Tag Archives: genre: fantasy

Feature Presentation: The Secret Life of Pets

the_secret_life_of_petsThe Secret Life of Pets starring the voices of Louis C.K., Eric Stonestreet, Kevin Hart, Jenny Slate, Ellie Kemper, Albert Brooks, Lake Bell, Dana Carvey, Hannibal Buress, Bobby Moynihan, Chris Renaud, Steve Coogan, Michael Beattie, and Sandra Echeverria

Universal Entertainment/Illumination Pictures, 2016. Rated PG

Synopsis: Max has the perfect life with his owner Emily until one day she brings home Duke, a dog from the pound. When the two dogs get lost in the city and are on the run from animal control and a homicidal former magician’s rabbit named Snowball and his army of abandoned pets, they are going to have to rely on each other if they are going to get home to their owner.

Having grown up with pets (dogs, to be specific), I won’t deny there were times when I wondered what they did while I was at school or at work. I don’t think my dogs did anything nearly as epic as getting recruited by a gang of former pets dwelling in the city sewers or breaking into a sausage factory to find food. But that isn’t to say that pets don’t have adventures while their humans are away. What I liked about the film is the realistic personalities of each animal, especially the dogs. I also loved the blasé attitude of Chole the cat, who unwittingly gets dragged along on a mission to rescue Max and Duke. I was thoroughly amused by the fact that in almost every scene when she is in an apartment, she is sitting in some container – a box, a bowl, etc. I also appreciated the initial rivalry between Max and Duke, the former of whom feels threatened when Emily first brings home Duke. Max is so used to being the only dog in the house and the notion of having to share his space, his toys, and his human is absurd. But what Max learns over the course of his adventures with Duke is that the larger dog has also had his share of difficulties that have left an impression on him. The compassion the dogs eventually develop for each other and for Snowball and his gang leave the viewer with a warm fuzzy feeling that will have them wanting to give their own pets some love. It’s a fun family film that will delight pet lovers of all ages.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Media: Movies, reviews

Explorer: The Mystery Boxes

explorer_1Explorer: The Mystery Boxes edited by Kazu Kibuishi

Harry N. Abrams, 2012. 978-1419700095

Synopsis: Funny, fantastic, spooky, and suspenseful, each of these unique and beautifully illustrated short graphic works revolves around a central theme: a mysterious box and the marvels—or mayhem—inside. Artists include middle school favorites Kazu Kibuishi, Raina Telgemeier (Smile), and Dave Roman (Astronaut Academy), as well as Jason Caffoe, Stuart Livingston, Johane Matte, Rad Sechrist (all contributors to the groundbreaking comics anthology series Flight), and upcoming artist Emily Carroll. – from Amazon.com

Why I picked it up: I love a good anthology of short stories.

Why I finished it: What I love about short stories is that the author/artist only has a few pages to craft a complete universe with well-rounded characters and an engaging plot. The storytellers in this collection take the theme of mystery boxes and make it their own. All of the stories have a distinct fantasy and mythology feel that will take the reader into outer space, magical lands filled with strange monsters, and even into the kitchen with crazy superstitious grandmothers. Carroll’s story is arguably the creepiest (for me, anyway), creating a mash-up between a traditional and modern ghost story that had chills going down my spine. Most of the rest of the stories have a lighter feel to them, though they are no less dramatic. I appreciated the differences in the art and storytelling styles because it gives the reader a wider spectrum of material to enjoy. Kibuishi has put together a fun and engaging collection of stories and I am eager to read the other books to see what other author/illustrators I might need to check out.

Other related materials: The Lost Islands (Explorer #2) edited by Kazu Kibuishi; The Hidden Doors (Explorer #3) edited by Kazu Kibuishi; Flight Explorer edited by Kazu Kibuishi Amulet series by Kazu Kibuishi; Copper by Kazu Kibuishi; The Legend of Korra graphic novels  by Michael Dante DiMartino, illustrated Irene Koh; Zita the Spacegirl series by Ben Hatke; Mighty Jack series by Ben Hatke; Missle Mouse books by Jake Parker; Bad Island by Doug TenNapel; Cardboard by Doug TenNapel; Bone series by Jeff Smith

Leave a comment

Filed under reviews

Feature Presentation: A Wrinkle in Time

a_wrinkle_in_timeA Wrinkle in Time starring Storm Reid, Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, Levi Miller, Deric McCabe, Chris Pine, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Zach Galifinakis, Michael Peña, André Holland, and Rowan Blanchard

Walt Disney Pictures/Whitaker Entertainment, 2018. Rated PG.

Synopsis: Following the discovery of a new form of space travel as well as Meg’s father’s disappearance, she, her brother, and her friend must join three magical beings – Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which – to travel across the universe to rescue him from a terrible evil. – from IMDB

I’ll be honest, I wanted to be excited about this movie. The novel has several stunning visual elements that I felt would have transitioned nicely to the screen. Sadly, that was not the case. Fans of the book will notice that there are some characters missing from the movie: her twin brothers Sandy and Dennys, and Aunt Beast (who is mentioned in passing, but does not play a role in the film). The Happy Medium is male rather than being female; Calvin is no longer a 14-year-old high school junior with a large family and a cantankerous mother; in the film, Mr. Murry has been gone for four years as opposed to months; Mrs. Whatsit is actually a centaur-like creature (as are the other Missus). It became more apparent to when I was watching the movie just how whiny and unlikable Meg is as a protagonist and a heroine. I understand the theme of learning to understand our faults and embrace them rather than conforming to an idea of what society thinks we should be, but it feels poorly executed. There is a scene in which the Missus show the children the effects of the Darkness on Earth – hate, jealousy, fear, and the like – that conveys humanity’s struggle with their own mortality and that we all fall prey to societal expectations. It’s wonderful, but the director fails to tie it into the rest of the plot. Yes, Meg could use a lesson in compassion, but it doesn’t seem to propel the story forward as it should. The relationships are somewhat awkward as well. Calvin and Meg’s crush on each other was more stilted that it needed to be, Calvin being portrayed as more of a doe-eyed love interest due to his popularity at school rather than the diplomat that will help the group navigate through the web of IT’s lies (for lack of a better phrase). The one bit I did like was that the Drs Murry adopted their children and gives support to the notion of belonging and love being the strongest of emotions. While the film is visually stimulating, the plot fails to hold the viewer’s interest and tell an engaging story, resulting in a movie that left me bored more than entertained.

Leave a comment

Filed under reviews

A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novel Review

wrinkle_in_time_graphic_novel

A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novel by Madeline L’Engle; adapted and illustrated by Hope Larson

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012. 978-0374386153

Note: The original novel A Wrinkle in Time bears the honor of being the 1963 John Newbery Medal recipient. Any discrepancies between the graphic novel and the original work are the interpretation of the artist who adapted the work.

Synopsis: Meg Murry and the rest of her family have been eagerly awaiting news about their father, who disappeared and has been gone for what feels like forever. Then, three otherworldly women – who have befriended Meg’s younger brother Charles Wallace – tell the siblings that they must rescue their father from the clutches of a Darkness that is threatening to take over the universe. Meg, Charles Wallace, and their friend Calvin O’Keefe are transported via tesseract – a wrinkle in the fabric of time – to rescue Mr. Murry and bring him home.

Why I picked it up: I loved this story when I was in elementary school and I wanted to re-read it before I went to see the movie.

Why I finished it: There have been several classics that have been adapted into graphic novels and this is the first that I picked up. I love that artists are branching out and adapting their favorite childhood stories so that the newer generations can continue to enjoy the novels in a new way. What I love about Larson’s adaptation is the obvious care she took to include as many elements and plot nuances from L’Engle’s book because of its enormous popularity. I remember when I first read the book in elementary school, I was completely captivated by the notion of time travel and the magic of being whisked away to new and exciting places. IT was, and still is, a truly conniving and disconcerting villain, taking over all semblance of a population’s free will. As humans, we exercise our free will almost constantly during the day and the idea that we could be mentally and physically controlled is truly a terrifying thought. Of course, I had also forgotten that tesseract is a geometry term and doesn’t in fact refer exclusively to the glowing box from the first ‘Avengers’ film. If you want to read more about the tesseract and time travel, check out a couple of interesting articles found here and here. Larson’s art has an element of realism, but it is not so realistic that it takes away from the magic and the fantasy of the story. The contrast between the shades of blue to the black and white of the lines and backgrounds gives the story a sort of soft tone despite the dramatic scenes that occur during the novel’s climax. It is a wonderful introduction or re-introduction to this classic science fiction/fantasy book that will continue to be enjoyed by readers of all ages.

Other related materials: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle; A Wind in the Door by Madeline L’Engle; A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeline L’Engle; Many Waters by Madeline L’Engle; An Acceptable Time by Madeline L’Engle; Intergalactic P.S. 3: A Wrinkle in Time Story by Madeline L’Engle, illustrated by Hope Larson; Becoming Madeline: A Biography of the Author of A Wrinkle in Time by Her Granddaughters by Charlotte Jones Voiklis and Léna Roy; The City of Ember: The Graphic Novel by Jeanne DuPrau, adapted by Dallas Middaugh, illustrated by Niklas Asker; The Wild Robot by Peter Brown; The Wild Robot Escapes by Peter Brown; The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster; The Outlaws of Time series by N.D Wilson

Leave a comment

Filed under reviews

Cleopatra in Space Review

cleopatra_in_space_1Cleopatra in Space, Book 1: Target Practice by Mike Maihack

Graphix, 2014. 978-0545528429

Synopsis: On her fifteenth birthday, Cleopatra, the future queen of Egypt, finds a mystical tablet that transports her into the distant future. Turns out, she is destined to save the galaxy from Xaius Octavian, who has been stealing electronic information from every planet before he invades. History says the Cleo is destined to be a great leader, but first she has to figure out how to master Algebra and avoid detention.

Why I picked it up: This is a very popular title with the girls at the library.

Why I finished it: This book is a high-octane adventure from page one. I love how Maihack is taking a real historical figure and putting a more modern spin on her character: she has to go to school, make friends, and deal with teachers that just don’t seem to get it just like the rest of us. She’s sort of over the fact that she will one day be the ruler of a nation – well, before she gets transported into the future anyway – and we can see that her desire is to just be a normal teenager. It seems like fun to be the chosen one, but in truth, Cleo seems to be feeling a lot of the pressure of the mysterious prophecy. Maihack is showing us, perhaps, that being a leader might be all fun and games from the outside, but the grooming process and the journey toward greatness comes with its stumbling blocks and struggles. Plus, it is kind of fun to think about Cleo being an ace shot and a combat master. Maihack alternates between using bright and muted colors to help convey a better sense of the tone from scene to scene. I love the imaginative world of the future that has been laid out for the reader and I am looking forward to learning more of the history over the course of the series. It is an engaging read with well-developed characters that will have you eager for more.

Other related materials: Cleopatra in Space, Book 2: The Thief and the Sword by Mike Maihack; Cleopatra in Space, Book 3: Secret of the Time Tablets by Mike Maihack; Cleopatra in Space, Book 4: The Golden Lion by Mike Maihack; Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke; Legends of Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke; The Return of Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke; Amulet series by Kazu Kibuishi; Phoebe and Her Unicorn books by Dana Simpson; Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson; Explorer books by Kazu Kibuishi; CatStronauts series by Drew Brockington

Leave a comment

Filed under reviews

Amulet: Firelight Review

amulet_7Amulet, Book 7: Firelight by Kazu Kibuishi

Graphix, 2016. 978-0-545-43316-7.

Synopsis: Emily, Trellis, and Vigo believe they finally have a clue about how to defeat the Elf King, but the advantage could come at a high cost. The place that the trio must search has been known to be a dangerous place for stonekeepers and could help the stone get a mental hold over their keeper. Meanwhile, Navin and Aly are running into some troubles of their own. It seems that the Elf King has raised the bounty on their heads and they must outwit numerous bounty hunters if they are going to reach Frontera.

Why I picked it up: I had to catch up since Book 8 is coming out in September!

Why I finished it: This series keeps getting better and better as it goes on, not to mention the plot becomes more and more complex as the reader journeys further into the world. Previously, Emily has been confident that she will be able to resist the voice of the stone. The spirit begins to show her visions of a life that she could have had if her father had survived the car crash, a life that seems to spark further conflict within her. Trellis and Vigo have warned Emily about her ability to resist the temptation to surrender control to her stone, but she still feels she has complete control. The reader has been hearing about the dangers of listening to the spirit within the stone, but it has become much more real now that our heroes are getting closer and closer to finding answers. Navin, Aly, and General Pil are having some issues of their own, starting with needing to find transportation to Frontera. But the friends they make along the way prove to be helpful allies. They remind Navin about the importance of family and help to give him the courage to forge ahead though the circumstances seem to change moment by moment. Kibuishi is going a little bit darker in this installment, and I have a feeling that things are going to get worse before they get better. He’s continuing to add depth to the characters and giving us more reasons to root and cheer for them. It’s an engaging read that will have fans on the edge of their seats waiting for more.

Other related materials: Amulet, Book 1: The Stonekeeper by Kazu Kibuishi; Amulet, Book 2: The Stonekeeper’s Curse by Kazu Kibuishi; Amulet, Book 3: The Cloud Searchers by Kazu Kibuishi; Amulet, Book 4: The Last Council by Kazu Kibuishi; Amulet, Book 5: Prince of the Elves by Kazu Kibuishi; Amulet, Book 6: Escape from Lucien by Kazu Kibuishi; Amulet, Book 8: Supernova by Kazu Kibuishi; Explorer: The Mystery Boxes by Kazu Kibuishi; Flight Explorer, Volume One edited by Kazu Kibuishi; Zita the Spacegirl graphic novels by Ben Hatke; Cleopatra in Space graphic novels by Mike Maihack; Babymouse graphic novels by Jennifer L. Holm & Matt Holm; Bone graphic novels by Jeff Smith; Missile Mouse books by Jake Parker; The Secret Science Alliance books by Eleanor Davis; Dragonbreath books by Ursula Vernon; Big Nate books by Lincoln Pierce; Chickenhare by Chris Grine; Ricky Ricotta’s Mighty Robot graphic novels by Dav Pilkey, illustrated by Dan Santat

Leave a comment

Filed under reviews

The Nameless City Review

nameless_city_1

The Nameless City by Faith Erin Hicks, color by Jordie Bellaire

First Second, 2016. 978-1626721562

Synopsis: Kaidu is an outsider in the Nameless City. Though his people, the Dao, have ruled the city for the last 30 years, there is still tension and unease between themselves and the Named (the residents of the city). He meets Rat while out wandering the streets alone and though the two come from very different backgrounds, they grow to become friends.

Why I picked it up: This is another book that has been in my ‘To Be Read’ stack for a while.

Why I finished it: What really drew me into the story was the mythos that Hicks has incorporated into this world. It is an old world that was built up through a cycle of peace and conflicts that is the hallmark in most any genre. When we first meet Kaidu and Rat, their town is experiencing a definite tension in the wake of 30 years of harmony, not to mention the existing tension between the Named, the Dao, and the other nations that have previously occupied the city. The friendship between Kaidu and Rat is somewhat of an anomaly, but Kai seems to have convinced the young orphan that he also has a vested interest in the city and that he also cares what happens to its inhabitants. Kai’s character development focuses quite a bit on the notion that he is not like the rest of the Dao: he wants to forge his own path and find his own place in this new world after deciding to leave his homeland. Rat, on the other hand, is simultaneously fighting to stay alive and struggling with where her loyalties lie. She clearly isn’t a fan of the Dao (or perhaps any of the other previous non-Named inhabitants), but she finds herself beginning to trust Kai and relishes being able to teach him how to navigate the streets of the City. Hicks’s art has a feel reminiscent of the Avatar: The Last Airbender series. The use of choppy uneven outlines mixed with sharper, finer details and Bellaire’s bright colors make this a fun read that will be enjoyed by readers of all ages.

Other related materials: The Stone Heart (The Nameless City, Book 2) by Faith Erin Hicks, colors by Jordie Bellaire; The Divided Earth (The Nameless City, Book 3) by Faith Erin Hicks, colors by Jordie Bellaire; Four Points series by Hope Larson, illustrations by Rebecca Mock; Avatar: The Last Airbender books by Bryan Konietzko, Michael Dante DiMartino, Gene Luen Yang, and Gurihiru; The Legend of Korra books by Michael Dante DiMartino, illustrations by Irene Koh; Delilah Dirk books by Tony Cliff; Five Worlds series by Mark Siegel and Alexis Seigel, illustrations by Xanthe Boruma, Matt Rockefeller, and Boya Sun; Mighty Jack series by Ben Hatke; One Trick Pony by Nathan Hale; Cleopatra in Space series by Mike Maihack

Leave a comment

Filed under reviews