Sometimes Guardians are Monsters

When I saw the trailer a few weeks back, I made a mental note that this film was a must watch. My two girl friends and I went to the cinema to watch it on the last day before the film switch for the week, and the movie did not disappoint. It also made us weep quite a lot!

Thoughts on the Film

The visual effects were spectacular. It was a delight that the three tales had its own kind of animation. Liam Neeson’s voice fits the low, gravelly sound of Papa Groot (sorry, can’t help it), and while there was a lot of authority and command, he/it sounded gentle and consoling enough for the troubled boy.

Its emotional appeal and tug at the heartstrings were beautifully executed in the narrative. It just had the right kind of nostalgia for Conor’s confusion with his attachment and detachment to his mother and her terminal illness. Felicity Jones had the perfect kind of tenderness for a (dying) mom. Despite little or limited screen exposure, she was very effective.

Somehow, when thinking of guardians of children facing life issues, I am reminded of The BFG and My Neighbor Totoro. But since we’re dealing with illness and death, the Hayao Miyazaki classic has similar elements here for the protagonist to survive difficult emotions.

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While Totoro and the sisters had secret adventures, Conor’s realizations were challenged by stories. These stories mostly dealt with themes of justice, prejudice, belief, and choices. In the end, he had to tell his own story: the truth.

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It was a nice closure for Conor to discover his mother’s artwork…and how, it seems, that the monster was the guardian that she had designated for him.

Thoughts on the Book

The title was out of stock in all branches of National Bookstore, so I went to Fully Booked to search for it. I was excited to read again about the three tales, and the book had a more menacing monster yet still fantastic illustration.

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The only major difference of the book from the movie adaptation was that there was no mention of Conor’s mom as an artist. Because the author, Patrick Ness, also wrote the film screenplay, I think it was a good move that the last few scenes had contextualized what was missing from the original text.

A minor omission from the book came in the form of Lily, Conor’s sort of female best friend. She fiercely protected him, and he was more vulnerable in that sense. It worked in the screenplay, though, that book character Lily was absent so that the focus would be on Conor’s solitude.

For a YA novel, the book on its own could be heavy material for anyone. My friend, who read the book first before watching the film, had to process herself after finishing the sad but inevitable end. Therefore, my recommendation would be to watch the visual form first before reading it.

This is definitely one of the best movies I’ve seen in 2016.

The BFG film review

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I’m a big Roald Dahl fan so I was super excited to see this film. The BFG wasn’t my favorite book, though. I needed to see this movie for me to fall in love with it. And fall in love I did.

The critics were kinda harsh on Steven Spielberg’s storytelling so I wanted to see it myself. I didn’t find it tough to follow, and I immediately got swept away into fantasy land, like Sophie. The moment Sophie started complaining and arguing with the big friendly giant, I thought, “There it is.” Ruby Barnhill, who played the heroine, had the perfect cuteness with the spunk of British little girls.

She was “kidnapped” and brought to Giant Country where the slimy snozzcumbers were featured and are typical Dahl level of grossness. As the BFG and Sophie got comfortable with each other, so did I in their adventures.

My favorite scenes, which happens to also be the most magical parts, are related to the colorful bottled dreams and best of all, the tree where it all came from.

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I wanted to cry happy tears as I witnessed a beautiful friendship blossom enhanced by beautiful visuals. It was magical. I haven’t felt that wonderful magical feeling in quite a while. Since it was the legendary John Williams who provided the music, you’re in for a wonderful ride.

Mark Rylance’s CGI face as the BFG is very expressive, and his voice makes such a delightful play on Dahl’s invented words that’s confusing at first but believe me, you’ll manage to catch up.

The supporting cast is also good, and I was happy to see some funny moments when Sophie and the BFG managed to get an appointment with the Queen. I recognized the actress who played the Queen because she also played a strong female leader in Doctor Who! Penelope Wilton, the Queen in this film, played Harriet Jones in my fave British sci-fi TV series so it was fun.

On a more serious note, the film was able to perfectly capture the sad reality of bullying because the BFG had to deal with bigger, uglier, and nastier giants. It champions the bond of friendship, for even as the two led separate lives in the end, each person cherishes and remembers fondly the love that transcends two worlds.

It’s a family film. Go see it!

Photo source: Facebook | The BFG Movie

 

Fortunately, the Milk

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My fondness for Neil Gaiman’s works gravitates towards his children’s literature. I recently grabbed this thin and affordable book for just Php 199 (I think) because I forgot about Chu’s Day. So what is it about?

 

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Excerpt from http://www.mousecircus.com

It is about a dad who went out to buy milk from the grocery for his children’s cereal and came back with fantastic adventures on a time machine that involved aliens, dinosaurs, a talking volcano, among others. His adventures were, apparently, the cause of the delay of the precious milk.

Yup, that’s basically it! 🙂

Filled with wonderful illustrations by Skottie Young, this can probably be a fun substitute as a bedtime story for kids (as long as they don’t ask you to explain what the space-time continuum is).

 

Demigods & Magicians Review

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I’ve read these three short stories online before I bought it in novel form, but I gladly re-read it again and enjoyed it immensely. The crossover stories are expectedly exciting because it intertwines the Egyptian and Greek mythology and magic together in two sets of contrasting (teen) warriors of the modern age. The Kanes were definitely counterparts of Percy and Annabeth in terms of personality so the conflicts in their encounters are always interesting.

Is Uncle Rick preparing us for a consolidated heroes universe? That’s a far-fetched idea though because am not sure if there is a unifying thread among the different mythologies of the world, but Riordan does prep us in this particular set of stories of commonalities we don’t know of in our histories. He amazingly knows history well enough to find a convergence in facts to spin understandable snippets of history with elements of fantasy. In this trilogy of stories, Riordan spun a tale about Ptolemy, the Egyptian astronomer, mathematician, and geographer of Greek descent. See what he did there?

To defeat a villain who wanted to fuse the dark magic of Egyptians and the Greeks will need the assembly of heroes who’ll naturally have to combine their strengths and save the world. Percy and Sadie are the kick-ass warriors, Carter and Annabeth are the strategists. Their initial meetings were hilarious because they met their opposites and thankfully were able to trust each other before anyone killed each other off. FYI, in the Riordan universe, the Greek territory/Mount Olympus is in Manhattan while the Egyptian descendants reside in Brooklyn. Setne, a magician who’s the descendant of Rameses, comes back from the dead to fuse the crown of Upper and Lower Egypt by mixing Greek and Egyptian magic to become a god and rule over Governor’s Island (still in New York).

It’s a short but exciting read for Riordan followers. I can only imagine what it feels like to control elements of the Earth like water and it must be terrifying to “host” a god inside of you (especially a carnivorous one). These teens’ lives were changed for good once they’ve experienced (literally) going through hell, and Setne was just another day of fighting an evil entity. Heroes don’t ever get to rest. Or study in peace. Or have a normal, quiet love life.

Thank the gods I’m not one. I’d rather just read about their adventures!

 

Me Before You review (novel)

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I saw the trailer go viral a few weeks back on my FB feed even before I picked up this book last week. It was a reverse comparison then of me thinking of Emilia Clarke and Sam Claflin’s faces when I was reading this. Let me post the trailer first before I share my thoughts.

 

As far as the trailer goes, it’s pretty faithful to the text. The lines are almost verbatim, and Clarke and Claflin seem perfect as these two would-be lovers in a doomed mess. Yes, you read that right. The book might as well have been titled “Love Does Not Conquer All” lest you want the trailer to lead you to high hopes of romantic success. Sorry to spoil anyone reading this entry at this point so turn away if you must. Strong emotional reactions from a friend and from the writer under me who wrote an entertainment story about this already revealed to me the plot twist. The trailer made me weep twice, and armed with my knowledge of what will happen in this friggin book, I gathered the courage to read it knowing it’s not gonna be a happy ending.

I still cried a bit.

The romantic part of me was in anguish and frustrated. There are matters that love cannot fix (especially a depressed human mind). Love can be a balm, but daily physical and complicated pain in an invalid’s life can sometimes be unmendable…Will Traynor is always close to death every time there is a medical complication on how his body cannot deal with its injuries. By now, you will get what I mean, so I’d have to see if they stick to the book’s ending in this film. I’ll be both glad and sad if they do.

Now, for a bit of feedback on the protagonist, Louisa Clark. Lou is quirky, which is cute and acceptable. I truly do get the girl-living-an-ordinary-sheltered-life aspect, but yes, maybe her intellectual blandness did need the juxtaposition to Will’s daredevil history for our female lead to come out of her shell and see that the world is a big playground. At 26, she was forced by circumstances to see the world and to actually seek a stable job. So yeah, yeah, it’s a reality that other people influence or inspire us to be greater beings. I guess it’s true, though, how Lou, like middle-class women like me, would actually settle for stable and okay jobs for a time to get finances going before actually taking a leap and dare to follow a dream. I can imagine Will scoffing at this thought because he was a man of privilege where he could do whatever he wants, travel to places on a whim, ya know, rich guy things. Money can be a catalyst to settling or succeeding on an economic level.

Lou did make the most of all her earnings. She even learned how to manage her time properly and even wildly because a clock was ticking. Maybe some women will turn out like her in her shoes. How do you live the remaining time to save the one you love?

Will’s situation is very tricky. There are moral and ethical issues at stake, and I dare not discuss his decisions as a quadriplegic and what people in this state go through lest I become insensitive.

Read the book or watch the movie. This bestseller makes sense and it will push you to make a stand. The most neutral way is to be emphatic. It’s up to you on its moral and ethical bearings.

 

The Martian

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If you need a modern-day example of human versus Nature, will-to-live story yet sci-fi exciting, then this is perfect. Adapted from the novel of Andy Weir of the same title, it tells the story of astronaut and botanist Mark Watney and his goal to survive in the Red Planet after being left and thought of as dead by his Ares III crew when they had to abort the mission. Most people, upon realizing they’ve been stranded on an island, hell, an alien planet, would cave in and give up. Not Mark Watney.

I’m gonna have to science the shit outta this planet. – Mark Watney on Mars

I’m not nerdy enough to explain Watney’s scientific calculations and plans, but it’s as simple as this: he needed to find a way to prolong his food rations until the next NASA Mars mission. The catch? That mission will happen in four Earth years while his food can only last him 300 sols or Mars solar days. What did he do? He’s a botanist so he literally crapped a solution in the next few weeks. Why? Human manure + martian soil + leftover potatoes = produce. The tricky part was finding a way to produce water, but with his scientific experiments, it finally worked. With one problem solved and 99 to go, Watney kept on thinking and testing and using himself as a guinea pig to find a way to prolong his life sol by sol. All odds were mostly against him, but his big heart, his tough soul, and his brilliant human mind tested its limits to exhaust all scientific possibilities with a huge amount of wishing and hoping.

I started the film wondering how he’ll get out of this almost impossible situation. I ended up crying with relief and jubilation, cheering Matt Damon on in this very challenging role. I searched for Neil de Grasse Tyson’s tweets if he had anything to say about this movie like in “Interstellar,” but I didn’t. I found, however, an article on Astronomy.com that lauded Scott Ridley for his dedication to scientific detail and intensive research on everything NASA.

“We want to make the film as much science fact as science fiction.” – Executive Producer Mark Huffam

NASA.gov, on the other hand, cited nine technologies that do exist in real life and can be seen as variations or iterations of truth in “The Martian.” Super duper cool.

Damon was funny, brilliant, humble, and relatable. I haven’t seen the other actors in the award-nominated movies yet, but he does seem like a great winner for a 2016 Golden Globe for this. He made Mark Watney an admirable and inspiring soul that even kids should watch to learn how to persevere in desperate situations without going insane (or almost). I don’t recall the character ever really panicky, because there’s always a quiet resignation if an experiment fails. His frustration passes, and he soldiers on. There aren’t over-the-top theatrics because Mark Watney felt real, the way the film “The Martian” made scientific exploration real.

I really like this movie. I should go grab a copy of the book.

P.S.

I’ve always wanted to be an astronaut but I suck at Math and Science. Oh well.

The Magic Circle by Gilda Cordero- Fernando

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It’s been a while since I picked up Philippine prose because my last one was a chapter of Trese, a graphic novel. Admittedly, this became a choice because I judged a book by its cover! It appealed to me because 1) it is purple 2) the cover has texture 3) I like the illustration. Now let me be quick to say too that it is a book of well-known Philippine author Gilda Cordero-Fernando which convinced me that it is a good buy, aside from it being aesthetically pleasing to my taste. So what is it about?

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It starts off with a lavish sketch of a tree and a description of special, no, magical atmospheric conditions that is a peculiar phenomenon for Filipinos. The first character introduced is a poor boy named Jepoy, but the story isn’t about him at all. In the magic circle of Philippine mythological creatures and folklore, he was merely an observer to an important gathering. It was a wedding that turned into a meeting and then a funeral, where humans happened to be just accessories, topics, and the reasons for suffering. It is a short story about one’s life purpose, the role that we all play in contributing to the destruction of the environment, and how things die because we have forgotten. Worse, we now refuse to believe.

It is short, but definitely not sweet. It is a jab at Filipino culture, where the forgotten are the main characters and where its strongest message would still be to take care of Mother Earth.