she dies at the end and the prince gets another bride. I read that the creators of the Disney version found that sad. They felt that in order to make their adaptation more kid/family-friendly, the ending needed to be happier.

Another example, although probably not as sad (I could be wrong, though), is Disney’s “Tarzan”. While Jane and Professor Porter join Tarzan in the jungle, in the original novel, Tarzan is brought back to civilization.

Audience and genres also contribute to how the films should end. Horror films often end a certain way. The ones I saw didn’t have very satisfying endings. But there likely is a purpose for that. Horror movies are not intended for families or children. Kid-friendly films have different standards from mature movies, besides cleanliness. Also, many young people yearn for happy endings. So do older crowds.

fiction

Rudy’s Racoon Birthday Bash: A Short Story

My brother, Rudy, turned six today. Unlike many people, Rudy admired racoons. That’d led him to wanting a racoon birthday party.

            I’d assisted my mom in buying supplies, such as those racoon hats. The party stores sold no racoon balloons, plates, or anything related to them. So we had bought black and silver balloons and had placed racoon faces on them—printouts from the internet.

            Rudy had also wished for a pin-the-tail-on-the-racoon game. So my mom had made that on her own.

            We set up the house. My mom had asked me to assist in the event, even though my friend, Alice, had invited me to her pool party.

            At fourteen, that intrigued me more than a small child’s birthday bash with an unusual theme.

            The doorbell rang. Rudy’s friends showed up and put on the racoon hats. Then they ran around.

            Once all the little kids arrived, my mom said to me, “Esme, you’re in charge of the kids.”

            “Why? What are you doing?”

            “I’m teaching you responsibility.”

            I blushed, recalling the poor grades I’d received in school that’d almost made me fail eighth grade.

            As Rudy’s friends played the games, Alice called me.

            “I can’t talk right now.”

            “I’m going away tomorrow and won’t be back for two weeks.”

            “Alice, I already told you that I can’t make it.”

            A boy fell and cried.

            “I’ve got to go.” I hung up and rushed over to the kid. “What happened?”

            “I tripped,” he sobbed.

            “Hang on, I’ll get you a Band-Aid.” I hurried to the bathroom, only to run into my mom, who walked out.

            “Who’s crying?” my mother asked.

            “Dylan,” said Rudy.

            “Where was Esme when this happened?” asked my mom.

            “Talking on the phone with her friend, Alice,” Rudy answered.

            My mom glared at me as I gave Rudy a dirty look.

            “Esme, I told you to look after them,” my mother said.

            “I’m sorry. But Alice was the one who called me.”

            “Give me your phone.” My mom held her hand out.

            I gave it to her and dragged my feet into the room.

            “You’ll get it back after the party.”

            I flushed and gave Dylan the Band-Aid. “All right, who wants to play a game where you don’t run around?”

            The children groaned.

            “We can come up with something.” I gasped. “How about arts and crafts?”

            “Can it be about racoons?” Rudy asked.

            “Yes, but let your friends make whatever they want too.”

            I gathered some paper, crayons, scissors, glue sticks, and googly eyes. Then I brought it to the playroom.

            “What can we make?” asked Dylan.

            “Anything you want,” I answered. “Just be careful with the scissors and don’t run with them. No grabbing things from the other children, no coloring on anything other than the paper, and clean up after you’re done.”

            The kids engaged in drawing, coloring, cutting, and pasting. They made rainbows, houses, butterflies, and other cute creations.

            After they tidied up, they showed my mom their crafts.

            “Very nice, everyone,” she said. “Did Esme watch you?”

            They all said that she did.

            “She helped us,” said Rudy.

            “Wow.” My mother turned to me. “Thank you, Esme.”

            “You’re welcome.”

            I assisted in serving pizza, cake, and goodie bags. Then my mom returned the phone to me. Alice had texted me.

My pool had an issue. So we can’t swim today. Do u want to come in 2 weeks?

I replied.

Yes. TY so much. See u then.

“Thank you for helping out today, Esme,” my mom said.

“Thank you,” Rudy added.

“You’re welcome.” I grinned.

TV show

Here They Come Just in Time: “The PowerPuff Girls” Top 3 Memorable Episodes

This show was my biggest favorite when I was 7. There’s a reboot now, but I like the old series better.

I have not seen much of the series in years, except for the Christmas special. But that’s another post, plus it’s off-season.

Anyway, these are the top 3 memorable episodes of “The PowerPuff Girls”. This does not include the reboot. I have not watched that, nor do I want to.

Note, these are not necessarily my favorite episodes—just ones that stand out to me.

3: The episode where Blossom has ice powers

Poor Blossom gets scolded for her ice breath, despite the boiling sun. Bubbles and Buttercup dislike her ice powers. Blossom has to promise not to use it, except when necessary. Even at school, when Ms. Keane demands everybody goes outside, Blossom has to resist the urge to use her ice breath.

Although Blossom is very bright, I felt sorry for her when her sisters put her down for her ice powers (I believe Buttercup called Blossom “Ice Princess” as an insult). This is, I think, the only episode where Blossom has ice breath.

2: The episode with Cooties

A girl in the PPG’s class panics when a boy has saliva all over his mouth and tries to kiss her. Even the PowerPuff Girls have nightmares about that kid giving them cooties. In the dream, several little clones of that child pop out of their skin.

As a little kid, it meant nothing to me. But now, as an adult, I find this offensive. I don’t think I’d voluntarily watch that episode now.

1: The episode where Bubbles keeps animals in the house

This I remember better than the others I listed. Bubbles has animals inside the house. The professor states that the animals need to be free and not locked up inside a closet. Later Bubbles has a whale because it won’t fit in a closet. But the whale gets dried up and even makes a noise. Bubbles, as her not-very-wise self, just gives it a glass of water. Of course, that’s not enough. At some point, Bubbles learns the lesson and frees the animals from the Townsville Zoo (and doesn’t get arrested).

I adored Bubbles’ little rhyme, “They’re Mr. and Mrs. Squeakers, inside your sneakers” to the professor. I think I’d like this episode now.

While I said these are the top 3 memorable episodes, I do have a bonus.

Drumroll…

Bonus: The birthday party episode

It’s the PPG’s birthday and many Townsville residents are invited. The girls are desperate to open their presents. They even use X-ray vision to see inside their gifts. However, the professor stops them and says that they can open their presents after cake.

The PowerPuff Girls are so rushed that Bubbles won’t let the guests sing “Happy Birthday”. The professor gives them the cake, which they blow away. Regardless of his request to eat the cake before they can open their presents, the professor seems to give his daughters a free pass to open their gifts. However, a few presents come from the villains and endanger the girls. I do admire the dolls that resembled the girls, though, and Princess Morbucks telling one of the other bad guys, “You gave them dolls?”

Well, that’s it. Do you have any memorable moments of “The PowerPuff Girls” you want to share?

Writing

Unintentional Symbolism and Messages I’ve Made in My Writing

Image from Pixabay

Have any of you wrote something and didn’t realize anything significant about your work until long after? I have. They are symbols and messages I didn’t discover until a lengthy time after writing the projects.

For instance, in my first book, “The Frights of Fiji” (formerly, “From Frights to Flaws”), there are mermaid-like women, but with dolphin tails, who sing certain songs as a way of informing others of their presences. Those songs ended up relating to the situations they were encountering or leaving.

In my second book, “The Uncontrollable Curse” (formerly “Wizardry Goes Wild”), my MC wants her dog to attack the antagonist, who is a skeleton. At the time I wrote the story, I tied that dog vs. skeleton situation with historical context—not because of the “dog-eating-bones” stereotype.

Another unintentional message I ended up making in that installment was about history repeating itself. I’m not going to spoil anything, of course (“The Uncontrollable Curse” hasn’t even come out yet), but the book does tie a lot of Puritan and Salem Witch Trials content. My MC is cursed with involuntary magic. When she does it, others misunderstand and become afraid of her. This ties to how people during Pilgrim and witch hunt times were miscomprehended and feared when they were just different. While people who were found guilty of witchcraft were hanged and/or burned, the “witch” (my MC) is penalized for her sorcery by getting detention at school, suspended, excluded from activities, and more (I won’t give away anything else).

I have yet to discover any accidental messages or symbols in my third book. But hey—it might happen.

Writing

Characters: When All of Their Flaws Are Too Hard to Apply

Image from Pixabay

Ah, characters: you’ve got to love or hate them—or have some opinion on them. They also shouldn’t be perfect. The hero should do wrong things and get disliked at times and the villain should get liked at times.

However, this is super-difficult—at least for me it is. I have a tendency to protect my main character in my novels. I like her a lot. I feel sorry for her. And because of those, I tend to make her hardly flawed. At most, she may do a few wrong things and at milder levels. The worst she has done in my book series was unauthorized filming and lying about not doing it. That’s actually a serious offense.

Anyway, I’m probably not the only writer who has trouble making certain characters flawed. Of course, there are characters who are unfriendly, but not evil. And obviously, there is conflict in my stories. But I think I know why I have difficulty getting my protagonist to misbehave.

One: it wasn’t until the plot of my first book’s first edition was nearly complete when I found out that protagonists should behave badly or do wrong things. When rewriting my first book after removing it from the market, I couldn’t make my main character more flawed as the major elements had already been established. Two: I have recently become very uncomfortable around conflict. Not just in real life, but also in fiction. Yes, I have stopped certain books and movies because I loathed how the characters were being treated. Now while writing my third book, I have no plans to make my MC do really bad things. Yes, she won’t be perfect. In fact, she will have trouble controlling her emotions. But I will stop there on that.

Writers fall in love with their heroes. They become attached to them. So they may have trouble making them behave badly. However, someone told me that the best books have characters who misbehave a lot.

Now if you’re creating children’s stories, there are limits to how badly the characters can act. Of course, it would be acceptable (and would probably engage readers) if the protagonists started food fights at school, got sent to the principals’ offices, and were punished by their parents. However, you could not have them do something that would be inappropriate. Not just drugs or drinking, but also activities that could lead to death or serious injuries. Otherwise, parents won’t want their kids reading your books.

Do you notice that lack of perfectly behaved characters in fiction? Most likely. And that’s because people want flawed characters. In fact, sometimes that’s essential to the storylines.

I’ll give a few examples from Disney movies. In The Lion King, when Simba talks to Scar about that shadowed area that his father forbade him to go, Scar says that only the bravest lions would enter. “Brave” is the big, main keyword. That was what encouraged Simba to check it out, and, of course, that led to conflict crucial for the plot. If Scar had said that only the dumbest lions would go there, Simba might not have gone because he wouldn’t have said, “Well, I’m dumb.” He was in too good of a mood to say such a thing. And then, there would have been a lot less conflict. And without enough conflict, the story would’ve been dull, and the film would’ve drastically failed—or maybe not have even been green-lit.

In Beauty and the Beast, after the beast releases Belle from the dungeon tower, he leads her up to her new room and says that she can go anywhere, except the forbidden west wing. Later Belle is curious about the west wing and enters it, discovering the enchanted rose and the portrait of the beast when he was a person. The beast catches her and forces her out.

Spoiler:

At the end, when the beast transforms back into a human, Belle recognizes him from the painting. Then they live happily ever after.

If Belle had listened to the beast, or the beast had not prohibited her from going to the west wing, then the ending might’ve resulted in the prince re-explaining how he’d become a beast. Or—he might not have changed into a better character. Therefore, Belle wouldn’t loved him, and he would’ve failed to break the spell he and the servants had gone under.

So there you have it. Notice the pattern in both examples? Let that help you.

movie

Disney Princess Types That Have Not Happened So Far

We all know the official Disney princesses as of now. Some of us may know about the forgotten Disney princesses. But that’s another post.

Anyway, have you noticed these details that have never happened to Disney princesses, both the official and forgotten ones? Read below:

1: A princess who wears glasses

Not one Disney princess wears glasses. In fact, not long after I noticed that, a little girl who wears glasses wrote to Disney and stated that it would be nice to have a Disney princess who wears glasses. Hey, glasses are NOT nerdy at all.

2: A princess with braces

Like glasses, braces are not geeky, either. Yes, many princess movies are set in historical time periods. But, hey, unchronological stuff happens in Disney movies all the time (like several times in “Aladdin”, especially with the genie). A princess with braces would be nice.

3: A transgender princess

In a time of people starting to accept sexual orientations and gender identities, it would be appropriate to have a transgender princess. There’s already been pressure toward Disney to give Elsa a girlfriend. While there haven’t been any hints to Elsa having a female lover on the “Frozen 2” trailer, it would be great if there were a lesbian or transgender princess.

4: A disabled princess

There was a petition for a Disney princess with Downs Syndrome. But not one princess has been blind, deaf, physically handicapped, or anything else. Well, Ariel becomes mute for a good chunk of “The Little Mermaid”. But her voice was physically removed.

5: A tomboyish princess passionate about science

Okay, I know. Science barely plays roles in Disney films. Probably because magic is more dominant. However, I think this would be hard to market to little girls. So if a tomboyish science-obsessive princess ever happens, she’d likely end up a forgotten Disney princess.

6: A princess too old to be official

I was surprised when I first discovered that Elsa is supposed to be 21 in the main events of “Frozen” (the first one in 2013). That makes her the oldest official Disney princess in age and the only one not a teenager. Some of the forgotten Disney princesses might be older than teens too (Wikipedia said that Megara from “Hercules” was 20) and some are definitely younger, like Vanellope from “Wreck-it-Ralph”. In fact, part of the reason Vanellope is not official is because she was considered too young. However, no princess has been deemed too old. Disney rarely made human protagonists older than teens before the turn of the century. But even now, a 30-year-old princess would likely be too old to appeal to young girls.

Well, that’s all. Have you noticed any missing details among the Disney princesses?