As I’ve said in other posts, I have certain psychological issues that flare up every once in a while that make it difficult for me to concentrate when I go see movies (or read books). It’s been happening again lately, but I must maintain my blog. Anyway, I saw “Rise of the Guardians” a couple of days ago, doing my best to ignore the psychological difficulties. I enjoyed it. It was a good children’s movie with only a few shortcomings.
The main character in the movie is Jack Frost (yes, that Jack Frost who nips at your nose). Jack Frost is basically a supernatural creature who has the ability to summon snow and frost and turn every day into a fun-filled snowball fight. He carries a special wooden staff around with him which seems to be a conduit of his power. There is a catch though. Nobody believes he exists. Hence, no one can see him or hear him (except other supernatural creatures—I say supernatural, but I mean like Holiday creatures).
There are five other characters of import in the story: Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, Mister Sandman, and the bad guy, Pitch Black, a.k.a. the Boogey Man. The basic plot is that the Boogey Man is intent on destroying the other characters in the story, his power is on the rise, and he’s taking over the world bringing nightmares and darkness. It is up to the four Holiday characters to stop him, because that is their primary task as Guardians: to protect the children of the world. However, this time, Pitch Black is so strong they are going to need to recruit a fifth Guardian, namely, Jack Frost. In the beginning, Jack Frost is very much against the idea for a number of reasons, but he eventually comes around after several less than cordial encounters with Pitch Black, who is a really bad guy.
The resulting tale is a classic good versus evil tale with Jack Frost serving as the reluctant hero, although in the end, it is not Jack Frost alone who saves the day, but the children of the world who refuse to be afraid of Pitch Black. Overall, I would say the movie provides good family fun with one small caveat. Very, very young children might be a little frightened by Pitch Black.
I’ve had this complaint about other children’s movies by Disney or whoever. They have a tendency to forget their target audience and wind up making the movies a tad too scary for the very young. This may not be entirely their fault. Part of the problem may be the improvement of special effects that has occurred through the years. In the old days, Disney pumped out cartoons with sinister dragons and evil witches, but the cartoonish quality was so far removed from reality and the dark ambience created by these creatures was so clearly identifiable as fictitious that even the very young could handle the story. I mean, I saw Snow White and Sleeping Beauty as a kid. I don’t remember being terrified. But some of things Pitch Black does, and the whole visual impact he and his minions have as a result of improved technology might be a little overwhelming for a small child.
Regardless, I think it was a good movie and I’ll give it four stars out of five.
I don’t think I ever saw “Kung Fu Panda” in the theater, but I do own a copy of the film; it’s a great movie. It is a children’s martial arts movie featuring an animated flabby panda by the name of Po as the main character. Po works for his “father,” a duck, in his noodle shop. He spends his days waiting on the customers, serving noodles, and his nights dreaming of kung fu. Nearby, is the Jade Palace, a kind of monastery for teaching kung fu. Therein lives (I’m not sure of these spellings) Master Uugway, Master Shifu, and their most devoted students, known as the Furious Five: Tiger, Monkey, Mantis, Viper, and Crane (for those who don’t know, those are all animals in the kung fu system of martial arts)—all of whom are animals of some sort or another. Uugway, for example, is a turtle. I’m not sure what Shifu is, but the others fall in line with their respective disciplines.
One day, while Po is serving noodles at the shop, an announcement is posted on the wall. Master Uugway is ready to choose the Dragon Warrior, a mythical kung fu master of limitless power. It is a momentous occasion, to say the least. Po ushers everyone out of the restaurant and toward the Jade Palace, where through a humorous series of “accidents,” Po winds up being chosen as the Dragon Warrior. Master Shifu and the other students object—after all, Po has no martial arts training and doesn’t know any real kung fu—but Master Uugway is adamant. Thus begins Po’s journey to become the Dragon Warrior and receive the Dragon Scroll, a scroll said to hold the secret to limitless power.
I’ve forgotten the bad guy’s name (which is sad, because I watched the movie last night), but he is a menacing kind of grey-colored leopard sort of creature. The former prize student of Master Shifu, he was imprisoned after he went berserk over not being chosen as the Dragon Warrior. Shortly into the movie, he escapes from prison. This, of course, causes an uproar, because everyone knows he is coming to the Jade Palace to exact his revenge. Against orders, The Furious Five seek him out to stop him. Of course, he defeats them all. Meanwhile, Po is training hard with Master Shifu, who has found that the key to unlocking Po’s abilities lies with his stomach. He uses food to inspire the Panda to work. Of course, ultimately, Po and the bad guy must square off in a final battle, which Po wins. But getting to that point is half the fun.
There are plenty of clean, humorous jokes interlaced throughout this movie. It’s perfectly fine for family consumption, except possibly for one tiny potential flaw. At the end of the movie, Po kills the bad guy using the infamous Wushi Finger Hold. They don’t show anything, just an unleashed wave of chi energy that blankets the area. In all likelihood, very young children might not even make the connection that the bad guy is dead. But still, the hero calmly, and deliberately, kills him—or at least, the movie gives every indication that this is what he does. So, keep that in mind if you have young kids who want to watch the movie. Other than that, the movie was a blast.
Overall, I’ll give “Kung Fu Panda” four and a half out five stars.
I received the book “The Last Great Wizard of Yden” by S.G. Rogers as a prize from a web-site contest. I read it, and figure I’ll review it here. It was in ebook format, and I read it on my phone.
The book tells the story of Jon Hansen whose father is kidnapped and whisked to a parallel dimension by the evil wizard Efysian. It has magic, wizards, dragons, and a number of mystical beings.
I’m hoping it was intended for a young audience (13 or 14), because it would be an enjoyable book for that reading level. Not so much for a more mature or sophisticated audience. Although there was a lot of good humor in it, and as an adult reader, I don’t think it was bad, but the writing was a little weak. The story was there. All the sentences, individually, were perfectly respectable sentences (although perhaps S.G. Rogers used a little too much passive tense), but the whole was lacking something. The descriptions were not very vivid. On the plus side, because there was so little vivid description, a lot of ground is covered in the book. But the epic battle at the end, a perfect opportunity to show off one’s writing talent, took place in no more than two paragraphs.
Beyond the flaws in the writing, there were a couple flaws in the story. The most egregious was the character of Efysian. All sorts of references were made to him suggesting he was a great and powerful wizard, nearly invincible… but it was never explained why. I wanted to know how come he was so powerful; what was his story? Those details were lacking, and that had a significant negative effect on the book—not one that I think the very young would notice, but I, as an adult, found it somewhat irritating.
Overall, I would give this maybe two and a half stars to possibly three out of five for an adult reader. However, if the audience is a younger group (say 12 or 13), I’d give it four out five stars. It was funny, clean, and a decent adventure.
This review was originally posted on Shelfari.com on 3-26-2012.