Creative Writing: Adventures in Ilvermorny Part 2

This is part two of a short story about some kids that attend llvermorny School of Witchcraft and Wizardry (US version of Hogwarts). These characters are entirely made up by me, and my descriptions of Ilvermorny are no doubt very different from what J.K. Rowling’s are. Enjoy!

Cyrus shook her hand, “Well then Jane….?

“-Ingram, Jane Ingram”, Jane affirmed.

“Jane Ingram, are you a first year too?”, Cyrus questioned, “Because I’m stressed beyond belief.”

Jane nodded. “Yea, but I bet you have more of an idea of what’s about to happen. My mom’s a Muggle-born and so she thought it would be best if I was raised without magic until Ilvermorny, like her. Supposedly it will make me appreciate magic more, but I just feel like I’m ten steps behind everyone else.”

Cyrus waved a hand. “Nah there will be plenty of Muggle-borns who just found out about magic weeks ago. That’s not even the issue, its not like Eyla and I get our wands any sooner than everyone else. What’s nerve wracking is the sorting. Eyla is set to be a Wampus, but I’m not really sure where I’d fit”. Cyrus shrugged, looking a little embarrassed to have just shared this with a stranger.

Jane smiled sympathetically, “My mom says the carvings never lie. They know you better than you know yourself.” Jane’s smile slowly turned into a quizzical expression. “Wait did you say that Eyla is a first year too? She’s as tall as many of the 7th years!”, Jane exclaimed a little too loudly.

Eyla, in hearing her name, turned to face Jane again. “Yea, and that’s what’s going to get me to be the first female admitted onto the Quidditch team as a first year”, Eyla announced proudly. “Although, I do wish Ilvermorny had basketball, the one thing I will miss from living so close to muggle cities”, she stated mostly to herself, while sighing.

A smooth woman’s voice on the crackling intercom abruptly interjected the conversation.

“Ladies and gentlemen we are now boarding flight 934 from Miami to Massachusetts, repeat, we are now boarding flight 934 from Miami to Massachusetts”

 

Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them

fantastic-beastsThe Wizarding World of Harry Potter appears to be undying, coming back in the form of new books, new amusement parks, and new stories that continue to grow in popularity. J.K. Rowling’s universe now travels to America for Warner Bros. latest movie: Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them. 

It’s the 1920s, and wizards in America are in hiding. All signs of magic must be kept on the down-low, especially with a Muggle (Or No-Maj, as the American wizards call them) group called the Second Salemers protesting magic in the streets. Tensions are high; a mysterious shadow-like creature is terrorizing New York, and wizardry is on the brink of being revealed to the public. The last thing New York needs is an awkward Hufflepuff carrying a poorly-sealed case full of beasts around town.

Newt Scamander, an ex-Hogwarts student and magical creature extraordinaire, arrives in New York City in the hopes of purchasing a rare beast. However, instead of obtaining a new creature, he accidentally lets his own loose in the city. He and his human friend Jacob, the Ex-Auror Tina her mind-reading sister Queenie must scour New York for the lost beasts, all while evading capture from the Magical Congress and keeping an eye out for the shadowy force attacking New York’s streets and buildings.

It wasn’t until I saw magic on the big screen again did I realize just how much I’d missed the Harry Potter universe. It was, well, fantastic to be brought back into a world of wands and wizards. Eddie Redmayne plays the perfect Newt Scamander, what with his nervous stature and lovable awkwardness. He devoted himself to the role, and the character really came alive for me. Tina (Katherine Waterson), Queenie (Alison Sudol), and Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler) were also very well cast and incredibly enjoyable to watch. When Jacob could’ve easily been reduced to purely comic relief, the film turns his character into a wonderful and loyal friend for Newt. Mr. Graves, a fitting name for a villain, was convincing, but I have to say that the Second Salemer family- the Barebones- was far more chilling and creepy.

I must say what stole the show were the visual effects. All of the CG and computer-animated magic and monsters were absolutely phenomenal. I was blown away by how real everything looked, and the sheer creativeness when it came to Newt’s beasts or his briefcase was outstanding. The finale in particular used today’s technology in its full potential, delivering visual effects so mind-blowing that I couldn’t bear to blink and miss a second of it. I predict an Oscar nomination, and hopefully a win, for the cinematography in Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them.

I highly recommend this movie to everyone, Harry Potter fans in particular. One of my friends, who has never really been a fan of the franchise, went to see it anyways and came out loving it. I want to go see it over and over, re-immerse myself in that world and see the magic again. The movie’s four upcoming sequels primarily seemed unnecessary, but I cannot wait for each and every one!

-Abby F.

Book vs. Movie: Middle School, The Worst Years of My Life

Image result for middle school worst years of my life bookMiddle School: The Worst Years of My Life by James Patterson is a good graphic novel. I feel that it is a great book for tweens and young teens.

I watched the movie with my friends, who have never read the books. They were shocked when the movie revealed something important, while I just sat there, knowing about this since the beginning. This probably altered my perspective, because when you have read the book first, you are comparing it to the movie the whole time. And more often then not, minor details from the book are changed for the movie and completely ruins the adaptation. Many minor details were altered, and I do feel that a couple changed how you look at the movie. Characters were not the same, and some were excluded. In the book, Leo passed away from meningitis when him and Rafe were toddlers.

In the movie, they state that Leo had passed about a year before from cancer. This can really change your perspective of the movie. In the book, you know that it’s amazing that Rafe can think of his brother like this through his imagination. In the movie, it’s just because Rafe is mourning. I feel that Leo is not thImage result for middle school worst years of my lifee same character in the movie that he is in the book. Also, what happened to Miller, or Miller the Killer? He was a huge part in the books as the school bully. In the movie, he only had a minor part and didn’t seem as threatening. Additionally, they did not have Jeanne Galleta and Georgia’s personalities correct. Jeanne is much more different, and defiantly does not sneak into his house. Georgia was way more of a brat, and did not feel sorry for her brother at all.

I would say that if you have never read the books, go see the movie! Maybe your younger sibling wants to go. Even if you think that this is a “kiddy movie,” it’s not. Half of the friends that went with me were high schoolers, and they enjoyed the movie as much as the middle schoolers with us. But for the fans of the Middle School series, I really don’t think that the movie is worth it. It is a humorous movie, but you might be disappointed.

-Rebecca V.

For reference, here is a comparison of Leo from the book and the film:

Image result for middle school worst years of my life book leoRelated image

Film Review: Frankenstein and Young Frankenstein

frankensteinAs it is that time of year again, I decided to revisit one of the most recognizable horror movies Frankenstein and its comedy counterpart, Young Frankenstein. The classic movie Frankenstein is about a scientist named Victor Frankenstein who is obsessed with using the power of electricity to bring life into a dead body. After years of work, he finally reanimates a corpse with a brain from a recently deceased corpse. However his assistant “Fritz” (Also commonly known as Igor), drops the good brain, and gives Frankenstein an abnormal brain. Due to this, the creature has a short temper and is [rone to violence. After a few incidents, the town decides to hunt down this monster and end it once and for all. They corner Frankenstein’s Monster in a windmill and burn him to death.

Young Frankenstein is hilarious comedy that really pokes fun of the original film. The main character is Fredrick Frankenstein, the son of Victor Frankenstein. Fredrick wants nothing to do with his father’s work and to disassociate himself with the family name, he pronounces the name as “Fronkensteen”. Fredrick learns that his grandfather recently passed and willed him the family’s estate in Transylvania. He travels to his family’s homeland and meets the hunchback Igor and Inga, a lab assistant. When the three of them arrives at the castle, they are greeted by the mysterious housekeeper Frau Blücher. Her name is a running joke throughout the film, as Blücher means “glue” in German, and during that time people used horses to make glue.  youngfrankensteinSo whenever her name is mentioned you always hear the horse in the background neighing.

After a short time Fredrick starts to get into his father’s work, and begins to follow the same obsession as his father Victor. Just like the classic he sends Igor to fetch the brain of a recently deceased historian, but Igor drops it and instead grabs a brain that is labeled “Abnormal! Do not use!”. Igor reads this as a name “Abby Normal” and unknowingly says it is the correct brain. When Fredrick installs the brain in the corpse  and reanimates the body, it starts to attack Fredrick and they have to sedate the monster. Fredrick then confronts Igor who confessed that he got the brain of “Abby Normal”.

This monster goes on a rampage and is hunted by a mob but is lured to the castle and Fredrick invents a machine to give the monster some of his intelligence, and then the monster is able to negotiate with the crowd, and be accepted as a sane human being. This film was a hilarious comedy that was a great comedic counterpart to the classic film, but maybe not for the younger audience.

-Max G.

Frankenstein and Young Frankenstein are available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. 

Corpse Bride (2005) vs Coraline (2009)

In the spirit of Halloween, I’ve decided have my two favorite spooky stop-motion animations compete for the titles of “Creepiest”, “Most Epic”, “Most Creative”, and “Most Fun”. So grab some candy corn and lets get started! (Warning: There will be a plot spoilers, so watch the movies first if you haven’t seen them yet :))

First in the category of creepiest, both films definitely have that aspect down. In Corpse Bride, the bride herself’s introduction and rise from the grave inciting major chills. The underworld layout of  dancing skeletons and insects, no matter how colorful and whimsical, can get creepy at times, especially with the worms crawling around inside Emily’s head. However, this title must go to Coraline. The thought itself of carving out eyeballs and sewing on buttons in its place is terrifying, let alone the actual images of button eyed parents. The “other mother’s” body shape towards the end of the movie had morphed into a contorted spider witch, and the lighting of this movie itself was more sinister than the jolly atmosphere of Corpse Bride‘s underworld. The sickly sweet nature of the “other world” was uncomfortable on its own, not to mention the mysterious and spooky tasks Coraline had to accomplish to save the day, including fighting a severed hand.

corpse-bride

Next, we have the most epic category, which gets a little more challenging. Again, both films were plenty epic. The scene in Corpse Bride with all of the dead people from the underworld going up to the living world was a grand moment indeed, along with the previously mentioned scene where Emily reaches up and drags Victor down with her to the underworld. And in Coraline, the several tasks that she had to get through were all filled with anticipation and close calls, especially when she manages to barely escape the “other world”. The winner for this category goes to Corpse Bride however, because for me, there were more people involved in the climax scenes, making it even more epic and there were more risks taken in general.

coralineThirdly, in the most creative category, it gets even MORE difficult to choose. Both films are incredible works of art with unique stories. Corpse Bride revolutionizes the idea that the world of the living is drab, and cold, while the underworld is full of parties, color, and joy. The accidental marriage between a human and a dead woman and their adventures is not something you see in an average movie. And in Coraline, you have an unhappy girl craving attention from her distracted parents, be taken in to an alternate universe where things are a little too perfect. Having button eyed people and a woman claiming to be your mother, wanting to suck your soul also isn’t your average blockbuster. Although this is a virtual tie, I must give this one to Coraline, especially because I became very fascinated by the fact that a voodoo doll that looked like Coraline showed up and lured her into a world of button eyed family and friends. Also, the characters such as the divination sisters and circus artist were quirky and unusual.

Lastly, we have the “Most Fun” category, choosing specifically which movie was the most enjoyable to watch. Coraline’s relatable character, intriguing plot, and eccentric characters were no doubt a lot of fun to watch. However I must give this title to Corpse Bride because the underworld itself was a huge party with dancing and singing. There was more comic relief in this movie and it provided multiple character perspectives on the several different dramatic plot lines going on. Coraline itself isn’t necessarily a “feel good” movie, whereas Corpse Bride in my opinion, can be very cheerful at times.

Well, there you have it folks, a Corpse Bride versus Coraline rundown. I hope this got you into the mood to watch some good old Halloween classics tonight, because it did for me! Happy Halloween!

Film Review: Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice

batmanvsupermanBatman Versus Superman: Dawn of Justice is a film directed by Zack Snyder and produced largely by Warner Bros and DC Entertainment. It stars Henry Cavill and Ben Affleck. This has been a hugely anticipated movie for people of all ages, breaking box office records in its opening weekend and garnering the attention of nearly every comic fan.

If you couldn’t tell by the title of the movie, Batman V Superman pits two of the most iconic superheroes of all time against each other, but it’s not nearly as simple as that. Various characters such as Superman’s rival Lex Luthor and girlfriend Lois Lane impact and shape the story.

Unfortunately, I felt that the pacing of the movie was very poor. I was very uninterested for the first 45 minutes of the film, and if it weren’t for the fact that it was Superman and Batman, I might have fallen asleep. The movie constantly jumps between different characters and rarely stayed in one setting for longer than 10 minutes, which made the story feel broken instead of a seamless narrative. However, this also built each character a bit more as it revealed how each of them had their own motivations. Despite previous doubts, I felt that all of the actors delivered solid performances, especially Henry Cavill as Superman and Jesse Eisenberg who made a very entertaining Lex Luthor.

The action and special effects in the film are top notch, with all the explosions and brawling you could ever ask for, especially between some of the famous superheroes. The only time the CGI felt a little rough around the edges was in the beginning of the film.

Even so, I really felt this movie fell flat of its expectations. They put far too much plot and backstory into one movie, trying to introduce and establish multiple pivotal characters at the same time in the same movie. They wasted too much time on build up and seemingly rushed the actual fighting between Batman and Superman, which is not even close to the end of the movie. Whenever I thought they would stop adding more side stories and complicating the plot more, they kept pushing and pushing then seemingly threw it all away in the last 45 minutes. Without giving anything away, there were multiple events where I was just shaking my head, thinking “Why would you do that?”

Overall, I felt that Batman Versus Superman: Dawn of Justice was very average as a movie and somewhat above average as a superhero movie. I’d recommend for anyone who is interested in action packed movies or is a superhero fan to go watch it. However, just appreciate it as a loud dumb popcorn movie and don’t think too hard about the story.

-Ahmed H.

 

Movie Review: The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

manfromuncleThe Man from U.N.C.L.E is a modern take on a vintage spy show. The director, Guy Ritchie, tells the story of an American secret agent and a Russian secret agent teaming up to stop a third-party nuclear threat. The film takes place in the Cold War Era, when U.S.-Russia tensions are at an all-time high. The Berlin Wall still divides Germany. The American spy, Napoleon Solo, is both suave and daring. He carries out his missions with a casual confidence, in contrast to the Russian KGB agent Illya Kuryakin, who is serious and professional.

From the very beginning, the movie jumps right into action. Napoleon Solo travels to East Berlin to extract Gaby Teller from the country. Russia also wants her for information on Gaby’s father, a scientist who worked with the United States during World War II. After Solo and Kuryakin pit their skills against one another, Solo escapes across the wall. After the initial excitement, the movie slows down to reveal the exposition and driving force for the rest of the plot. Despite being locked in combat in the opening scene, circumstances eventually force the agents to work together to stop a terrorist organization from creating a nuclear warhead.

The 2015 film is based on a television show from the 1960s. As a result, everything seems old-fashioned, from the way people speak to the set design. The director creates the movie to be elegant and vintage, in sharp contrast to modern day blockbusters. Each scene is a work of art, using careful camera angles and interesting transitions. Even action scenes are well planned. Clear establishing shots ensure that viewers are never confused or overwhelmed.

The best aspect of this movie is the dynamics between characters. Solo and Kuryakin both have distinct personalities that often clash. Their friendly bickering is humorous and entertaining. As the movie progresses, they become unlikely friends, even adopting nicknames for each other. Although most of today’s audiences can’t really relate to the historical time period, it’s obvious that The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is vastly different from the typical action movie. If you’re interested in both action and elegance, this is the movie for you.

-Phillip Xiang