movie

I’m Going to Review “Night at the Museum 2: Battle of the Smithsonian” from 2009 Right… Now!

Warning: contains spoilers***

The items at the Museum of Natural History in NYC are being packed away to the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. Meanwhile, night guard, Larry Daley, is promoting something to a live audience.

Not long after, though, Larry is whisked away to Washington D.C. for the museum figures. The enchanted tablet brings the things in the Smithsonian to life, including a villainous Egyptian Pharoah named Ahkmenrah. Danger begins from there.

Like the first and third films, this movie had great humor. One of the funniest moments was when the other bad guys on Ahkmenrah’s side asked about his “dress,” which it wasn’t. It was a tunic. I laugh at when another person asked if he and everyone had to wear that, too. Lol. 

Another amazing aspect was when Oscar the grouch and Darth Vader tried to convince Ahkmenrah that they could be bad, but Ahkmenrah calmly turned them away. There was also a clever twist where Sacagawea made a point about how alerting the dark side about their attack could endanger them. So, when the time came, the good guys yelled, We are not going to attack right… now!”

Let’s not forget about the thinker and when he went “Fire power,” while developing strong feelings for a nearby female statue. Which brings me to the romance between Larry and Amelia Earhart. It wasn’t conventional at all. Amelia wanted leadership and helped Larry a lot. I found that to be fantastic since it was quite unique.

That being said, when Larry told his son, Nick, about her, his reaction was a little too casual. He asked in a neutral way, “You found Amelia Earhart?” 

Aside from that, though, everything else ruled. The Einstein figurines and their little song as well as their advanced knowledge cracked me up. I also appreciate the twist where Octavius encounters a squirrel on the white house property and then rides it.

The review ends here. I would rate this film 5 out of 5 stars.

movie

I’m Spelling Out This Evaluation of “Hocus Pocus” (1993)

Warning: contains spoilers***

There are so many aspects of this film that stand out to me. It begins where a boy named Thackary is looking for his younger sister, Emily. He finds her being cursed by three witches, Winifred, Mary, and Sarah. They turn Thackary into an immortal black cat, but are then executed by the community shortly after. Three hundred years have passed (which surprised me) and the focus is now on a teenage boy, named Max, in his history class at school. The Halloween adventure begins.

I found Max to be very believable, especially since he moved to a new town from Los Angeles and really missed his old home. The bullies who picked on him made me feel even more sorry for him. However, at some point, the bullies were in danger, and Max wouldn’t save them, which was irresponsible. Just because someone is not nice to you, that doesn’t mean you can leave them in peril.

That being said, Max was a good guy. Although he resisted taking his eight-year-old sister, Dani, out to trick-or-treat at first, and she even screamed about it at some point (which was also irresponsible and could have misled her parents into thinking she was getting hurt), he did it and showed loving care with her as the movie progressed. He also dressed as a “rapper.”

Speaking of loving care, it was so sweet how Dani developed strong feelings for Thackary in his cat form. She even held him while sleeping and fed him cat food. During the part where the curse got broken and the witches perished, unfortunately, Thackary passed on, too, and his last sound was a meow. However, he returned to Dani in his human form as a ghost and comforted her until he was reunited with his sister, who also came back as a spirit. This happened at the very end, and I was expecting Max, Dani, and Max’s love interest, Allison, to get in trouble with their parents eventually. Instead, the adults are partying somewhere, unaware of what the kids did to save the day.

Earlier, though, after the witches have been revived and are performing at the Halloween bash Max and Dani’s parents attend, Max, Allison, and Dani try to tell them that the witches have been resurrected and are dangerous. But the mom and dad won’t believe them, which I didn’t expect. In fact, everybody found the children crazy when they attempted to warn them about the witches. Even a bus driver acted casually with the sorceresses when encountering them.

Even though this is just a movie, I found it odd that the witches were able to function okay in modern times after being dead for centuries. They should have been confused like crazy. Another flaw is how they broke into Max’s school and no one caught them. Yes, it was 1993, when school security was likely more relaxed. But shouldn’t there have been surveillance cameras or even a guard?

When Max, Allison, and Dani celebrated the witches’ “deaths”, I figured that it was the midpoint and knew that they hadn’t really been defeated. This was based on how I studied story structure for years and past movie-viewing experiences.

A couple of moments that also shocked me were when Max was willing to sacrifice himself for Dani when the witches tried to jinx her with a potion and a clueless zombie who had no idea what to do. I have to admit, the zombie who didn’t know much felt more credible to me. It also satisfied me since it was a way to stray away from the traditional approach for zombies, where they’re scary and try to eat peoples’ brains.

I would rate “Hocus Pocus” 4 out of 5 stars.

fiction

Interview with Author, Tara Gilboy

As someone who enjoyed her book, “Unwritten,” I am interviewing the author, Tara Gilboy. See the questions and answers below and enjoy!

What do you find the most enjoyable about writing?

I think for me, brainstorming and coming up with new story ideas is always the best part of writing. I love looking at the world as a potential source of story ideas, and I love doing research on them. Of course, after that, the hard work sets in, as I then have to develop the plot and characters in those ideas. But I am always happiest when I am imagining new worlds and possibilities.

What genres do you like to read in now?

I am a very wide reader: I read in pretty much every genre! Right now, since it’s fall and getting to be Halloween time, I have been reading a lot of scary stories, but I also am a huge fan of historical fiction, fantasy, mystery, nonfiction, you name it. I do tend to read a lot of middle grade and young adult books more so than adult novels, partly because that is what I like to write, and partly because I love the way they focus on good, old-fashioned storytelling.

Who is your favorite character in your book?

It is so hard to pick just one! Gracie, my protagonist, is of course my special favorite, but I loved writing Cassandra because she is just so complicated and evil! And Gertrude Winters and I have a lot in common, so I have a special place for her too. And then Walter, of course…. I love them all!

Who is your favorite fictional character in general?

I think if I had to pick just one, I would say Hermione Granger from Harry Potter. When I was a kid, I was always happiest reading, so I think I am drawn to her because she reminds me of myself when I was younger.

Where do you get your ideas?

I wish I knew the answer to this! Ideas come to me all the time. Sometimes I’ll get an idea from something I read or from people I know. If I am searching for ideas, I will often visit a place like a museum or art gallery, because I always leave feeling inspired. The trouble for me is not finding ideas; it is selecting the right idea, the one I am excited enough about that I am willing to commit to it long-term. I often start stories and then put them aside halfway through because I lose interest in them. But I would say that my number one source for ideas is reading. Reading other books by writers I love always inspires me and makes me want to write. 

What other genres would you ever want to write in?

I have always wanted to write historical fiction, and in fact, I have probably started and stopped nearly a dozen historical fiction projects in the last few years alone. I love to read historical fiction and so have always wanted to write it, but somehow I always find myself either stalling or getting bogged down in the research. I feel confident, though, that I will finish one of these historical projects eventually! I also have an idea for a true crime story that I would like to work on, so I have been doing research on writing true crime narratives lately as well.

What was your favorite book as a child?

It is tough to pick just one! I was obsessed with both Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie series and Frances Hodgson Burnett’s A Little Princess

What types of scenes do you enjoy writing most?

My favorite kinds of scenes are ones that make me laugh. Sometimes the scene itself isn’t even funny, but I find myself laughing because I am so taken aback by what a character just said or did. I like writing scenes where the characters surprise me and go in a direction I hadn’t expected when I first sat down to write. Those are usually scenes with a lot of emotional intensity.

What did you struggle most with when writing your book?

I think in my first book, Unwritten, I struggled most with making the “rules” of my magical world clear. The concept I had undertaken, writing of a girl who is a character in a story, ended up being a lot more complex (and potentially confusing to readers) than I had anticipated when I started. I was really lucky to have a great workshop group and critique partners who helped me along the way. I also always really struggle with plot and structure. I find that plotting gets easier, though, once I have my character’s main goal or drive figured out. Until I know what my main character wants, I don’t really have a story.

What character can you relate to most?

I think I relate to Gertrude Winters the most, perhaps because we both share a love of writing. And in Rewritten, Gertrude is struggling with a nasty case of writer’s block, something I can definitely relate to!

Are there unique details you pick up on in fiction, either visual or written?

It depends on what and why I am reading. Reading is my absolute favorite thing in the world, and so I try to just let myself sink into the story. I don’t want to always be looking “behind the scenes” at the way a story is constructed. That said, after I’ve read a book I love once or twice, I will often go back to it and look at what specifically makes it work so well. And when I am struggling with something in my own writing, I often look at books or scenes that are similar to mine to see what strategies the author used to handle various issues that came up. For example, when I needed to write a scene about a fire, I read a lot of different books with fire scenes (for example, the fire scene in Jane Eyre, where Jane puts out a fire in Mr. Rochester’s bedroom) to see how other authors had handled it.

Do you ever notice elements in fiction that others don’t?

I think so, but then again, many of my students and friends notice things in fiction that I don’t too. I tend to look a lot at plot and structure when I am reading, and I have some wonderful friends who are always reminding me of the beauty of language and lyrical prose. I think we all look at slightly different things as readers and writers, and so we always learn from each other.

What is your writing pet peeve?

My biggest writing pet peeve is writers who show off at the expense of the story. It is something I used to struggle with when I first started writing, and I had to train myself not to do it. The plot and characters come first and foremost: writers can’t be afraid to cut paragraphs and scenes, even if they love the language, if they don’t contribute to the overall story. Also for some odd reason I dislike the word “myriad.” I’m not sure why, but it’s always been a pet peeve of mine.

Thank you so much for having me!

Writing

Behold…Some Useful Tips for Worldbuilding in Writing

Image from Pixabay

Do you currently write or want to write speculative fiction stories? Yes to either? Then let’s get rolling.

But before that, if you don’t know what speculative fiction is, it’s science-fiction, fantasy, and horror. For you, horror fans out there, unfortunately, I am not fond of it. Therefore, I don’t know much about creating horror fiction. However, these worldbuilding tips I am about to provide can apply to all speculative fiction genres. So, without further ado, here are some helpful tips for worldbuilding.

1: Be original as much as possible, but also incorporate believability

The second part of that tip is, perhaps, the most important. If you write any genre of fiction, everything should be believable. Of course, you can still have unrealistic elements, like magic, if you’re writing fantasy. But even then, there has to be limits on what things can and can’t do. And your characters should handle the situations the way real people would.

As for originality, it should sound like it comes from you. It’s still okay to use existing elements, like aliens, elves, and so on, depending on your story and intentions. However, a good number of people are tired of certain types of characters, archetypes, and tropes. That is when they’re considered cliches. When I developed the fantastical elements in my books, I actually made up pretty much all the enchanted creatures. The only types I used that were already existing were wizards and a skeleton. Obviously, all the characters are my own creations. But I think you should get the idea at this point.

2: Have limits on unrealistic elements

If you’re writing fantasy, for example, have limits on what wizardry can and cannot do. If you can’t fit them all or even any in a section of your work, then say, at the very least, that there are limits. Otherwise, readers will make their own assumptions about the magic laws in your story, including that there are few to no limits. This actually happened to me with a couple of editors. One thought the only limits in my book’s world were the ones I mentioned. Another thought that there were none at all and obsessed over it during several pages of when I introduced magic laws into my first book, just because the possibilities happened to be relevant. But that is not true at all. I even told that editor that there were lots of limits. They just were not relevant at that point. Then they said that I didn’t need to mention the limits up front, and they thanked me.

It is pretty annoying for readers to make their own assumptions over things not specified, especially since they don’t own the stories. In fact, I think it’s kind of dishonest. I don’t think they should do that at all. Sadly, people do things they shouldn’t do, and very often. But no one’s perfect. So, when you develop your speculative fiction world, remember to state that there are limits.

3: Be creative

As a writer, you should have a creative mindset. Yes, there will be times when you experience writer’s block. But when you don’t, you can use as much as your imagination as possible as long as you consider the above tips. Also, think about your own passions and if you can incorporate them into your work.

For example, I love fantasy, but I also love modern technology and life. So, I combined both elements in my books, where wizards use enchanted technology. Of course, I make it believable and give it limits.

So, there you have it. If you’re a novice or beginner in these genres or writing, give yourself some time. These tips will take years for you to execute well. But you will get there as long as you practice as frequently as possible.

If you’ve been writing great content for years, then you might already know these. But it wouldn’t hurt to expand your horizon.

art

Character Design: What I Learned and Even Discovered Recently

You haven’t seen an art post in a while. That’s because I haven’t been doing a lot of it these days. However, there is something about it that I discovered quite recently. Obviously, it’s about character design. You want to know what it is?

It’s how I was better at it at age 13 than at age 23 in 2017. Okay, you may be looking at me like I have 4 heads. And at the time 3 years ago, when I was 23 and finishing college, I didn’t realize or think of it. But I could portray characters more accurately, based on their personalities, when I was just 13 years old.

Well, they weren’t my own characters. They came from the “Harry Potter” series. At that age, I enjoyed the franchise very much to the point that I did fan art of it. But most of it was silly and the characters did things they would never do. However, that’s a different story.

Aside from the wackiness, I also drew the characters alone, with facial expressions based on their personalities. Below is an example.

I must applaud myself for drawing (movie) Snape pretty well when I was 13. I also liked to use arrows to direct at the characters, which I don’t think is conventional in character design. But I could be wrong for some companies or designers.

Ten years later, in my final semester of college, I took an illustration course. One of the things we had to learn was character design. However, I just drew characters in stock poses. The example below is a replica I did of when we had to design characters for a comedic live-action TV show since I don’t have the original anymore.

It wasn’t this sloppy. I just did it from memory. Plus, I haven’t been doing a lot of art these days. I’m hoping my skills aren’t deteriorating.

Anyway, that above is supposed to be Megan from “Drake and Josh.” I used a simplistic style since I felt it was appropriate for a slapstick comedy. But when we did a class critique, somebody pointed out that I could have given her a more sinister look based on her personality and traits.

If you’ve seen “Drake and Josh,” you know that Megan pulls pranks on her older brothers, but her parents find her innocent. So, a wicked smile would have been more suitable.

Another assignment we had to do was illustrate a story that Disney did not adapt. I picked “Perseus and Medusa.” Just like with the other assignment, I drew the characters in stock poses again. Even though I don’t have it anymore, I illustrated Perseus with a default smile on his face. That was when I learned not to do that anymore.

So, from that point on, I portrayed the characters more accurately based on their traits. Below is an example of another character from the same Greek myth.

For those who don’t know, Polydectes was an evil King in “Perseus and Medusa.” This is why I drew him the way I did.

If you are interested in learning character design, it is important to know as much about them as possible for you to illustrate them for whatever project you work on. Even if it’s only for personal use, these tips could come in handy.

fiction, movie

Harry Potter Mystery: Are Wizards Not as Concerned About Safety as Muggles?

One thing I noticed about the “Harry Potter” series is that wizards and witches don’t seem as concerned about safety as muggles do. It is constantly said that Hogwarts is one of the safest wizarding schools in the world.

However, like many, I kind of have to disagree. People have pointed out the numerous dangers Hogwarts has. There is the forbidden forest with deadly creatures that Harry and his friends are forced to go into for detention in their first year. There are also dangerous beasts in the school, such as the basilisk and the three-headed dog, a whomping willow on the grounds, and even the moving staircases. As fun as Quidditch looks, it’s also perilous. And let’s not leave out the Tri-wizard tournament. Yes, they had an age restriction. But even when Harry, who was underage at the time, was somehow entered (he didn’t do it), he still had to participate.

Regardless of the dangerous activities students can do without permission from their parents or guardians, they do need parental consent to visit the village, Hogsmeade, just a short, and safe walk from the school. People have pointed out how illogical that was. But that’s a different story.

Back to this. Although I don’t remember if it was stated in the book, in the “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” movie adaptation, the first-years don’t wear life jackets when on the boats to Hogwarts. The school also has the second task for the Tri-wizard tournament in the black lake, in February. Are wizards immune to hypothermia? Even if charms that prevent it exist (I’m not sure) and they’re in the black lake, there certainly couldn’t have been any in the pond Harry jumped into in “The Deathly Hallows.” And he took his clothes off, but came out okay.

It’s not just Hogwarts that doesn’t seem to be as concerned about safety as muggle schools or society would. In “The Chamber of Secrets”, Harry almost falls out of Ron’s dad’s flying car. If he just had his seatbelt on, that wouldn’t have happened. Plus, he was raised by muggles—the terrible Dursleys. As much as they despised him, they must have made him wear seatbelts in their car.

So, there you have it.

movie

That’s How You Know This “Enchanted” (2007) Critique Will Teach You My Thoughts on it

Warning: contains spoilers***

The story starts off with a princess named Giselle who longs to meet her prince, which is a usual fairytale. However, the evil sorceress and queen, called Narissa, forces Giselle into a place where there are no happily-ever-afters. That is real-life New York City. Giselle looks for help, and is found by a man named Robert. He lets her stay with him.

Now onto the moments I admired.

1: The musical numbers

The songs were fantastic. I enjoyed the “That’s How You Know” scene, especially the Calypso drumming moments done by the park musicians. The other numbers, such as the one at the beginning that Giselle sings, were also good.

2: The Plot Twists

One notable example is where Giselle rescues Robert from the Queen Narissa after she turns into a dragon. I appreciate fairytale twists straying away from the traditional approaches. In this instance, the princess rescues the male.

Another interesting twist is the ending. Although I didn’t think Nancy was so bad, Robert’s 6-year-old daughter, Morgan, doesn’t really like her. She enjoys Giselle more. So, Giselle ends up marrying Robert and Nancy weds the prince instead. I particularly loved when Nancy’s phone went off in the cartoon fairytale world and she acknowledged how she somehow received signal.

3: Giselle’s development

She starts off as a stereotypical Disney princess who acts very strangely, but grows into a different person when in the real-life world. She learns about dating, how love takes time, and develops feelings for Robert rather than the prince, whom she originally wanted to marry.

And now onto the parts that could have been improved.

1: Robert’s reactions to Giselle’s behavior in his apartment

Giselle does some pretty naughty things in Robert’s apartment, such as make clothes from his curtains, sing to call animals to do the chores, yet end up with bugs, rats, and pigeons, and more. But Robert’s reactions were too casual and relaxed. He would have kicked her out and reported her to law enforcement in real life. However, plot convenience mattered more.

2: Why did Giselle’s hair have to be cut?

When Giselle first appears, her hair flows to the waist and hip area. But when she goes to a ball near the end, it’s mid-back length. Yes, Morgan teaches her about neatness and makeovers. However, I don’t see the significance of Giselle’s haircut and why it needed to happen. I can’t imagine that it would have messed up the storyline had she not cut her locks.

I hope you enjoyed this critique. I would rate “Enchanted” 4.5 out of 5 stars.

fiction

Today is Where My First Book Review Begins: And it’s Called “Unwritten” by Tara Gilboy

Up until this point, despite being a writer, I haven’t read a lot. However, I am reading more these days and am trying to get myself back into it. So, now I am going to post book reviews here. Let the thoughts come out.

“Unwritten” by Tara Gilboy

Twelve-year-old Gracie longs to know about her life before living in the real, typical world. She and her mom left it when Gracie was a baby. However, her mother refuses to share information about it. And she strictly forbids her to see the author, Gertrude Winters. Regardless of her mom’s demand, Gracie sneaks out to the bookstore. She not only meets Gertrude Winters, but also tries to receive more information about the book she wrote where Gracie came from. Gertrude Winters disappears, and it makes it to the news. From then on, things don’t go well.

I enjoyed this book as well as the characters. I didn’t like when Gracie’s mom was unfair to her in the beginning, though, as I don’t like adults treating children that way. But the writing kept me engaged and wanting to know what happened next.

That being said, there were some passive writing moments at times. But that didn’t keep me from giving up. I still would recommend this book.

I would rate it 4 out of 5 stars.

Writing

My Reaction to an Article About Setting Stories Now and What I Think You Can Do About it

Ugh! This pandemic is killing me and us all. I want to get back to full straightforward life ASAP! Okay, I don’t blog about things like this.

However, I did come across an article on BookBaby about “the elephant in the room.” The article talked about setting your story now in 2020, despite the pandemic.

It gave an example from an old story, but twisted on it where a character had to practice social distancing and stay 6 feet apart from others. The post said that there are a lot of complications with setting your story this year. Your characters would have to follow pandemic guidelines, but that could interfere with your plot. The author also said that you shouldn’t have the characters live completely typical lives, such as dining out or partying.

The person advised against setting the stories in the future since no one knows what will happen. I agree with that one. But he or she also said that you shouldn’t set it in the past since it would be unsatisfactory. However, I don’t agree with that one, especially if you only backdate by one or two years. If contemporary settings matter so much, I would still consider 2019 and even 2018 to be pretty contemporary. I think setting your stories then should be totally fine. After all, if your characters need to live normal, typical lives, then setting it one or two years before now should be understandable and even important. That is when setting a story in a certain year plays a crucial part. But I think writers should get to set their stories whenever they want. I wrote another post about that, though.

So, unless your story is centered around Covid-19, or is set in a made-up world (i.e. a make-believe planet in science-fiction or a different magical land or world in fantasy), I think it is best to set it in 2019 or 2018. Or, you could wait until the pandemic is fully over, which should be by next year, or even sooner. This could work if you need to do a lot of research or plan more.

I read the comments on that article, and a lot of people said that books should take you into another world and shouldn’t necessarily be centered around current issues. That probably would work if your story is set in the US and is between January and March.

If your story is set in a made-up world, go ahead and set it now or in the future and keep Covid-19 out of it. Otherwise, set it one or two (or more) years earlier or wait till the sense of pre-pandemic normalcy starts to return.

fiction

Harry Potter Mystery: How Has Not One Muggle Felt Sorry for Harry When Growing Up with Abuse from The Dursleys?

For 10 years, from right after his parents’ deaths and until his 11th birthday, apparently nobody was nice to Harry, not even outside his home. His abuse was looked over at school and he was always bullied. Even the teachers didn’t seem to do a thing about it. I know Harry was born in 1980, so much of his childhood before Hogwarts was in the 80’s. Still, I have trouble finding something like this believable.

Yet, there were no new students or staff at Harry’s primary school who were horrified. No teacher wanted to help him with his stress or stand up for him when others bullied him. No student wanted to do the same.

Also, most people, especially in an area where Harry lived, don’t see the same people every single day. There would have been lots of visitors, new residents, deliverers, vendors, and many other people not native to Little Whinging or Privet Drive. And it seems that nobody has been appalled by how the Dursleys treated Harry. Not one individual has reacted with, “Oh, that’s terrible! Aw, that poor kid. I wish I could help him. I feel so bad for him.”

Unless there are charms that keep muggles from feeling sorry for Harry, I don’t find something like this too credible. There has to be kinder, empathetic, and even highly-sensitive people in the “Harry Potter” universe. Many muggles would have been upset to hear about how the Dursleys mistreated Harry. They would have felt sorry for him and even disgusted with how Dudley got spoiled. Even if that type of treatment wouldn’t have gotten the Dursleys in trouble with authorities at the time (not just because Dumbledore might have used magic to prevent that since Harry needed to be with a blood relative to stay safe from Voldemort, but also that the laws about child safety were different then, according to my research), Harry would have encountered at least a few muggles who said that they felt terrible for him and showed their sympathy to him. More would have said how sorry they felt for Harry in front of him, whether directly at him or to somebody else. A lot more would have said it out loud, but either not in Harry’s sight or would have thought it in their heads. At least a couple of muggles would have gone to the Dursleys and asked if everything was okay, and if they found out the truth, they would have felt horrible for Harry and showed it.

Lots and lots of people would have also ruminated and obsessed over how Harry got treated by his relatives, day in and day out. They might have even been down about it to others, talked about it a lot, and tried to do something about it, even if they couldn’t.

If the series were truly believable, Harry would have met or heard countless amounts of people who didn’t like how his relatives treated him and said how terrible it must’ve been for him, and how bad they felt for him. Maybe Harry would have even had a kind mentor nearby who wanted to check on him and be nice to him. Even in the 1980’s, before the Internet, the fact that Harry was abused would have made it to others, and a good number of them would have been horrified.