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November 30th, 2012

Movie Review - Rise of the Guardians

Rise of the Guardians



Starring: Chris Pine, Alec Baldwin, Jude Law, Isla Fisher, Hugh Jackman, Dakota Goyo, Khamani Griffin, Kamil McFadden, Georgie Grieve, Jacob Bertrand, Dominique Grund, Rich Dietl, and more.


Directed by: Peter Ramsey Screenplay by: David Lindsay-Abaire Based on the book The Guardians of Childhood by: William Joyce and Based on the short film the Man in The Moon by: Joyce and Reel FX. Original Music by: Alexandre Desplat Art Direction by: Max Boas.


Premise: Jack Frost knows nothing of where he comes from or of his past. Unlike most of the other supernatural beings he knows about, he's the only one not visible to people. Yet this has never stopped him from having fun. But when he's dragged up to the North Pole without being asked, he's told an old evil is on the rise again. This evil is threatening the world's children and must be stopped by the Guardians. And the Man in the Moon has chosen Jack to be one of them. But Jack wants nothing to do with that. (Rated PG)


Review:


1) Acting - Total Thumbs Up: Great performances all around. Alec Baldwin was a lot of fun as North. Hugh Jackman as the Bunny was hilarious. Chris Pine made Jack Frost a very sympathetic character, who wants to belong despite what he says.


2) Animation - Total Thumbs Up: Dreamworks once again delivers some amazing animation in their newest film. From the very beginning the detail and the beauty of what is being presented shines through. The snowflakes and patterns of frost were gorgeous. I loved the added detail of frost on Jack's pullover shirt. They do some amazing things with the Sandman's (Sandy's) sleeping sand and Pitch's nightmare ones.


A lot of fun visual gags are interspersed throughout the film - the Yeti with the bad color timing, the helper elves that are usually not so much help as hindrance, the Eater Island guard stone eggs with turning expressions. There's a lot to see and take in.


Each of the legends' homes are fun and unique - I especially adored Bunny's place, which was somewhat reminiscent of "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory." The walking eggs were too cute! And Sophie was utterly adorable.


3) Story - Total Thumbs Up: Though the main story line is what you'd expect from the previews, there are other stories happening simultaneously, which gave the film a lot of emotional depth. Even better, though the characters at first glance appear to be ones we know - Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy - it becomes evident quite quickly that these well known supernatural icons are not as you'd expect. That alone brought half the fun of the film. A Santa Claus with tattoos who's more than willing to get into fights, an Easter Bunny who is lean and tough, Yetis making toys instead of elves - a re-imagining of all those things which we are familiar into something different yet still very much the same.


Like the animation, the story too brings with it all manner of little surprises that add a lot to the experience - Tooth and her fairies and their fan girl sighs over Jack's teeth; Cupcake, a hefty girl others fear but who's real love is for cute, lacy things. There were a lot of ying and yang type comparisons throughout as well - between Sandy and Pitch, Jack and Pitch, what's inside versus the outside wrappings.


Conclusion: "Rise of the Guardians" is a fun film for both kids and adults. Make sure to sit through part of the credits, too! A super cute extra section is tucked away in there. And if you've ever had the slightest inclination of crying at a film, make sure to take a least one set of tissues with you. You might just need them.


Rating: 4.25 out of 5 (Hubby's Rating: Worth Full Price of Admission.)

Gloria Oliver
Unveiling the Fantastic
www.gloriaoliver.com

Movie Review - Red Dawn

Red Dawn



Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Josh Peck, Josh Hutcherson, Adrianne Palicki, Isabel Lucas, Connor Cruise, Edwin Hodge, Brett Cullen, Alyssa Diaz, Julian Alcaraz, Will Yun Lee, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, and more.


Directed by: Dan Bradley Screenplay by: Carl Ellsworth and Jeremy Passmore Based on the 1984 film "Red Dawn" Original Music by: Ramin Djawadi Cinematography by: Mitchell Amudsen


Premise: While home on leave, Jed Eckert witnesses the crippling of his hometown by a massive blackout. The next morning, he wakes to find it being invaded by North Koreans. Banding together an unlikely set of fighters, Jed decides the invaders will not be taking over his home without a fight. (Rated PG-13)


Review:


1) Acting - Thumbs Up: Chris Hemsworth and Josh Peck did a good job showing the audience their family's strained relations without ever actually talking much about it. Josh Hutcherson showed his usual flare.  Connor Cruise had several poignant moments and he carried them off beautifully.


2) Special Effects - Total Thumbs Up: Bullets flew everywhere and there were explosions galore. The scene when Jed and Matt look up into the sky and see the invaders dropping down was quite affecting and well done. Sadly, some of the efforts of the special effects department were diluted or downright sabotaged by the use of shaky cam on several of the scenes.


3) Plot/Story - Neutral: I'll be honest, I didn't pick to see "Red Dawn" because I expected it to have depth or a convoluted plot. And it was a good thing I didn't. This film is best watched without thinking too hard. As difficult as the premise was to believe in 1984, it is ten times more so in 2012. With the amount of technology now at our disposal, a campaign of this magnitude could not have been arranged without word getting out. A secret pulse weapon is mentioned purely to set up the premise and nothing more is learned about it at all.


I saw the original back in the day, but don't remember much. My husband said the remake followed most of the main points of the original. The brothers are at odds due to the death of a loved one years before, and their issues clash during different parts of the film, but eventually they reach some resolution.


Sadly one of the more satisfying moments in the film was marred by the fact the item and location hadn't been shown previously, so ended up being a point of bad story telling. Still, they did try to give some quick filler to substantiate their survival, so some things were well thought out. Killing didn't come naturally to all of them and the hard decisions some had to make were hard, and the audience was able to see that. 


4) Stunts - Thumbs Up: With bullets and explosions, we always get stunts. The gags were solid and worked well, except those that were made blurry by shaky cam. Still, enough flying bodies and some hand-to-hand fights were present to fulfill our action quota.


5) Locations/Cinematography - Thumbs Up: There were many nice sweeping shots of the different locations and they gave the audience a good feel of the town and the thick woods our heroes hide in. The fall colors in the forests made for a nice backdrop. It also helped create a starker contrast after Captain Cho's attempt to destroy their hiding place changes the terrain.


Conclusion: "Red Dawn" was fast paced and fun. A nice diversion as long as you don't look at it too closely. Hubby felt the original film was better.


Rating: 3.5 out of 5 (Hubby's Rating: Better For Matinee)

Gloria Oliver
Unveiling the Fantastic
www.gloriaoliver.com

Novels


JEWEL OF THE GODS

(2015) Fantasy

The King is Dead! Long Live the Undead King!


Excerpt:
"What are you implying?"

The magister glided forward and scrunched down beside him.

"That in order to bathe, you must first actually get into the bath."





INNER DEMONS

(2014) Urban Fantasy

It took everything from her, except revenge!


Excerpt:
The muscles in my right arm jerked from tension as I tried to make it move and it resisted. A shrill scream inside my head insisted I didn't want to do this. That if I did, there'd be no way to take it back. "I...I'm afraid."



THE PRICE OF MERCY

(2011) Young Adult – Fantasy

Which is worse…the monster without or within?


Excerpt:

Home—family—the two things he would never have, the two things forever denied him…because of her.

Anger welled inside him, the heat of it suffusing him to the core, gurgling with seething emotions the total opposite of the coolness splashing down from the fountain nearby. Before he realized what he was doing, Jarrin stepped inside the gazebo.




CROSS-EYED DRAGON TROUBLES
(2007) Young Adult – Fantasy
“Harry Potter meets Dragon Riders of Pern”

Excerpt:

“Do you need any help?” she asked. “Just tell me what you want me to do. If you prefer, I’m sure I can round up at least a few people to come over and give you a hand.”

Kel slowly shook his head. “It’s all right. Thanks anyway.” His voice lowered to where she almost couldn’t hear it. “This is all part of my punishment.’

She frowned, not understanding what he meant. “Punishment?”

Kel cocked his head in Clarence’s direction. In a flash, she understood. None of this was an accident. Clarence had landed there deliberately, hoping to make Kel pay for all he went through in the past month. She shook her head, not wanting to believe this, but what the dragon said next took any doubts right out of her head.



WILLING SACRIFICE
(2008) Young Adult – Fantasy
“To save the world she must DIE! Or must she?”

Excerpt:

Panic and fear filled with utter helplessness made her dizzy. She knew what would be done with her, she knew what they planned. But there was nothing she could do to stop any of it.

Sharp gasps echoed in her ears as she felt the room’s cold air caress the Eye.

“You were right. She is the one.”



IN THE SERVICE OF SAMURAI
(2002) Adult/YA – Japanese Fantasy Adventure
“The Last Samurai meets Pirates of the Caribbean”

Excerpt:

Laying the blade on the floor before him, Toshi parted his kimono until his stomach lay exposed. He tucked his sleeves beneath his legs to hold him upright if he should falter. Ignoring Asano, he took up the blade. His shoulder flared with pain and he tried not to flinch, as he grabbed the blade with both hands. He turned the wakizashi until its sharp point was aimed at his belly, the residence of his soul.



VASSAL OF EL
(2004) Adult/YA – Fantasy Mystery
“He tried to forget his past, but his past wouldn’t forget him”

Excerpt:

Torren took a step back a sudden shudder racking through him. It was as if he’d never left, as if the boy he’d been would be coming back-though the one who’d loved this room and all these things was long, long dead. That boy died when he’d watched his father’s blood pour forth from his mouth, the end of a sword protruding from his abdomen. That boy died when he survived while everyone else lay dead.

Info, sample chapters, and free reads at www.gloriaoliver.com

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