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Disney Doesn’t “Wreck-it” with Wreck-It Ralph

10 Nov

After the more recent disappointments of The Borrower Arrietty and Brave, I was somewhat wary to see Disney’s most recent animated film, Wreck-it Ralph.

The advertisements looked promising, giving me a small hope that this would be the film that once more redeemed Disney’s animated films in my eyes, but I reminded myself that the ads for Brave and Arrietty had looked gorgeous too. So when my boyfriend and I finally made it down to the theater this week, I held my breath as the lights dimmed.

To my great relief, Disney had pulled it off. (Possible Spoiler alert!)

Wreck-it Ralph opens with a pixilated Steam-boat Willie, and then the lead character, Ralph begins to narrate over a close up of what appears to be an old arcade game, complete with 8-bit music, where we see Ralph living his day-to-day.

Ralph is the bad guy–but as all the ads point out (and  out of Street Fighter Zangeef’s mouth)–he isn’t a bad guy. It’s easy to feel badly for Ralph, a character who is programmed to be the villain of his game, wrecking an apartment for the hero, Felix, to fix; however, even after the arcade closes and the characters are allowed to be themselves, Ralph is still rejected by his fellow game characters and lives a lonely life in the dump.

The story takes place on the 30th anniversary of Wreck-it Ralph’s game, Fix-it Felix JR, with Ralph attending what appears to be an Alcoholic’s Anonymous style meeting of game villains where he admits that he wishes he knew what it felt like to be the hero. Here Disney playfully injects bad guys from games as familiar as Bowser from Super Mario, Zangeef from Street Fighter, A Pac man Ghost, and Dr. Robotnik from Sonic the Hedgehog along with characters the younger generation may recognize. (I couldn’t figure them out myself.) Ralph also admits that he doesn’t want to be the bad guy any more–but the group of baddies laugh it off and encourage him to take it, “one game at a time.” and not to “go turbo”.

After returning from his meeting, Ralph realizes that the other characters in his game are celebrating their 30 year anniversary with a party and, a little hurt his invitation never arrived, promptly makes an appearance there. The hero in his game, Felix, is a sweet and utterly loveable little man with a magic hammer is urged by his fellow characters to “get rid” of Ralph. Too nice to tell Ralph to hit the bricks, Felix invites Ralph in for cake instead, where Ralph is egged on by some of the other characters and ultimately he ruins the party. Ralph insists to the disbelieving group that he could earn metals just as easily as the hero, Felix, and is challenged by another character that if he gets a metal he live with them in the apartment instead of in the dump.

Urged on by the idea of living with the other game characters, Ralph embarks on a journey to obtain his own hero metal.

The audience travels with Ralph on his journey to be a hero and to be treated fairly through various games as Ralph “game jumps” to a very Halo-esq game called, Hero’s Duty, a one person shooter where he is faced with massive Bug-monsters that become whatever they eat. With absolutely no finesse, Ralph manages to steal a metal, but in doing so, also launches himself (literally) into another game as he struggles with a Bug that has clung to him in a stolen escape pod. They crash land in a game called, Sugar Rush, which is sort of like a candy-land racing game, where the Bug sinks and disappears in frosting. Here Ralph encounters a little girl called, Vanelope Schweet, who promptly steals his hero metal, thinking it’s a coin.

It turns out that Vanelope is in her own string of trouble,  and like Ralph, facing  isolation from her fellow game characters. The other characters claim Vanelope is a glitch that can’t be allowed to race with the other characters (or compete in the reindeer games!) and feeling badly for the girl, Ralph promises to help her.

Meanwhile, In Ralph’s game, the Arcade is open for business again and Ralph is a no show. Gamers who play notice the missing villain and bring it to the manager’s attention thinking the game is broken. Felix and the other characters finally realize that Ralph is missing and Felix promises to “fix-it” and sets off to find Ralph before the plug on their game is pulled. Felix and the female captain from Hero’s Duty team up, Felix searching for Ralph and the captain seeking out the Bug that escaped her game with Ralph.

Wreck-it Ralph is a movie about not making judgements–but even the villain of this film may surprise you. I think it may have been a first for me since I was young that I didn’t immediately know who the villain was and I loved the surprise. (I won’t spoil it for you.) The film is full of jokes that all ages can enjoy between the obvious “duty” jokes to the more adult themed (over the kids heads) jokes, this film is one I would consider seeing in theaters again.  Disney managed to pull it out of the bag for me on this one. The graphics are smooth and gorgeous and even the music is helplessly catchy. It gets a five our of five cupcakes from the Restless Writer scale.

 

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Symphony of the Goddesses

20 Oct

As a kid, one of the first video games that I ever loved aside from Pokemon, was the Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time for Nintendo 64. I was fascinated by the mind-boggling addictive puzzle RPG style of the game and the wonderful magical storyline the game presented.

Even now as an adult, I will openly admit that I have a love for the Zelda games, and it seems each generation has it’s own favorite that spans from old Nintendo games to  the newest which can be played on the Nintendo Wii and 3Ds.

So it seems only natural that upon being asked if I would like to go to the Symphony of the Goddesses this past week on October 18th at the Wang that I say yes.

The night was cold, but the heat of bodies packed within the balcony seats at the Wang theater was enough to allow most girls to be comfortable in even the flimsiest of dresses as they waited for the seats to fill. Below, we had view of the whole stage and three video monitors placed at different angles. The stage was lit softly, and the musicians could be heard softly testing their instruments; part of a song there, a stray note here for warm ups floated through the spacious theater. As I glanced around the theater, I could see a sea of green as various people of all ages had dressed in Link costumes for the occasion and even a pair as Mario and Luigi.

Then, a great cheer rose up as the conductor entered the stage; she was delicate, blonde and young with laughing eyes and  with a gorgeous brogue she introduced herself as Emiear Noone. The producer, Jason Micheal Paul, was then on the stage, announcing the line up and expressing his love for the games as well, which was followed by massive wave of applause. These were his people, and he was in good company.

The show opened with a bang as a medley of Zelda’s main opening powerfully lit up the room. Noone firmly led the Orchestra as behind them scenes from the most memorable Zelda games lit up the three large screens.

The first act consisted of dungeon music and classic ocarina music, followed by a medley from Legend of Zelda: Ocherina of Time. The crowd could be heard laughing on an off at some of the scenes chosen from the games. Then, abruptly between the first and second half, Noone called our attention once more to her. She admitted it was unorthodox to stop between the first and second half, but wanted to draw the crowd’s attention to the fact that the second half would consist of music selected from Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, which involved controlling the wind with what looked like a conductor’s baton. Noone then raised he hand, displaying her own personal wind waker, and proceeded with conducting the rest of the symphony with it.

After the intermission, Paul once mor graced the stage, thanking Rhode Island’s Philharmonic Choir for using their voices along with the powerfully done orchestra music and introducing the second half of the show which concisted of music from Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past, Legend of Zelda Twilight Princess, and which followed up with music from Majora’s mask.

The show had not one but three standing ovations and was all and all a moving and fantastic experience that was enjoyed by multiple generations and fans of both music and gaming. This was a celebration and an homage to the games, their fans and of course the composer of the beautiful Zelda music, Koji Kondo.

Sold by Patricia McCormick, a book review, and Moving to Baltimare

6 Oct

When I visited my local Barnes and Noble last night, I wasn’t sure what sort of book I wanted. The shelves loomed in a labyrinthine maze, lined with books of all sizes and colors as I wandered through them. Here and there, I would touch my fingertips to the spines of books on the shelves, as if this simple gesture would give to me some sense of the story that was behind the cover.

It was there that I stumbled across a bright yellow book with a striking black and white image of a young girl’s face peering from a sari. “Sold” the cover declared in bold plain red text. Drawn to this image, I left the store with my prize in hand.

I started it as soon as I arrived home, and found myself unable to put it down; worried for what might happen if I left the main character alone in the closed pages of the novel.

Patricia McCormick’s, “Sold”, is a striking story about a young girl named Lakshmi who is taken from her mountain home in Nepal under the pretense of being hired as a maid in the City to help feed her struggling family. To Lakshmi and the reader’s horror, she is instead sold into prostitution in India.

The story is written less like a novel, and more like a poetry anthology that interconnects perfectly. Each “Chapter” is  a literary poem that leads the reader along on Lakshmi’s sometimes beautiful, sometimes sad, but always powerful journey. Only 13 when she is sold by her stepfather, the reader is told through Lakshmi’s point of view the horrifying story that is sadly a reality for nearly 12,000 Nepali girls each year. (Figure taken from the afterword) It is by sheer power of her soul that Lakshmi seems to survive and (spoilers!) eventually escape from life as a child-prostitute. We see the young girl’s change from nieve and innocent, to self-loathing, to strong and determined as the novel progresses. Despite the novel’s heavy subject matter, I felt a great sense of relief and hope at its’ close.  This novel is certainly a three out of four cupcakes on the Pinky Pie scale.

Sold by Patricia McCormick

 

On a lighter note: I started my new job this week! That’s right folks, Pinky Pie moved to Baltimare! So far, the work is a horse of a different color from what I had been working on before. It’s tough training, and getting access for a while to all of the new systems I required for my work seemed impossible–but luckily things are working out for the most part.

My new manager seems sweet and somewhat soft spoken. When you speak to her, you can almost see the wheels in her head turning as she seeks out the most appropriate words to use in her next sentence. Despite her soft and careful ways, do not think she is a pushover. Already, I have seen her be firm with people–but always fair. So far, she seems to genuinely want me to succeed in learning all that I can. Meet Baltimare’s Cheerilee.

 

 

The pony who is training me seems very high energy, if not high strung. She is full of knowledge and excited to train me–but isn’t exactly the most patient mare for the job. She also has quite an ego–which for now–I will be sure to beef up as much as possible while we have to work in close quarters. Meet Baltimare’s  “Great and Powerful “Trixie.

To my left the “Great and Powerful” Trixie of Baltimare

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The pony who sits in front of her seems to be the oldest of the group, and also the most cynical. I find her extremely funny and charming. She likes to decorate her desk and provides everyone with candies. So far, I don’t know much else about her–other than that she seems to be harboring some inner sadness that she may be working out. (Still she’s very sweet.) Meet Baltimare’s Mrs. Cup Cake.

Behind Trixie sits a very quiet colt. He’s only there twice a week, and works from home primarily. Compared to myself and Trixie, he says very little–but when he does talk, it’s usually hilarious. He’s very sweet and patient. (Don’t tell Trixie, but I like it when he trains me better.) Meet Baltimare’s Big Macintosh.

So far, everypony is really nice. And I look forward to getting to know them all better. I also look forward to learning more and more about my new position.

Pinky Pie the restless writer–out!

Pokemon Conquest: A review

24 Jun

So recently I hadn’t been investing in any video games, but with the new Pokemon games coming out (Pokemon Conquest, Pokemon Black 2 and Pokemon white 2) I heard my inner child throwing a tantrum. For now, I invested in Pokemon Conquest (as Black and White still aren’t in stores just yet.) but i’m not entirely sure if I like it or not.

I suppose that’s my own fault, going and buying a game on a whim before investing some thought into it. But I had thought Conquest would be similar to the Pokemon Ranger series where you are the Pokemon, saving the day in poke-world, but it’s not. In fact, if I had to compare it to any other game, I would have to say that it’s reminiscent of some of the old Yugio card game games, where the cards become chess pieces on a board and they are deigned specific ways they can move and attack to win.

In Pokemon Conquest, you are a warlord in Feudal Japan around the time of Nobunaga. The goal: take over Japan of course! Rather than your typical Pokemon, where you the trainer use Pokeballs to capture your Pokemon, you instead use the power of your mind to “link” with potential poke-partners. You start as the warlord to a kingdom called Aroura, where you are apparently the new-militant in town, and are immediately confronted by a neighboring Kingdom looking to kick you out of your own castle. As this is mainly the tutorial, you easily beat them with the help of one of your newly acquired subordinates. I haven’t beaten it yet, but find it oddly addictive. Gathering more troops, linking with new Pokemon and trying to find the gold “perfect links” , upping energy and ultimately taking over the world with more than a few grumbles is the main attraction in this game.

So for all you strategy addicts out there–this game is for you.

pokemon conquest

The Serpent’s Shadow by Rick Riordan (Now with Jelly Babies!)

21 Jun

I can hardly believe that the third book in the Kane Chronicle Series by Rick Riordan is already out on shelves. In fact, if I hadn’t been creeping on Mr. Riordan’s Facebook page–I probably wouldn’t have known for a long while.  But as luck or fate or by some blessing of Thoth (the Egyptian god of Knowledge–had a bird head–keep up people.) I managed to scoop up yet another tantalizing read.

If you’re extremely confused–please see my previous two reviews on The Red Pyramid and Throne of Fire, the first two novels in Riordan’s latest literary adventure.

Once again we join our favorite narrators, Sadie and Carter Kane as they take turns speaking into a tape recorder about their latest adventures and mishaps involving the Egyptian Gods. Once more our story starts with a less-than-pleasant battle within the walls of a museam, only this time the Kanes have no need to break in. After the last novel, we have been told that the House of Life (Sort of like the Egyptian Magicians Union) has been divided by the death of the former Head Lector, Dejardins, the appointment of the new Head Lector, the Kane’s uncle Amos, and the differing opinions in the Gods. As such, the Kanes have (a few) allies, including the group in Texas who runs the Dallas museum. What are they after this time–you wonder? Of course this novel’s goal is the absolutely necessary defeat of Apophis–a giant, sun-swallowing, chaos-loving snake that wants to destroy the world as we know it.

Apparently, Apophis has been immensely busy destroying one specific ancient artifact as of late, written by a former magician, Setne.(He literally comes back to haunt them later in the story.)  The Kanes and their initiates know that as this pattern continues, this scroll must hold some secret to beating the baddie–so they insist on trying to protect it. We see our fuzzy baboon friend, Jaz the healer/ rock-thrower and Walt the boy cursed to die young from magic use (See also King Tut.) are still part of the Kane’s gang, along with penguin-loving Felix for this round with chaos. Unfortunately, as seems to be the opening pattern in the Kane Chronicles, the mission goes horribly awry, ending in the deaths of party-going magicians gathered outside and the last scroll they needed destroyed.

Instead, Sadie has a vision of a pointy-nosed man she dubs “Uncle Vinnie” who materializes from the wall just before the battle and tells her to save the golden box. (Sadie almost dies in the process and has a chat with her favorite hottie-god Anubis who urgently tries to tell her something.) The group manages to do as much, and with no other survivors, they retreat back to Brooklyn House full of guilt and regret. Once home, the siblings figure out that the box they saved is also known as a Shadow box, for the Sheut,(Shadow) another important part of the Egyptian soul. Again, we see Riordan focus his novel on a major portion of the Egyptian soul using it as the primary weapon and theme throughout the novel. Bast–their pet cat-goddess–doesn’t seem very eager to help the children decipher much about the Sheut and instead directs them to Thoth.

It is then that Carter is called away for an important scrying message from Zia (aka the girl who was formally a shabti (a statue made to look and act alive.) ) Apparently, the news isn’t good and brings more threats from rebel magicians out for the Kane’s blood. Only highlighting the blatant fighting among the House of Life.

This message eventually leads to the splitting up of the Kane Siblings to accomplish two separate missions but not before a little scene at the children’s school–a dance. Here Sadie is confronted by Anubis, warning her just before they are separated by a very huffy God of the Wind, still attempting to tell her something urgent before he is swept away again. In his place is now a formerly evil Russian magician who has come to warn the Kanes of the imminent peril they face when facing the rebels.

With more bad news on their plates, Sadie and the Russian hurry to meet up with Amos while Carter and Walt head to ask Thoth for more advise. Both parties meet with difficulties which continue throughout the novel. ( Including various fights with the Gods, including one with a Goddess which Sadie convinces Jelly Babies are deadly creatures to hunt.)

The Deadly Jelly Babies (see also The 4th Doctor)

 

The biggest problem in this novel for the main characters (aside from the ever approaching threat of a giant snake eating the sun and how to destroy him.) is love troubles. Walt, the boy who Sadie falls for, is destined to die at a young age and there is a constant depressing threat of his imminent death overhanging their relationship. Meanwhile, Carter deals with at first unrequited feelings, then double what he had bargained for with Zia. Both Sadie and Carter must face the difficult probability of losing the person they have fallen for, along with each other.

This novel proves once more successful, in introducing a real connection to the characters as well as pulling off a fairly seamless storyline. Again, I found myself constantly pulled back into the pages of the story, wanting to know more, wanting to put the puzzle pieces of their newest problem together to see how Sadie and Carter would save the day (literally) in this one. Going along with the theme of Shadows, or Sheut, this novel seems to deal with a few more darker problems than in the last two novels: namely death and the soul. In the last novel, death was touched upon more than once, but it grows much more person in this novel. Walt’s character is developed through Sadie and Carter’s eyes, making you feel personally connected to him as they watch him slowly withering. Also, Sadie and Carter’s mother (who died prior to The Red Pyramid but now rules alongside their underworld dad, Osiris.) is also sucked into this concept of death, initiating the idea of total oblivion and losing those that we most love–a dark and difficult thought subject. Riordan manages to balance this darkness with his own, lighthearted narration from the eyes of Carter and Sadie.

I look forward to reading the next edition in this series (though it is hinted in the first and last chapters of the novel that Sadie and Carter won’t be making any more recordings due to the circumstances that arise in the end.) I am hoping this is just a ruse for the next novel.

Until the next time everypony!

 

Rick Riordan’s Third novel in the Kane Chronicles Series

 

Once more,

Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith A Novel Review

11 Jun

Four score and a few months ago, while awaiting the showing of The Hunger Games–I discovered what film I wanted next to see. While my girlfriends gawked excitedly at the preview for Titanic in 3D (and I grimaced, recognizing my old foe that caused my still deeply ingrained fear of sailing…) I found myself instead in awe of the trailer that followed it: Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter. I felt my nerdiness rise to the surface to gasp asthmatically. No, that, was a movie worth seeing. Something old–made new. Not just with 3D slapped into it! An entirely unique concept.

It was later to my great joy that I was told that this movie that looked both absurd and would feed my inner nerd, was also a book. So that’s when I found myself tumbling toward the book store, eager to get my hands on a copy. It did not disappoint.

Created by the author who is known for, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, this dark fact-ion kept my pouring through the pages. I couldn’t put it down. Which was a pleasant surprise.

When I started reading the novel, I at first worried that it would be too factual to be interesting–but I was so wrong. This novel’s beauty lies in its well-researched narration of the life of one of our nation’s most infamous presidents, Abe Lincoln. What feels like common knowledge about this man: that he started off in a poor family, that his life was riddled with loss and passion, and that he stood as a symbol of freedom for all men regardless of color is painted in a close, very personal way that makes (a usually dull subject for me) history interesting.Where do the vampires come in–you ask? Well, where it makes sense of course.

Abe and our readers are introduced to the concept of those blood-sucking demons, vampires, from the very beginning. As history tells, a strange unidentified illness takes Abe’s mother from him when he is very young. Grahame-Smith is clever enough to take advantage of the plot holes that history has left him, and plugged in the only “logical” answer–vampires. A vampire gives Abe’s mother a “fool’s dose” of vampire blood, killing her painfully as vengeance for his father’s unpaid debt. Abe never seems able to forgive his father for this. Nor vampires of course. And thus begins our story.

The reader is guided through Abe’s difficult life in a very factual way, making some of the fiction difficult to separate from the fact. (Sometimes it’s not–and it’s just plain hilarious.) We encounter Abe’s view of Slavery throughout his life (and mind you, he is never fond of it.) But upon discovering that the slave trade is literally feeding the vampire population, Abe’s resolve to end slavery (and by extension vampires) is solidified.

I absolutely recommend picking this up if you like fact-ion. (And non sparkly-vampires.)

Look forward to seeing my review of the movie which premiers June 22nd!

“I must endure. I must be more than I am. I must not fail. I must not fail her.”

A Night at the Theater–Addams Family Musical Review (Spoilers!)

9 Feb

They’re creepy and they’re spooky, mysterious and kooky–they’re all together ooky–The Addams family!

Well, creepy certainly was the word. Crammed in the tiny balcony seats of the Schubert Theater in Boston, I was trying with some difficulty not to allow the overly-nosy eight-year-old boy in front of me to look up my dress in the awkward angle and sitting beside my boyfriend who looked even more uncomfortable. There, we awaited the start of The Addams Family Musical. ( My poor boyfriend’s first words once the show ended was–“I think my shins are bruised.”) I felt lucky that we had managed to even get seats on opening night–the place was packed– and even the cramped space of the balcony weren’t under $50 dollars a ticket.

The crowd seemed restless and eager to start the show. Ages varied from young kids to so elderly they needed assistance getting up and down the narrow (and without a middle railing, which was terrifying in heels) stairs. After all, who couldn’t recall the memorably grim but laugh-inducing Addams? I knew I couldn’t resist. My childhood was riddled with memories of Saturday morning cartoons, in which The Addams Family often frequented the screen. The show was grim, and hilariously twisted, which is the main reason I enjoyed it. It is that spirit of twisted humor that was kept alive throughout the opening night of The Addams Family Musical.

The premise: The creepy cold child, Wednesday, has suddenly found herself in love and wanting to be engaged to–dramatic pause–a “normal” boy! Hiding the ring from her over-protective mother, Morticia, she confides in her father, Gomez, about the reason for a sudden dinner party with this boy and his family. She begs him to promise not to tell his beloved wife–and so hilarity ultimately ensues.

All of the characters I knew and loved made their premier on stage, portrayed with care and confidence by their respective actors and actresses. (Well–with the exception of a rather annoying little boy who played Wednesday’s brother, Pugsley. Him, I could have done without.) Even Thing and Cousin It make a few short appearances.

The show was much better than I anticipated; the music was catchy, saucy and well-composed, the scene changes were fascinating to watch–and the use of puppeteers was a pleasant and fun surprise throughout the production.I found myself bouncing in my seat to the music as performers sang and danced, grabbing your attention and ultimately keeping it.

The only issue (depending on who you are) that I found with it was the massive amounts of sexual humor that permeated the whole performance. As an adult–I have no problem with sexual humor. In fact, it’s kind of my favorite. But it does get somewhat uncomfortable when there’s an eight-year old in front of you and Gomez just made several penis jokes. All I could think was, God, I hope this goes over your head. Oh, also, the occasionally topical humor that Uncle Fester tosses into the performance–I found somewhat jarring. Funny, sometimes–but other times just unneeded.

I must admit, that I was thrilled to realize that the actor playing Uncle Fester had also played Edna in Hairspray when I went to see it with my Meme five years or so ago. All of the cast did a bang up job–particularly the actors and actresses who played, Fester, Gomez and Wednesday,  who stole the show. Even the actor playing Lurch surprised me with a suddenly solo singing performance that gave me chills in ways that only seeing The Phantom of the Opera on stage had done previously.

All and all I give The Addams Family Musical a 4 out of 5 stars. It’s only here in Boston for this month–and I would definitely recommend it to the younger generation looking for a laugh. (Or perhaps even the older. People are DYING to see this show.) Sorry, I had to. If you can afford it–skip the cheap seats. But honestly, the view from anywhere in this theater is fine. It’s only legroom that gets tricky.