Inside Out: The Review

Inside Out Poster

Inside Out is a movie with a simple enough-sounding premise executed well. It’s the story of an 11-year old girl dealing with growing up and changes in her life, made all the more interesting by telling large parts of her tale through the personified emotions in her head. Not only are there several female characters pushing the story forward, but this whole thing is something that seems so rare at the movies today – an original concept.

I have to admit that when I saw the trailer, I wondered if they’d be able to make the journey captivating enough but they managed it without a problem. There’s a lot to take in when it comes to how everything in your mind works together and while there’s plenty of concepts that will probably go over younger audience members’ heads, Inside Out can leave adults with plenty to think about.

Not every screen actor makes a good voice actor, but Amy Poehler as the take-charge embodiment of Joy beautifully delivers all the nuances required of her character without ever pushing her into being grating. She really wants what’s best for Riley and that’s supported by the story showing us just enough of Riley in the larger world to make the audience want that too.

There are plenty of corny moments including the overuse of one joke in particular. And despite knowing the emotions are supposed to appear as kinetic energy, I kept thinking they looked more like glowing felt. But those are . . . → Read More: Inside Out: The Review

Kay Reviews Jurassic World

Jurassic World Poster

When you make a meta statement early on in your movie, the path forward can be tricky. It’s been clear from the advertising as well as the film itself that Jurassic World’s message is in regards to the concept of a “summer blockbuster sequel”. Like the idea that these movies should be bigger, louder, and have more explosions, within the movie the park’s effort to impress their audience means their newest dinosaur should be bigger, scarier, and a greater danger to anyone remotely near it.

But then the movie goes on to be nothing more than a typical summer blockbuster sequel. That’s not a horrible thing, but it also means the movie kind of condemns itself. It’s certainly entertaining and the dinosaurs are very well done, but it never rises above anything more than a tribute to Jurassic Park.

Hat tips and nods to the original abound. Chances are though, it won’t make you jump out of your seat in quite the same way as the first story. The characters are unfortunately rather flat and while Claire is the character with a story arc, it’s neither the vehicle for a great female lead that the director says it is or a great male lead like the marketing indicates.

The best way to enjoy this movie is to temper your expectations. Don’t come banking on the tension, gravity, or heart of the original, but keep your nostalgia antennae up and you’ll probably find this a fun ride.

To hear more of . . . → Read More: Kay Reviews Jurassic World

Kay Reviews Naomi Novik’s Uprooted

Uprooted Cover

“Here. You’ll like this,” he said, practically shoving the book into my hands. It was by Naomi Novik, an author I wasn’t familiar with and it felt a little strange to be holding a book I hadn’t known was coming out. While a majority of the books I review on here these days have to do with Star Wars, I occasionally peruse the coming soon lists of other areas of interest too. I’m used to knowing author names, what else they wrote, and what the story was generally going to be about.

But holding Uprooted, I had no clue. I was tempted to ask why he thought it’d be a good fit for me, but I held my tongue. This was a chance to go into a book fresh and I was going to take it.

I quickly learned the story is told from the perspective of a 17-year-old girl named Agnieszka, who lives in a valley near a dangerous wood. Once every ten years the local wizard arrives to choose a girl who will serve in his tower for the next ten years and in turn he protects the villagers from the wood. Everyone is sure the next to be chosen will be Agnieszka’s best friend Kasia, who is practically perfect in every way. But events don’t proceed as everyone expects.

The rest of the plot, I will leave for you to discover when you read this book–because I highly encourage you to read this book. Naomi Novik . . . → Read More: Kay Reviews Naomi Novik’s Uprooted

REVIEW: Force Trainer II

Guest review by Skylar Hansen-Raj

[FANgirl Note: Skylar, our intrepid junior contributor, is back with another review.]

“Take a deep breath in and focus. Your mind must be still in order to lift the ship out of the mud.” My trainer speaks slowly and clearly. I’m staring at an X-wing mired in a swamp on Dagobah.

Inhale, exhale, inhale – suddenly the trapped X-wing shakes and starts to lift out of the swamp. Ecstatic, I exhale, but to my disappointment the ship falls back down. I groan.

“So close!” Mom says.

I’m not on Dagobah, I’m actually at Star Wars Celebration in Anaheim. I’m trying a new game. It’s called Star Wars Force Trainer II: The Hologram Experience. I am currently attached to a computer interface with the game. It’s really cool – a monitor is strapped to my forehead and earlobe, it senses my brainwaves to see how hard I am concentrating. That allows me to use the Force by focusing. I stare at the small screen in front of me, trying to keep my mind clear.

I feel like Luke, discouraged and annoyed. I can relate to his skepticism when Yoda says, “Do or do not, there is no try,” because right now that seems like ancient Jedi hokey-pokey. I take another steadying breath and once again, the ship moves – and of course, falls back down. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I wonder if it is programmed to do this, so I will learn . . . → Read More: REVIEW: Force Trainer II

When Fandoms Collide with Adagio Tea

One of my fandoms that I haven’t talked much about on FANgirl is tea. Yes, tea. I’m versed in some of its history and read up on the growing process. I’m up for trying new blends, but I have my prefered varieties too. And if there’s a new tea fan, I like helping them figure out what to try first.

I’ve never been a coffee drinker but tea and I go way back. A nice cuppa is an all-purpose comfort. It’s good when you’re happy or sad, when you’re too warm or too cold. You can drink it at any time of the day and it’s a great excuse to take a break and eat a biscuit (or cookie, depending on where you’re from).

My tea fandom has crossed paths with my other fandoms too. I’ve bought Firefly- and Harry Potter-inspired teas from independent vendors before and I think official teas for different fandom properties could be a very cool tie-in product. I mean, Harry Potter and Doctor Who are already British. Characters drink tea in those stories. Sometimes it’s even a featured part of the plot. What is out there is a lot of fandom-related tea accessories. Unfortunately many of them don’t do a great job of performing the function they’re meant for because the focus is on the look. Mugs are an exception to that, except for maybe that Loki one that came out with the giant horns on it that just looked too dangerous to put . . . → Read More: When Fandoms Collide with Adagio Tea

Tomorrowland: The Review

Ladies and gentlebeings, we’ve reached the Tomorrowland stop on my Strange Age of Tomorrowland World Awakens 2015 movie tour. You may proceed with this review without any major spoilers. Please feel free to stretch your imaginations, take small children by the hand, and be sure to hang on to any personal belongings.

This is my favorite stop so far.

There’s a clear enthusiasm and momentum behind Tomorrowland. And it’s so many things I hesitate to label it as thrilling or reflective or hope-inducing, because as much as it has those elements within it, it’s a much more intricate piece of filmmaking than a broad label can do justice. I have to wonder if that’s why some critics aren’t liking it; it’s not easy to pin down. (Pun completely intended.)

Tomorrowland is reminiscent, modern, and forward-thinking. There is action, adventure and impressive special effects. Moments of whimsy appear and a few times it runs right up to the line of being too silly, but this movie isn’t shying away from the fact that it has a message for you–a very wordy message, but an interesting and thought-provoking one nonetheless.

I’ll admit the narrative is a bit messy and gets complicated at times but the world Brad Bird created makes it easy enough to suspend disbelief and take it all in stride. Fun references to Disneyland are heaviest in the beginning, there’s a bunch of Star Wars in the middle, and a scene right out of The Rocketeer appears towards the end. . . . → Read More: Tomorrowland: The Review

Get Your Geek On with Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy

Two paragraphs into Sam Maggs’ The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy and I was hooked. She starts by clarifying the term “fangirl” and it meant a lot to me because back when Tricia invited me to join FANgirl Blog, I hesitated. I didn’t want to be labeled a fangirl. The connotation I associated the term with was negative. But Tricia convinced me this was an opportunity to redefine the word in my own terms, to contribute to thoughtful fandom discourse, to show that not everyone is a fan of everything in exactly the same way.

I’m not a screaming-her-head-off, jumping-all-over-the-place kind of fan. I may cheer from time to time or applaud really loudly but for the most part the more moved I am by something, the stiller I get, the quieter I get, and sometimes the more teary-eyed I get. If that’s you too, then here’s a high five of solidarity. And if that’s not you? That’s ok too. That’s what Fangirl’s Guide is ultimately about–that there are so many different ways to participate in a fandom and you get to choose what you want to do.

I got to meet Sam Maggs recently and her friendliness translates well to the page. In the book she even makes a point to welcome anyone who wants to read this guide, regardless of gender identity. And while it’s a formidable companion if you’re new to this whole larger world of fandom, Fangirl’s Guide could really be applicable for anyone. Although I . . . → Read More: Get Your Geek On with Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy

Avengers: Age of Ultron Review

Avengers: Age of Ultron begins by dropping us right in the middle of the action–the action of the Avengers actually working as a team. After their last outing (2012’s The Avengers) of clashing egos and getting-to-know-you activities along with the cinematic age we’re currently in of rebooted origin story after rebooted origin story after origin story, it’s a welcome start.

Of course Age of Ultron doesn’t completely escape having a genesis feature but with more than 9 superheroes and multiple villains in the mix, someone had to start somewhere. Originally I was pumped for this go-round with a seemingly unstoppable villain, but I got hit with Avengers fatigue before the movie had a chance to come out. The marketing campaign felt like it showed, out of order and out of context, most of the movie. While I understand they were trying to reach a wide audience, a MCU fan like me just wanted to watch the story the way Joss Whedon intended it to be shown. And although I reached a point where I was actively avoiding any more trailers (or exclusive scenes or commercials or featurettes), some of what should have been exciting or a discovery within my viewing experience was tempered by the feeling that I’d seen it before. To top it off, the marketing sold Ultron as a more formidable adversary than he ended up being.

That being said, Avengers: Age of Ultron is not a bad movie. There’s a little something in it for everyone: philosophical . . . → Read More: Avengers: Age of Ultron Review

Lords of the Sith – Reviewed by Kay

In Lords of the Sith Darth Vader and Emperor Sheev Palpatine head to the Twi’lek homeworld of Ryloth to quell rebellion. Cham Syndulla, father of Hera from Rebels, awaits them with a company of dedicated fighters and a trap he hopes will spark a larger rebellion across the galaxy.

But the best way to describe Lords of the Sith is that if I wasn’t reviewing it, I wouldn’t have finished reading it. My Star Wars is about hope and heart. This Star Wars was about anger, and efforts doomed before they even get started, all with a side dish of gore.

The relationship of Free Ryloth leader Cham Syndulla and his contact within the Imperial ranks, Belkor Dray, strikes an interesting parallel with that of the Emperor and Vader. The mask concept had potential, too, before quickly becoming too blatant. Beyond that, though, there’s little to discover as you’re repeatedly hit over the head with way more tell than show and explanations that unfortunately make it seem like the audience can’t be expected to figure out anything themselves.

Again we’re in that period in between movies where we know that certain characters will make it out of this story, but Lords of the Sith is more successful than Heir to the Jedi in ratcheting up the tension. Here it’s more about bracing yourself for the inevitable and probably graphic deaths of certain characters. There’s a challenge in writing an all-seeing, all-knowing, invincible character like Palpatine. So it’s not that . . . → Read More: Lords of the Sith – Reviewed by Kay

7 Reasons to see Furious 7

Linda offers seven reasons to see the latest entry in the Fast & Furious movie franchise. . . . → Read More: 7 Reasons to see Furious 7