Of Musings and Wonderings

{March 16, 2014}   Monsters University [Film]

imagesCA4GKQIWPixar really know their audience. When they released Toy Story 3, many of the people who were the right age for the first film’s target audience (around my age) were either about to go to University or were there already. A few years later, Pixar gave us Monsters Inc, and with Monsters University, have followed it up – again – with a story that many of the original audience can connect and relate to, as well as embracing new, younger audiences.

Monsters University expands on the universe we saw in the original. It starts with a little monster named Mike, as he goes on a class trip to Monsters Inc. There, they witness how the power of screams is harnessed, and Mike sneaks through a door and into the human world. After the trip, he has only one wish for his life. To become a scarer.

The only problem is that Mike is not scary. But he is determined, and goes off to Monsters University, becoming a Scare Major. He is the stereotypical nerd, using book smarts and knowledge to push himself in his course. There, he meets Sulley, a monster whose family are well-known as scarers. Sulley walks into the class late, acts like he owns the place, and gets by on looks and pure talent. Until a mishap between the two means they are spotted by the dean, who kicks them both off the course.

monstersMike sets about finding a group to enlist in Scare Games, joining a fraternity of very non-scary monsters, the only one he can find. But they are denied entry for being one team member short, and Sulley, seeing his chance, joins up with them. Of course, there are disagreements and arguments and eventually, they all come to accept one another and progress through the games, with a mixture of Sulley’s natural talent and Mike’s book smarts.

Okay, so the nerd and jock joining together to do well is not a new story. But this is Pixar we’re talking about, and they are good at taking cliché ideas and making them new. Just look at the Toy Story films. On the surface, there’s not a whole lot particularly unique about them. But the films themselves are brilliant, witty and have a great way of impacting on both children and other generations. Toy Story, Monsters Inc and Bug’s Life, to me, were all amazing, and make up a strong part of my childhood. I remember being super excited for Toy Story 2, and even at an age where I am technically an adult, I practically jumped for joy when I heard about Toy Story 3, and looked forward very eagerly to Monsters University.

Happily, I was not disappointed.

The humour, as it is a kid’s film, is a little simple in some places, though there are some brilliant moments that feel almost slipped in for the adults, and the jokes throughout remain strong whatever age you are. It’s fun to see the budding relationship between Mike and Sulley, and to see how they go from enemies to friends, and even a little bit of how they progress through Monsters Inc itself, bringing us to the starting point of the first film.

(SPOILERS COMING UP, if you haven’t seen the film)

maxresdefaultI have to admit, the ending left me a little conflicted. It’s a kid’s film, which usually means stories of following your dreams no matter the odds, overcoming obstacles, succeeding because you’re so damn unique. Monsters University takes a different route. Instead of Mike and Sulley overcoming all the odds, we see Sulley cheating so Mike can feel he’s a proper scarer, and Mike trying to prove himself by breaking the rules and putting everyone in danger. As such, they get kicked out of the University itself. Mike, as we know, doesn’t become a scarer, but he does put the skills he’s learnt to use, and helps Sulley do what he cannot. In a way, they don’t succeed, and yet…they still prove themselves. They have forged a lifelong friendship, have grown as characters, and there’s the feeling that, even if you can’t be the best at what you want to do, you can be the best in another way.

And really, isn’t that a better lesson to teach kids? More realistic, more down to earth. That you may not always reach your dreams, but that other dreams do come and just because something doesn’t work out doesn’t mean you have to give up.


Monsters University is a fitting sequel to the original film, one that will appeal to everyone, whether they grew up with Monsters Inc or have never even seen the film. More importantly, I’d strongly recommend this to anyone who did watch the first film when it came out. To me, it’s a great reminder of what Pixar meant to me as a kid, and who doesn’t want to connect to their childhood self, at least once in a while?

{March 15, 2014}   Now You See Me [Film]

now you see meFour street magicians are brought together to perform, entertain and, more importantly, cause a stir. Together, they make up ‘The Four Horsemen’, and for their first show they transport a Frenchman to his bank in Paris, where he steals money from the vault and showers it over the crowd. The Horsemen follow instructions presented to them by a mysterious figure, and upon realising the money is actually missing, FBI agent Dylan Rhodes is partnered with Interpol agent Alma Dray to track down the Horsemen and figure out what actually happened.

They enlist the help of a former magician who specialises in exposing magician’s tricks, and a strange game of cat and mouse ensues, with the Horsemen always staying one step ahead of the authorities.

Now You See Me is a fun, entertaining film, with enough magic and trickery to sustain it through the length of the film itself. It’s got a brilliant cast, with both Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine playing interesting, if slightly dickish, characters. The special effects work nicely to add to the sense of magic to the whole thing, with the Horsemen planted at the centre and showing off what they can do, even if this sometimes stretches the suspension of disbelief.

Most of the film focuses on Rhodes as he chases the magicians and tries to work out their next step, following their misdirection and realising more and more of the world they are all now operating him. There’s a budding romance between him and Dray, overshadowed at points by Rhodes passionate dedication to catching the people who constantly outrun him and the FBI. The film’s focus is on the authorities, but personally, I wanted to see more of the Horsemen, more magic and seen a bit more exploration of their characters, especially in terms of how they act together and how they work as a team.

NOW YOU SEE MESome of the strongest parts of the film come from the disasters people have experienced over the last few years. During their first show, the Horsemen speak of how the people were screwed over by the banks, how the recession has left people without jobs, homes, money, while the banks seem to get away with it. It forms the basis of their main act in the show, endearing the audience to them by convincing them that one man has been able to screw over his bank, with the money going back to the audience watching. In New Orleans, the audience are made up of victims of Katrina, all with the same insurance company, all of whom were, again, screwed over by them. And the Horsemen manage, in a small way, to help make it up to these people.

The revelation towards the end of the film feels a little forced, yet obvious at the same time, but it doesn’t detract from the sheer enjoyment of the movie. The magic is spectacular, absolutely wonderful to watch although very much unrealistic (but that’s what suspension of disbelief is for, right?). And the cast themselves, from Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine right down to James Franco’s brother (Dave Franco), are brilliant, adding real strength to the film. Like I said above, I would have absolutely loved to have seen more of the Horsemen themselves – who wouldn’t want more of Woody Harrelson? – but it’s a minor flaw in an otherwise really good film.

harlequinAnita Blake and her men are threatened by a very strong, powerful force, a group that are so scary their name cannot be spoken. They act as police in the vampire world, sent by the council to punish vampires who don’t follow the rules. When they are contacted by The Harlequin, Anita and her group are put under threat. They can manipulate the emotions of humans, vampires and were-animals alike, almost causing Jean-Claude and Richard to kill each other. Anita must save them using the power of, what else, sex.

Of course it’s sex. It’s always sex. At this point in the series, it always comes down to sex. To Anita’s power, to the ardeur, inherited from Jean-Claude. Admittedly, it feels like, by The Harlequin, there’s a sort of decent balance between sex and plot, and rather than it just being jammed in there, it’s actually used to advance things and makes sense with what’s going on. Although, to be honest, I miss the earlier books, where Anita was given some sort of case which she had to help solve, while also dealing with her personal life. Now, it’s more about the vampire/shape-shifter side than the police side, and I sort of miss those guys.

When I first started reading the series, I loved Anita as a character. She was strong and fiercely independent. She had her own opinions, but they always seemed suited to her and her situation, felt like it made her a better character. I’m not saying that her romantic situation has made her less independent, by the way, but as the series has gone on, it feels more and more like a lot of what was so likeable about her is going by the wayside.

Plus, she’s so damn hypocritical. Her best friend Ronnie has a few problems during the course of the last few books, mainly to do with her relationship, the rate it’s moving at, her fear of commitment. And Anita basically tears her up. Rather than being there for her, when she expects Ronnie to be completely there for Anita, Anita just seems to dismiss everything and get angry because Ronnie’s problems aren’t as big as her own. She jumps on Ronnie for not wanting commitment from one man, when Anita, to be fair, has a number of them living at her house and is sleeping with a lot more.

Which brings me to another point about Anita’s hypocrisy. In The Harlequin, in order to get enough power to save herself, Jean-Claude and Richard, Anita must feed off the shapeshifters. If she feeds off the head of each shapeshifter group, she can feed off them all. They come to her, and she sleeps with them. Now, there have been issues with the werelions. Another werelion was brought by a vampire master, and Anita found herself attracted to him, putting it down to having yet another beast inside her, seeking a mate. Haven is sent away, because the local werelion pack is weak and if he were to take them over, it’s likely he’d kill many of them.

Anita does not allow the men in her life to have other partners. Not the ones she is closest to, anyway. Despite the fact that she – obviously – has multiple partners. Right. Okay. But the head of the werelion pack, Joseph, refuses to come to her, as he is faithful to his wife. And yes, there are other issues surrounding this and the general weakness of the pack. But instead of trying to get them to fix that or just telling Joseph to get out, it’s hinted that Haven, after permission from Anita, kills the leader, his brother and his wife.

Yes, something needed to be done about the lions. But killing them? Seriously? Little bit harsh! And just because he wouldn’t sleep with Anita and betray his wife? Ugh!

So, The Harlequin isn’t the best book of the series, but it’s not the worst. Yes, Anita’s beginning to grate on me a little, but it feels like the balance between plot and other things is, at least, getting a bit better. The characters are pretty much the same as always, and the last scene between Anita and the Harlequin does feel like it was squeezed in there just to have some sort of conclusion to it. Honestly? With this one, I’m left feeling pretty much the same as I always do after I finish one of these books. I want to know what happens next, I want to see how it all turns out, yet there are parts that just really annoy me and make me wonder if I really should carry on with it. Well, we’ll see. Worth reading if you’ve stuck it out with the series so far. Actually, yeah, if anyone else is reading this, what are your thoughts on them? Think the earlier ones are better or think they’re improving as the series goes on?

imagesCAEV2VH1I couldn’t even stay in my seat when I found out yesterday that Heroes was returning. Let me explain one thing. As much as I love Supernatural, American Horror Story, Once Upon A Time and all those TV shows I currently watch, Heroes was always my favourite. Coming out in 2006, when I was 16/17, Heroes, in a way, introduced me to American TV. Of course, growing up, I watched American shows – Teen Angel, Sister Sister, Kenan & Kel, Saved By The Bell – but they were kid’s shows. Heroes was something completely different, and it came out at a time when superheroes weren’t on our screens left, right and centre. It was also something different, at least to me. This wasn’t a show following just a small cast. Instead, we got to see a variety of different people, in different situations, waking up with powers and learning how to cope, as well as saving the world.

A Japanese office worker who finds out he can teleport and control time. A hospice nurse, kind-hearted, wanting to do the best for everyone, who finds out he can absorb the abilities of others. A politician who discovers he can fly. A single mother, struggling to get by, who develops a split personality. Her son, who can talk to machines. Among many, many others.

Seriously, how cool is that? Heroes was what made me start looking at other shows. I picked up Smallville, Dark Angel, Supernatural. I stopped watching Lost because I got bored. I never did get around to watching the doomed last series of Heroes.

Not until my internet got cut in my second year of University, anyway. I already had Volumes One, Two and Three on DVD, and watched them all, before heading down to the nearest Blockbuster and picking up the last season. And o, ye of little faith, I did find that it wasn’t as bad as some had made it out to be. It picked up, a lot. Whatever your views on the mid-seasons of Heroes, at least they tried, damn hard, with the last.

And it ended, in such an unsatisfactory way!

So much left unanswered! So much left open!

heroesThere is currently very little we know about Heroes Reborn. It’s by original creator Tim Kring, it’s a mini-series with only 13 episodes (such a tease!) and there’s a possibility that old, familiar faces will return. It may not happen, but personally, I really, really want to see Peter, Matt, Mohinder and Hiro back. Oh! And Daphne. Micah! All grown up! Maya was pretty damn cool, too. I’d be happy if Claire didn’t come back. And Masi Oka, who played Hiro, has stated on his Twitter “Time to dust off the sword?”


Honestly, it could bomb. It could be a massive flop and end up terrible, but I’m going to keep my fingers crossed that’s not the case. Hopefully, they keep it away from the pretty boy, aimed-at-teenagers thing like The Tomorrow People, and keep it more focused on the sort of thing Heroes brought to the screen. Sure, there were the pretty boys – Peter, Isaac, Mohinder, – but there were also guys like Matt and Hiro and Ando. As for the girls, well, they were pretty much all stunning, but that’s besides the point. The main cast were a nice, brilliant mix, with interesting stories and lots of different things that could be done with them.

Personally, I think they need to remember the fans. The people like me who cried out on seeing the last scene, knowing there wouldn’t be another. Well, thinking there wouldn’t be. I think they need to pick up from exactly where the last series left on – come on, show us the impact that had! Show us a world where the public at large know there are people around them who can do amazing, wonderful things! And answer some of the questions the original show laid out!

Yes, I am excited. I’m the girl with a Hiro action figure! With the two graphic novels volume! I have a huge poster of Peter Petrelli on my wall, a Christmas present from my friend! (Actually, they were all presents. Because my friends know me very well.) Of course I’m excited! My favourite show ever is coming back to the small screen, and even if I have to wait over a year to see it…

It’s still coming!

And that, ladies and gentlemen, makes me very, very happy indeed.

heroes reborn

{February 24, 2014}   Alone In The Dark [Films]

alone in the darkOh, God. I’d honestly forgotten I’d watched this one. The main reason I remembered is because I started keeping a list of movies and books, mainly so I would remember to get around and write about them. Well…the fact that this almost disappeared from my mind says a lot, doesn’t it?

Let me see how much I can actually remember of this…

Paranormal detective is hunting for some artifacts. Finds some, is chased down for it, teams up with super hot scientist Tara Reid, and together they, err, stumble across something weird and fight it. Also some stuff about him having grown up in an orphanage and losing his memory at the age of ten. Because he was experimented on, or something. Oh! The people he grew up with end up fighting him, too.

So yeah, there’s all that going on. Honestly? It really, really felt like this film was trying to do too much. There were moments where it could have been halfway good, but then they’d squeeze in some crap and just leave you going “Whha…”

The film jumps from one thing to the other with as little explanation as possible. The action scenes are really dark, which means there’s very little to see, and the ending gives an overall apocalypse feel…people are supposed to have been evacuated, yet they leave cars and such behind. Because when it comes to Alone In The Dark, clearly no one was thinking of the word ‘sense’.

No wonder some people believe it’s one of the worst films ever made. We did not know this when we watched it.

Basically, stay away. Stay far, far away, unless you want to feel like you’ve lost part of your life you can never get back.

alone in the dark2

et cetera

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