movie

An Adventure Awaits with My Review of “Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb” (2014)

I have been a huge fan of the “Night at the Museum” franchise since the first film was released in 2006. Also, as great of a film this is, as well as the first two, this was also Robin Williams’s last movie before he died.

Anyway, let’s get to the review. The movie starts with a flashback of Western and Arab men. There is also a little boy named CJ. CJ’s father forces him to go somewhere and wait, but CJ ends up falling into something. He discovers the tablet, which brings the museum figures to life.

Fast forward to the present, and Larry Daley is presenting the figures at a formal event. However, the figures get out of control and the people panic. Larry gives the figures a lecture about their behavior. Not long after, he and his son, Nick, are whisked away to London to get the tablet fixed. They meet new figures, including Lancelot, who seems caring to Nick about his values. But things get out of hand again.

This movie was very funny as usual. The characters are still humorous. I especially love the scene where the little cowboy and Roman gladiator figurines are watching a cat video on YouTube and they use a special ancient machine to write a comment. The scene where the caveman eats the packing peanuts was also hilarious.

Of course, like every creative work, this film does have some flaws, such as the “kid holding party while his or her parents are out and gets in trouble when they come home” cliché. Not to mention that it really isn’t believable, especially with characters who are minors. No parent would ever allow their underage child to go to an unsupervised party. So, Nick wouldn’t have had the unsupervised party if this were more credible.

Another moment in this film that isn’t believable is when Lancelot runs onto a stage in a theater where “Camelot” is being performed. The actors are like, “Can I help you?” and explaining to Lancelot that they are just actors. This isn’t the best example, as running on stage during a show performance in real life would get you arrested, even if you just stand there and say nothing. The actors would’ve yelled at Lancelot to get off the stage, security would’ve taken him away, and then the cops would’ve arrested him. But that couldn’t happen, because—plot convenience.

Nevertheless, I very much enjoyed the film and would rate it 5 out of 5 stars.

movie

Feed Me This Critique of “Little Shop of Horrors” (1986)

Warning: contains spoilers***

One of the earliest movies to be rated PG-13, this story follows a young man, named Seymour, who is trying to please his boss with a plant business. One plant becomes incredibly popular and then gruesome.

I will stop there with the narration. Below are what I liked about this film and what I felt could’ve been better.

This post will only include information about the movie from 1986 and not the earlier movie from 1960 or the live musical.

So, without further ado, here are my thoughts on this film, starting with the strengths.

1: The Musical Numbers

The songs were great. In fact, they were done by the same people who did Disney-animated movies such as “The Little Mermaid”, “Beauty and the Beast” and “Aladdin”. While the music doesn’t sound too similar, and obviously, the story is more mature, the structure of the film is similar to that of a Disney classic. Between the midpoint and the all-is-lost moment is a romantic number between Seymour and his love interest, Audrey.

2: The Twist Where the Plant Talks

Seymour called the plant an Audrey II to honor the lady he had strong feelings for. It started out as a normal plant. Then, when Seymour cut himself, he fed the blood to the plant. It would make smacking sounds when it was hungry. When it grew bigger, it surprisingly could talk. It would tell Seymour to keep feeding it. I loved when Seymour said to the plant at some point, “Don’t think you’re getting dessert.” Lol.

3: Seymour’s Character Development

While Seymour was nicer to Audrey than her abusive boyfriend, the dentist, was, he wasn’t without his flaws. Although the dentist had already died from the laughing gas, Seymour’s boss thought Seymour was killing the dentist. Seymour feared trouble with the cops, turned down journalists and people in the publicity business when they wanted to advertise his plant and offer him money, and even brought something to defeat the dentist before he perished from the laughing gas. Of course, Seymour is still a good guy who’s had a tough life. He was orphaned at a young age and his boss raised him, but not in a pleasing way.

Now onto the parts I felt could’ve been better.

1: Audrey’s Ideal Life Explained in the Number, “Somewhere that’s Green”

I first discovered this song in “Family Guy”, when Herbert imagines a life with Chris. The lyrics there and in “Little Shop of Horrors” are mostly the same. Audrey imagines a life with Seymour where he rakes and trims the grass and Audrey is a happy wife into cleaning and cooking. Some of her other dreams included TV dinners and a 9:15 bedtime. I know this story was written and is probably set in the late 50’s or early 60’s, when standards for women were different. But seeing this in 2019, I found those ideas too bizarre and unappealing. Most women probably wouldn’t dream of a life like Audrey does during that moment.

2: A Dentist that Scares and Hurts People Still Succeeds in his Job

I know this is a past decade, but why would anyone want to go to a scary dentist? He causes pain the wrong way and harms people physically at times. Why doesn’t anyone report him? Or at least not come back? He should’ve lost patients due to his bad practicing.

Last, but not least, onto an idea that I’m unsure about.

A Happy or Sad Ending

Originally, the film was going to end where Audrey dies, Seymour feeds her body to his plant, and then the plant eats Seymour after. That was in the director’s cut, which you can get on the DVD. However, the theatrical release showed a happy ending, where Seymour defeats the plant and he and Audrey get married, living happily ever after. While I’ve always preferred happier endings to stories, I find that the sad ending fits the tone and premise more. At the same time, I was more satisfied with the happily-ever-after ending. I guess both are equally fine.

I would rate this film 4 out of 5 stars.

travel

When I Visited the Calgary Zoo in 2015

Four years ago, I went to Calgary for my cousin’s engagement party. On what was Independence Day in the US, I went to the Calgary Zoo. It’s kind of like the Bronx Zoo, but more condensed. You can probably see pretty much anything in one day.

After you’re admitted, you’re near the penguin house. Outside it, has different signs, one saying not to touch the penguins. I was puzzled, thinking, why are they reminding people something they already know? Plus, don’t they make it impossible to touch the creatures? Following that sentence was, “We have a no-touching policy.” In my mind, I was saying, yeah, no duh, all zoos do. That’s common knowledge! That’s like reminding people that animals can’t talk. Also, if you put that in a book, that’ll turn readers off. That’s right, I was thinking about something irrelevant.

But when you enter the penguin house, the tanks are, like, five feet tall. So, while little kids wouldn’t be able to reach the top, adults could. Perhaps, that’s why they needed to remind people that basic knowledge that most three-year-olds already know.

Another unique aspect is that they have a restaurant with sit-down service and good quality food. That’s a big difference from the New York City zoos. And it’s indoors.

At the end of the day, it rained, and the small children screamed and cried, even in the tunnel to exit the zoo. Still, no two zoos are alike.

movie

I Solemnly Swear I am Up to Good Details…for the “Harry Potter” Movies

Unlike many fans, I found the “Harry Potter” films better than the books. I often have either liked the changes or cuts better in the movies, or, at least, didn’t mind them.

There is another post that includes content in the novels. But this post will only focus on the film franchise. It will include details that I noticed in the movies.

1: In “Chamber of Secrets”, there were mostly younger kids as extras

Did anyone else notice that most scenes with Hogwarts student extras had few to no older students (like 5th year and up)? Most looked like 1st and 2nd years, maybe a few 3rd and 4th years. Did the filmmakers have a different vision in mind that maybe most of the older students in the previous movie, “The Sorcerer’s Stone”, were 7th years and there were a lot more 1st years in “The Chamber of Secrets”? If so, that’s surprising (and probably not accurate), especially since they broke child labor laws at least once. In film, anyone under 18 has a mandatory limit of 4 hours on a film set. That’s why many times, teen characters are played by adults in their 20s, sometimes even 30’s (which I think is way too old), but rarely actual teenagers. That’s a different topic, though.

2: From “Prisoner of Azkaban” and on, the students have new uniforms, wear street clothes more often, and the Hogwarts campus looks totally different

Unlike the previous observation above, this reason has been revealed. The scenery looks different, because the filming location was changed from Scotland to New Zealand. I believe it was because they wanted a more fantastic-looking environment. Students are often shown in street clothes when they’re not in classes, because the director wanted to make the kids show more of their personalities instead of just wearing robes the whole time. Speaking of which, the reason the uniform look changed was never explained—I don’t think so.

3: Characters control their emotions far more than in the books

Many people dislike this. In “Order of the Phoenix”, when Harry is talking to Dumbledore shortly after Sirius’s death scene, he is calm in the movie while he is angry and out of control in the book. Most people were disappointed by that and liked his extreme rage in the novel. I, however, thought the film’s portrayal was completely fine. In fact, I’ve always found the characters being calmer in the films than in the books a lot better (no offense, just my personal opinion). I don’t know why. Maybe I feel it makes them stronger?

4: Speaking of controlling emotions, Hagrid and Sirius are calmer in the films than in the books

Well, maybe not Sirius in “Prisoner of Azkaban”, but definitely in “Order of the Phoenix”. I already say why in my other “Harry Potter” post that focused on a lot of the books. If I had thought of this then, I would’ve said that I like movie Hagrid better than book Hagrid. I understand book Ginny being better than movie Ginny if she’s better developed in the novels, but movie Hagrid is far more likable to me than book Hagrid. Why? Because he controls his anger and emotions a lot more in the film franchise. I saw the first four movies before I read the books. I noticed that Hagrid had explosive tempers a lot in the novels, and it didn’t please me. I was often glad when those extreme anger outbursts were cut out of the movies or changed to much calmer episodes. Yes, it’s a significant trait for giants and half-giants. But I’ve always preferred calmer, patient people more. Not just in fiction, but also in real life. Movie Hagrid was closer to my envision. Hagrid may be friendly in the novels, but it’s more emphasized in the movies.

5: Music classes at Hogwarts exist in the movies

Fans constantly point out the lack of core education classes at Hogwarts, such as math, English, science, and social studies. Even though the film franchise doesn’t include liberal arts courses, they do have music classes, such as choir, like that scene in “Prisoner of Azkaban” where the school chorus performs in the great hall, or in “Order of the Phoenix”, where Flitwick is having them rehearse their voices, and in “Half-Blood Prince”, where Flitwick mentions having to teach choir practice. There is also an orchestra in “Goblet of Fire” in the Yule Ball scene and a band playing at the third task in the same movie. I don’t remember any music courses in the novels. But I’m pretty sure there weren’t any.

6: The actors playing Lily and James Potter were much older than their characters

Yet, the crew did not bother to make the characters older in the movies. The actress who played Lily was in her 30’s when they filmed the first movie. The actor who played James was in his 40’s when they filmed the first installment. J.K. Rowling was actually offered the part of Lily, but I think she turned it down. That being said, she could’ve told them that they were only 21 when they died. Unless she wasn’t allowed to, or she forgot, and when she finally remembered, it was too late. Clearly, the casting person had a very different vision of Lily and James. They probably pictured them much older. Once the 7th book was released, readers discovered that Lily and James were much younger than how the films portrayed them. In fact, it’s apparently still a common misconception that they died in their 30’s. The filmmakers had every right to make those characters at least 10 years older than in the books, even if J.K. Rowling demanded that they didn’t. Authors usually don’t get to have any creative control over their book’s film adaptations. J.K. Rowling was one of the few exceptions and it was only because she was an incredibly big-name author.

Anyway, the filmmakers could’ve cast younger actors from the start or when they found out Lily and James’s real ages (which probably wouldn’t have been an option, though), or put youthful makeup on them to look younger, or—just simply made them older in the movies. Nothing would have been messed up as a lot of elements were already cut and changed. Plus, it is common for characters to be made older in the films than in their original sources. This happened with Disney’s “Pocahontas” (and many other adaptations of the same person), 2002’s “Tuck Everlasting”, “The Crucible”, “Percy Jackson” movies, and “The Giver”. The crewmembers probably thought the movies would succeed more and have wider appeals if the main characters were made older than in their original books. Oh well.

So, those are all the observations I had for the “Harry Potter” movies.

Writing

Why You Should Wait to Publish a Hardcopy of Your Book

Image from Pixabay

I know, I know. Many people prefer hardcopies over eBooks. Many writers and publishers will say you should have a hardcopy or paperback available with your eBook.

I agree…if you’re satisfied with your reviews. I realized this recently. I’ve published too many premature books that got just okay reviews but not super-satisfying ones. So, I removed them from the market. However, only the eBooks are gone forever. Sadly, the print books will be there for the rest of time. Amazon and other retailers list print versions for third-parties to sell copies, even if the author removed them from the market. And if the paperbacks and hardcovers are listed permanently, the reviews will be there forever.

Now I have a bunch of books on Amazon that aren’t available anymore (except maybe from third-party sellers) but will never be taken down. I hope it doesn’t ruin my reputation as an author.

That’s when I started to give myself a new rule: no print copies may be published unless I have at least a few reviews that are very satisfying—not just so-so. That way, if I’m not happy with the reviews, I can remove the eBook and the listing shouldn’t stay up.

If you’re traditionally publishing, this might not work as the publisher will have the rights. But if you’re self-publishing, then I would highly recommend this, even if you send out pre-publication copies and they’re all satisfying. That excludes people you know personally.

I have an eBook on pre-order and it’s the third time publishing a particular story that has only okay feedback the first time and even the second time, despite the drastic changes I made. I revised and removed even more material in this third edition. I am still nervous about the reactions, both before and after publication.

Hopefully, the reviews will be more pleasing than ever. But if they’re not, I will know what to do.

movie

Let’s Get Down to Business…to Analyze “Mulan” (1998)

Warning: contains spoilers***

I was 11 when I first saw “Mulan”. I also wrote an essay about the use of femininity in the film when attending college.

Speaking of which—I didn’t find the attitude toward females in the movie to be offensive when I was 11. In fact, I saw it as historically accurate. I was well-aware of how girls and women weren’t allowed the same rights as boys and men. So, it came up as no surprise to me that Mulan couldn’t go to war as a female.

When her dad is called to the battle against the Huns, Mulan disguises herself as a male by cutting her hair and then putting it up, faking a manly voice, and having to behave like a male. It only lasted so long.

Coincidentally, there was a true story of a lady who pretended to be a man to fight. That was Joan of Arc. Anyway, I think Mulan identified herself as not-very feminine. She fails the bridal test at the beginning. But she befriends the other soldiers, all of whom are male.

Also, she is considered an official Disney Princess, even though she’s not a princess at all. She wasn’t born into royalty, nor does she marry a royal (unless Shang, whom Mulan marries in the sequel, has some mysterious connection to royalty that nobody is aware of). I heard that she was only added to the Disney Princess line because Disney wanted an Asian character (I guess Jasmine doesn’t count, even though Arabia is in Asia).

Nevertheless, I consider Mulan to be a good role model for girls. She is one of the few Disney females to be a warrior. I’ve always wondered how the film, “Mulan” would’ve been handled if it’d come out in the 1930’s. Would it have been banned for improper female character portrayal? I don’t think 1937’s “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves” would be released today, as is.

While Mulan is a memorable and likable character, her dragon mentor, Mushu, appeals to me too. He is voiced by Eddie Murphy, who also voiced Donkey in the “Shrek” movies. And what’s funny is that Mushu’s characterization is very similar to Donkey in “Shrek”. However, “Mulan” was released three years before the first “Shrek” film. But I saw the first two “Shrek” movies before watching “Mulan”.

Like other Disney films before “Mulan” beginning with “The Little Mermaid”, I would rate “Mulan” 5 out of 5 stars.

movie

You Ain’t Never Read a Critique Like This…For Disney’s “Aladdin” Live-Action Remake (2019)

This year is a huge year for Disney, especially with live-action remakes. I went with some friends to see the live-action remake of “Aladdin”. I liked it.

From the trailer, I could easily see that it was going to differ a lot from the cartoon. Unlike my other movie critiques, this will not have spoilers that occur toward the end of the film. However, there will be some minor revelations. So, if you don’t want to know, I’d suggest you see the movie first. But if you do, or you already saw the film, proceed.

Anyway, let me start off with the strengths.

1: Giving Princess Jasmine a girl BFF

Unlike other Disney princesses, Jasmine has no female companions in the animated version of “Aladdin” (as well as doesn’t have the lead role). I noticed that in recent years and thought about how it would’ve been nice if she had a female companion, like a girl BFF. Coincidentally, it happened. Not long after I realized that Jasmine only had males in her life did I come across an article that announced that she would have a female friend in the 2019 reboot. Yay! More female presence—not counting the extras.

2: The song “Speechless”

This was added in the live-action reboot. It was given to Jasmine and as a single solo. It added character development and more backstory to Jasmine.

3: Will Smith’s portrayal of the genie

While no one will truly beat Robin Williams’ portrayal of the “Aladdin” cartoon in 1992, Will Smith still did a good job. He still executed jokes and humor successfully. I especially admired a realistic approach of the genie’s look and why (I won’t say—see the movie to find out).

Now here are the aspects that could’ve been better.

1: The characterization of Iago and the sultan

Okay, I get it. The creators didn’t want it to be a copy of the cartoon. They also had to make changes for new characters, like Jasmine’s friend, Dahlia. However, I was quite bummed with the sultan and Iago’s developments.

The sultan was dull, conservative, and had little screen time, compared to the cartoon. He was also not nearly as enthusiastic and positive. And he didn’t play with toys. Bummer! I understand that the younger characters need to make their own choices, but cartoon sultan is far better.

And Iago. Oh my God—he was so one-dimensional. He flew around to check on things for Jafar, would repeat phrases, and would state when someone was doing something wrong, such as lying or hiding something. Where was his personality? His complexity? I comprehend how the crew couldn’t re-cast the original cast to reprise their roles. But I still wish Iago was more developed. Like cartoon sultan, animated Iago is far superior.

2: The romance between Aladdin and Jasmine was weaker

In the cartoon version, Aladdin and Jasmine fell in love and stayed that way. However, in the live-action remake, Aladdin has trouble getting Jasmine to love or even trust him. Remember when Jasmine tried to free Aladdin from the guards and revealed her true identity for it in the animated version? That didn’t happen in the live-action remake. Also, while some musical numbers were a bit stronger than in the cartoon, the scene with the song, “A Whole New World” did not convey nearly enough emotion for the audience as in the cartoon.

That being said, I would rate this film 4.5 out of 5 stars. While I liked certain versions of story adaptations equally as much (such as the cartoon and live-action “Beauty and the Beast” movies), this one was almost as good as the cartoon. My main issue was the characterization of Iago and the sultan. I know they aren’t major characters. But still—even if they were just a little different from the animated movie, I would have appreciated that.

Nevertheless, I would still recommend this movie.

TV show

My Top 3 “Robot Chicken” Clips

Unlike most people, I’ve always found the idea of clean entertainment being dirty to be funny (no offense). Of course, as long as children aren’t exposed to it, it’s no problem for me.

That is why I like “Robot Chicken”, which is a stop-motion animated program on Adult Swim where they make clips of different already-existing movies and TV shows and make their own little stories. And yes, a lot of the entertainment used was originally clean, such as “Peanuts”, “Scooby Doo”, “Disney”, and much more.

And now, without further ado, here are my top 3 favorite clips from “Robot Chicken”

3: The “Muppet Babies” clip called “Kermit Kong” (I think)

Kermit is acting like King Kong while holding onto Miss Piggy. Gonzo and a few others are on planes. They squirt water onto Kermit and he falls onto the ground.

The scene reverses back to Nanny’s home, where the Muppet babies were just playing make-believe. Kermit has died, and Miss Piggy tries to get his attention. Nanny comes and has everyone clean up the crime scene. Miss Piggy is still sad, but Nanny says, “He never loved you.” Then she forces Miss Piggy to move along.

This clip is a bit milder than other “Robot Chicken” clips. It’s also clever and engaging. I admire the part when Miss Piggy refers to a tall stack of chairs as “The Empire State Building”.

2: The “Beavis and Butthead and Teen Titans” Crossover Clip

Another thing that differentiates me from others is that I’ve always liked the idea of clean and mature entertainment crossing over. So, I was excited to discover the “Teen Titans meeting Beavis and Butthead” video.

Robin needs Beavis and Butthead to complete some important tasks. Of course, Beavis and Butthead behave like their usual uncivilized selves. Danger comes. While the Teen Titans are fighting a monster, Beavis and Butthead are eating nachos. Then Robin is hurt.

I loved when Beavis and Butthead sang a “Batman” parody tune to Robin. That was clever. The whole clip was amazing. Robin, however, said, “Yeah” instead of “Thank you” when Butthead complimented on his belt. Does Robin have manners? Who knows?

1: The “Lord of the Rings” clip written by J.R.R Tolkien JR JR

A man is introducing a new LOTR story written by the author’s 6-year-old grandson, J.R.R Tolkien JR JR. Then a sneak peak shows up. It shows Merry and Pippin having a conversation. Then Gandolf comes and warns them of danger in a silly way. Everyone flies on planes (Obviously, out-of-premise for the LOTR universe) and tries to defeat a three-headed peanut-butter-and-jelly monster.

This was, perhaps, the funniest “Robot Chicken” clip ever created. From including Hannah Montana, the PB & J monster, and to the breakout of singing “The Muffin Man Song”, this made me laugh my brains out. Bravo!

So, there you have it. I haven’t watched “Robot Chicken” in a while. But I hope to return to it soon.

TV show

Memorable Moments in “My Name is Earl”

I haven’t watched a lot of the show’s episodes. So I am no expert in the series. However, there are a few memorable moments I’d like to share.

1: The birthday party for orphans – there were balloons and decorations set up. It was a general birthday party for any orphaned child. There was even a little girl eating a cookie. What a sweet idea.

The next two moments are pretty crude, though.

2: A flashback of Earl and his friend as children making fun of a girl with a mustache – you never make fun of anyone for any reason. That is called bullying. Anyway, the girl with the mustache grew up to be a woman with a beard. While women usually don’t have facial hair, there are rare cases of those that do. That character might’ve been one of them. Yet, people associate bearded woman with circuses. Not very cool.

3: Another flashback of Earl as a boy going off the high dive in his t-shirt – Earl was about to go off the high diving board with his shirt on. But the lifeguard would not let him. Either he had to take his shirt off or go down the ladder. He took off his shirt—only to have hair in his nipple areas. The other children laughed and Earl went down the ladder. Pretty embarrassing, huh?

I have not caught up with the TV show in a long time. I probably won’t. I only watched “My Name is Earl” because my brother was watching it. Nevertheless, it was funny.

movie

I’m Here to Review “The Rescuers” (1977)

Warning: Contains spoilers***

People are gathering at the UN. So are the mice. They received a message from a little girl named Penny that she needs help. Miss. Bianca and the janitor go to assist her at the orphanage she lived at. There is also a cat named Rufus who tells the mice about a woman named Madame Medusa, who’s kidnapped Penny before. Madame Medusa is desperate for a particular diamond.

The mice continue to guide Penny. But Madame Medusa won’t surrender with her plans. She even uses her pet alligators to hunt for Penny when she runs away. Her assistant, Mr. Snoops, tends to be nervous with her and more relaxed with his attitude toward Penny. But when things worsen, everything changes.

There are elements in this movie that make it differ from other Disney films. For example, the mice and cat can talk to Penny. While talking animals are super-common in Disney movies, it’s rare that they talk to humans. Usually, they make their natural animal noises around people. Another instance is when Penny prays that things will improve. With the exception of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”, religion rarely plays roles in Disney. In fact, the characters are often not allowed to say the word, God. None of the characters get the classic musical numbers, except for the work anthem at the beginning and the twist of “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow” the kids sing at the end when Penny is finally adopted.

Speaking of which, while it’s satisfying that she got parents, it was a little disappointing that it took a while. But I understand in some ways. The adoption process can take a while—sometimes, several years.

This film was decent, but not one of my favorites. I did notice the “may day” moment similar to the balcony scene in “Aladdin”. It could have been recycled. Disney does reuse moments and movements a lot. Anyway, the reason it was just okay was mainly the engaging element. It didn’t keep my attention too much compared to other films. So I would rate this movie, 3.5 out of 5 stars.