travel

I Went the Distance to Greece in the Summer of 2015

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Image above from Pixabay

Greece is the home of the Parthenon and one of the oldest nations in the world. It also has beautiful islands, water, and architecture. When I went to Greece with my family, we went to Athens and one of the outer islands, which I can’t remember the name of.

We did sight-seeing, walked around, and went on a boat around the other island. We did a Segway tour, too. I was not the best, honestly. I stayed with the guide.

The food was very different than from in the US. The meat quality if higher and fresher. Olive oil is used on pretty much everything. In fact, it’s the dressing for traditional Greek salad. Greek salad from Greece also has no lettuce. The Greek dressing and lettuce Americans use is a tradition in the US.

Another moment that was unexpected was when a stray cat came up to our dinner table (we were seated outside) at a restaurant. My dad would chop up meat and feed it to the cat. We didn’t get caught, by the way.

One pitfall, however, was that outside of Athens, there wasn’t much variety in cuisines. At some point, I got sick of Greek food. I craved gravy, barbeque sauce (when I still could eat tomatoes), and other foods not traditional to Greece.

Nevertheless, Greece was a nice place to visit. It’s great after learning about the country in school. I had to study Ancient Greece in school. Didn’t we all?

movie

On the Way… Now a Review of “Ice Age” (2002)

Warning: Contains Spoilers***

 

One of the greatest prehistoric-set movies of all time is “Ice Age”. I am amazed how much effort the creators did to use prehistoric creatures. They got to use pretty much any kind, except dinosaurs.

The three main characters’ voice actors did such a great job with their roles. John Leguizamo expressed such great humor on Sid the sloth. Ray Romano did a superb job as the cranky Manny the mammoth. Dennis Leary portrayed Diego the dark saber-toothed tiger very well.

And Scrat? Ah, you can’t forget him—constantly chasing his acorn. He may not speak or be part of the main trio (or the group of 4 if you add the baby), but Scrat’s moments are wonderful. There was one moment in the film where Sid, Manny, Diego, and the baby came into contact with Scrat.

Speaking of which, the film begins with Scrat, trying to get his acorn in the snow. He falls and the snow is gone. He catches his acorn, and a larger animal steps on him. The title sequence and opening credits start.

The animals are migrating to prepare for the ice age. Manny goes in another direction. Another scene shows Sid waking up and unable to find his family. After accidentally angering a couple rhinos, Sid runs from them and meets Manny. Sid shows interest in being Manny’s companion. But Manny is too moody and prefers to be alone.

Another point-of-view shows the human baby and his parents. Diego and the other tigers are watching. At some point, the tigers attack. Diego almost gets the baby until the mother catches him. She runs away with the child, but dies as she sees Manny and Sid. Sid takes the baby. Shortly after, Diego meets Sid and Manny. They begin their journey to return the baby to the other humans.

This film had a lot of action, humor, and emotional moments. The scene where the animal trio and the baby get separated in the ice slide tunnels was funny. The baby had no fear whatsoever. The animal trio was for the most part good with the baby. Diego didn’t always act appropriately to the child, though. Sometimes, however, he was brighter than Sid. Sid tended to naïve and didn’t always make smart choices. Like when Manny suggested milk for the baby, Sid reacted with, “Ooh, I’d love some.” Diego clarified that Manny was taking about the baby.

The dodo scene was awesome. I appreciated their Tae-kwon-do scene when the main trio just wanted to give the infant food. And Sid won. There was a slow-motion effect as Sid fought the dodos.

Now the film is not without its flaws. There is one inconsistency I noticed. At the end, when Sid is getting emotional and teary as the baby has been returned to his father and the other people, Diego comes back and says, “You know humans can’t talk.” But the baby’s mother talked. Diego was even there. When she ran away with the baby, she turned around to the other humans and said, “Bye.” I guess Diego must’ve forgot by the film’s end—or had tuned out during that time. I don’t know.

Nevertheless, “Ice Age” was a fantastic movie. There are three sequels after, I believe. I would rate this 5 out of 5 stars.

 

travel

I’ve Been on a Trip… to Niagara Falls – 2008

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Image above from Pixabay

In the spring of 2008, when I was 14, my mom, brothers, and I went to Niagara Falls. Another family went with us too. We all rode in my mom’s minivan.

We got to see the falls. However, due to the cold weather, not as many attractions were open. For instance, we couldn’t go on the maid-of-the-mist boat ride.

On the bright side, we still got to do a lot of other fun activities. Where we were was kind of like a mini-Vegas. We did a lot of virtual reality rides and shows, such as a SpongeBob one. We also rode on a Ferris wheel and had Buffalo wings that were just called wings. They did have the same Buffalo sauce, though.

The Canadian side of the area had more to offer than the American side. We had to show our passports to go past the border, even in a car.

After a few days in the Niagara Falls area, we stayed at my uncle’s house in Pennsylvania, not too far from the Niagara area. I don’t really remember what we did then.

I would love to visit Niagara Falls again, especially in the summer. I did do the maid-of-the-mist ride when I was really little, like 5. But now in my mid-twenties, it would be a different experience.

There are a lot of places I would like to visit. I am more into trips where I get to do activities, like boating or ziplining, rather than touring places like historical sites. Because I’m not a child anymore, I have told that trips should be somewhat educational too. Yes, I do agree. But I still like the ones where I can do activities more than touring sites.

movie

Tick Tock on “The House with a Clock in its Walls” Review (2018)

Warning: Contains Spoilers***

 

I saw this film with some friends, not knowing what it was going to be about. In some ways, it made the movie more exciting as everything was a surprise.

The film begins with 10-year-old Lewis, who was recently orphaned and is being sent to live with his uncle, Jonathan. Uncle Jonathan seems nice and doesn’t place any rules at that moment. His house, however, seems haunted to Lewis. Lewis’s mom comes up in Lewis’s dream and says that Uncle Jonathan is evil. Lewis wakes up and believes that. He tries to escape. Even the kids at Lewis’s new school consider the house dangerous. They also don’t care about Lewis. Uncle Jonathan’s one rule is not to open a certain cabinet. Tarby, a classmate of Lewis, tries to disobey that guideline, thinking that it’s no problem. Desperate to make friends with Tarby, Lewis breaks that rule and unintentionally raises Isaac Izzard from the dead. It takes time for Uncle Jonathan and his neighbor, Mrs. Zimmerman, to listen to Lewis when he tries to admit that he opened that forbidden cabinet. After Lewis confessing his wrongdoing, things get worse and intense.

The movie had its light and dark moments. It also had some strange material, such as toilet humor. I had to cover my eyes when the winged lion excreted. That moment when Lewis is trying to undo the eclipse, Uncle Jonathan turns into a baby with the same adult face and voice. I was trying not to laugh, even after that scene. Does humor like that really belong in a dark moment?

Despite it being rated PG, there were a couple of mature words as well as some intensely dark moments that I was getting goosebumps from, even as an adult. I thought it would’ve been better off PG-13.

On the bright side, the story has a lot of excellent elements. The plot was well-thought-out. I appreciated the plot twists, such as when the neighbor, Mrs. Hanchett, was really Selena in disguise this whole time and her dog was Selena’s rat. Selena has been disguised as Lewis’s mom in Lewis’s dreams the entire time. I also admired how Uncle Jonathan was actually a good guy this whole time, despite the hints of him being wicked at the beginning. After the eclipse was undone, he told Lewis not to tell Mrs. Zimmerman about his baby body during the eclipse process. I found that to make him very believable.

Overall, I would rate this 4 out of 5 stars. I’m not sure if I’d recommend this to very young children, but older kids 10 and up may enjoy it. Note, I never read the book and didn’t know there was a book of this until after I saw the movie. I may check it out, though.

TV show

I’m Gonna Analyze, Cause it’s “Danny Phantom”

Ah, “Danny Phantom”—one of those amazing cartoons for people who grew up in the 00’s, like me. Created by Butch Hartman after “The Fairly Odd Parents”, the premise focuses on a 14-year-old boy named Danny. He has two ghost-hunting parents who have a special machine with a portal. Danny has done something that altered his DNA. And… you guessed it… he became a ghost. Well, half ghost. From then on, he is Danny Fenton (his human surname) and Danny Phantom, although the people in his town refer to him as the ghost boy and think he’s evil.

But why is Danny okay with that—being considered a villain? I know he doesn’t let anyone know he’s the ghost boy, except for his two best friends, Tucker and Sam, and later, his sister, Jazz. Still—someone could seriously hurt him. Nothing can get too extreme as “Danny Phantom” was a children’s show.

There was one episode special, however, where Danny accidentally revealed to the public that he was the ghost boy. His parents were shocked, and so was everyone else. But we didn’t get to see Valerie’s reaction. In fact, she didn’t appear at all there.

You probably remember Valerie, that girl who also hunted ghosts, but was harsher than Jack and Maddie Fenton, Danny’s parents. But she wasn’t always kept tracked of too well. She had three different voice actors, the third being Cree Sumner, who voiced her throughout the series from that point on. But then she seemed to have disappeared. I remember finding it unsatisfying that Valerie wasn’t in that special where Danny transformed from ghost to person. I’ve always considered how she would’ve reacted.

Another thing I discovered about the show was that the ghosts aren’t dead, and they’re only referred to ghosts to make it easier to recall than to use some other word (I can’t remember the other term). This came from the fan theory: Is Danny Phantom half dead? Ironically, in one episode, a ghost said, “You can’t catch me alive,” and another said, “Um… you’re a ghost.” Hmmm… was that ever explained? Or how Danny just sucked his future evil self into the Fenton thermos to resolve the main conflict? I wonder how that worked out.

Regardless, the ghosts were memorable and well-developed. I loved the box ghost—his signature line, “I am the box ghost” is so clever. He sounds like the alien, Mark, from “The Fairly Odd Parents”. Ember the Rockstar had an amazing song and I enjoyed how she hypnotized people to love it (until Tucker undid that in one episode).  Desiree the wishing ghost was like a wicked genie. She reminded me of Norm, who was also from “The Fairly Odd Parents”.

Ghosts could possess people in this series. I loved when Danny possessed his dad when he got in trouble at school. It was such a clever way to avoid getting punished.

And have you also noticed this detail about the extras? They’re all physically diverse. People have all different body types and I applaud that. After all, no one should ever feel self-conscious about his or her appearance, especially from something on the screen.

Now about the characters. Sam’s parents were the opposite of her. They had sunshine-like appearances and personalities while Sam was goth in both her looks and personality. Paulina was (I think) Danny’s crush at first, but then, out of nowhere, she seemed to have betrayed him and joined Dash’s side. I wonder why this happened and without explanation.

And Danny… our hero and star of the show… he was such a relatable character. From going through teenage issues to being Jazz’s annoying little brother at times to being loyal to his friends. Wow.

The show ended in 2007, despite its popularity. There are still some shorts of it on YouTube, such as the special where all the Butch Hartman cartoons cross over with “Danny Phantom” and “Danny Phantom goes to Hogwarts”. Even if there’s unlikely to be a reboot, the show is still great. I would gladly recommend it to kids today.

 

movie

The Words Will Speak… For “Grease” Analysis (1978 film)

Warning: Contains Spoilers***

 

Over 40 years have passed since this movie has been released. It follows an Australian girl, Sandy, who is in love with a Brooklyn boy, Danny, and the love triangle Sandy goes through with Danny and another guy. Other characters, such as the girls who call themselves the pink ladies and the guys who call themselves the thunderbirds, play major roles as well.

The musical numbers are amazing. I love the songs, “You’re the One that I Want”, “Sandra Dee”, “Grease Lightning”, and “Summer Nights”. Recently, however, I noticed that some of the questions in “Summer Nights” are rude to ask in real life, such as “How much dough did he spend?” or “Did she put up a fight?” I guess trying to fit in, “That’s none of your business” into the lyrics would’ve been out of place and would’ve felt forced. Oh well. “Grease” isn’t a kid’s movie. So audiences will probably know the boundaries of what is okay in real life and what stays on the screen.

I liked the “Romeo & Juliet” reference right after the “Sandra Dee” number: “Wherefore art thou Sandy?”. Ha ha, Shakespeare never gets tiring.  The scenes where Danny is struggling with sports tryouts were great, as well. They made him feel real and likable.

I also didn’t expect a lot of cartoons within the movie, like what the characters watched. Sometimes, I admire the old-fashioned 2D cartoons from the mid-twentieth century more than the CG animation today, especially because 3D animation is pretty much the only kind for movies these days. This was one of those moments.

The fifties culture was very well emphasized. From the diner moments to the characters’ fashion, it really teaches you about that decade. What I didn’t appreciate, however, was when during the dance scene, all couples had to be boy and girl. I get it. This takes place in the 50’s and was filmed in the 70’s, both of when being gay, lesbian, transgender, or gender-neutral was beyond out-of-the-question. However, watching something like that in a time when homosexuality and chosen gender-identity are trying to be more acceptable (and have made progress during the past few years) can be a bit insensitive. I’m asexual and proud to call myself female both biologically and identity-wise. But I do have full empathy with homosexual people and those who see themselves as different genders than how they were identified at their births.

The ending where Danny and Sandy drive into the sky was quite interesting. Not too long ago, there was a conspiracy theory about Sandy being dead the whole duration of the movie. I don’t know if it’s true, though (I hope not). I do know that there’s a sequel to “Grease”, which I didn’t see.

I approached the movie not knowing the whole plot, even though I saw a live production of “Grease” at a local theater with camp when I was 13. But I don’t remember everything there.

I would rate “Grease” 4 out of 5 stars. Although something about the film didn’t engage me fully, I enjoyed the story and musical numbers as well as the characters.

 

 

movie

“Cars 3” On Your Mark… Get Set… Review!

Warning: Contains Spoilers***

 

I saw the first “Cars” movie when it came out in 2006. However, I barely remember that. I didn’t see “Cars 2”.

But when I saw “Cars 3” last year in 2017, I discovered that I liked it. I appreciated how it easily stood on its own and the viewer didn’t have to rely on the previous two films.

Lightning McQueen is preparing for a race. His goal is to beat Jackson Storm. He crashes and ends up in critical condition. He is asked to retire from racing. But he won’t. Lightning gets pared with a trainer named Cruz Ramirez and teaches her some racing skills. He doesn’t want training, though. He yells at Cruz and she gives up on him. Lightning apologizes and things improve from there.

This movie kept my interest all the way through. The cow vehicles were funny. The animation was also done well.

Although Lightning didn’t return to being a racer at the end, I admired how he gave up his role in the race to Cruz. I found that to be very considerate and mature.

Overall, I would rate this movie 4.5 out of 5 stars. I enjoyed watching it. But the “Cars” franchise never excited me too much. Would I recommend this movie, though? Absolutely.

movie

Alohomora! Review for “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” (2016)

Warning: Contains Spoilers***

 

The first installment of the “Fantastic Beasts” film series began in 2016. It’s a spinoff and continuation of the “Harry Potter” universe, but is set 70 years before the “Harry Potter” series is set (1991-1998). The second movie will come out this November 2018. There will be five films.

Anyway, let me get to the review. The story focuses on a wizard named Newt Scamander, who traveled to New York City with a briefcase of magical creatures. He is on his way to Arizona. He meets two witches, Tina and her sister, Queenie. He also meets a no-maj (American term for “muggle”) named Jacob, who has a briefcase of pastries since he wants to open up a bakery. Newt’s nifflers get out of hand and create disasters around the city. Newt gets arrested, befriends Jacob, Tina, and Queenie, and helps a boy named Credence who has issues as an obscurus, which is when a wizard child becomes a cloud-like figure from suppressing his or her sorcery. Things get crazy.

As an American myself, I enjoyed learning about the American wizarding world. We learned about the government, different terms they use compared to British wizards (like no-maj from muggle), their magic school, Ilvermorny, and their history. The characters were amazing and real. Jacob was very likable, particularly.

I will admit that there are some flaws in this film. For example, it’s kind of hard to see how the little girl doing the “My mommy, your mommy…” thing is important, unless it’ll play an essential role later on. And although this is crucial to their world, I found the wizards wiping the no-majs’ memories with the rain to be sad. I especially felt sorry for Jacob as he seemed interested in Queenie and had to forget her.

The action and level on stakes kept me engaged, though. The moment when Newt took Jacob into his briefcase to discover the fantastic creatures was very magical.

I would rate this film 5 out of 5 stars. I look forward to what the next “Fantastic Beasts” films have to offer.

movie

In a Land Far, Far Away… Lived a Review of “Shrek the Third” (2007)

Warning: contains spoilers***

 

I saw the first two “Shrek” movies and liked them. I did not see the fourth one, though. However, when I saw “Shrek the Third”, I loved it. I could watch it over and over again.

The story starts with Prince Charming performing in a dinner theater. He ends up making a fool of himself to the audience. Shrek and Fiona have to do certain tasks until King Harold recovers from his illness. King Harold dies and Shrek does not want to be king. So he seeks out Fiona’s cousin, Arthur, with Donkey and Puss. Meanwhile, Fiona is pregnant and is with Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Doris, and Rapunzel (temporarily) until Shrek is saved in Charming’s play. Charming is still mad about losing to Shrek in the previous story. He goes bad. With the other villains, he attacks Far Far Away. Charming wants to kill Shrek and become the ruler of Far Far Away.

The humor in this movie was done perfectly. I mean that. The jokes, the characters, and their attitudes cracked me up several times. From the moments at Artie’s high school to the baby montage scene (especially when Puss was diapered by mistake and he gave a dirty look), I could laugh several times.

But the best and funniest moment ever, not just in this movie, but in general… was the baby nightmare. Oh… my… god. That scene was so hilarious. I laugh hard for the whole scene from when the second baby is introduced to when Donkey has a baby ogre face and goes in his normal voice, “Da da.”

I would give this movie beyond five out of five stars, despite how it got mixed reviews and a lot of negative reactions. I really admire the use of humor in the characters and the scenes. Bravo, Dreamworks!

 

movie

It’s a Whole Review of Superheroes-for “The Incredibles 2” (2018)

Warning: contains spoilers***

 

After fourteen years of little to no hints to a sequel, we finally got it. The same family of superheroes returned to the silver screen. And the beginning picks up from where the first movie ended.

Well, sort of. It starts of with Violet’s crush, Tony. He is being questioned for noticing Violet as a superhero. His memories get wiped.

A few disasters happen. The Parr children are asked to stay behind while the parents fight. The kids don’t listen, though. The disasters destroy the Parrs’ home.

Superheroes are illegal. The Parrs stay in a motel. Helen is offered a chance to make supers legal again. She leaves the family to help make that happen.

Meanwhile, Bob and the children stay in a luxury mansion. Violet deals with romance problems. Dash struggles with math. Bob struggles to watch the kids as they overwhelm him. Jack-Jack reveals that he has more superpowers.

Although the film was very engaging, I will admit that the plot was hard to follow. There were a lot of lights flashing (which can be a bit much for me), action, and fighting.

On the bright note, there were a lot of moments I enjoyed. Jack-Jack seemed to have a lot of screen time and play more of a major role than in the first film from 2004. The moments of how he handled cookies was cute and hilarious.

I was also surprised how Evelyn turned out to be the villain instead of her husband, Winston. I thought it was going to be Winston due to all the hints. But hey, story twists do make the plots less predictable.

I also admired how Bob struggled to look after the kids. The scenes where he helped Dash with his math homework were funny. Dash couldn’t pronounce the word, decimals. The math problems were done pretty well, too.

Overall, I would rate the film 4.5 out of 5 stars. Except for the excessive lights flashing, the movie caught my interest.