Wednesday, November 15, 2017

#disneydare: monsters university/frozen

Monsters University poster 3.jpgMonsters University (2013)
Thoughts: When they announced they were making another Monsters, Inc., I was mildly excited. My opinion on the first film has waned in the passing years but I was looking forward to getting back to the universe. While I would have loved more a sequel, I think flashing back to when Sulley and Mike first met was somewhat of a better route. Unfortunately, that required some retcon and it never really recovers. I liked that it was somewhat of a college film, like Revenge of the Nerds and Animal House (which I will admit, I have never seen, either of these movies), and in a children's movie, that sounds odd. Mike was a bit more sympathetic here; the first scene is heartbreaking. And the outsiders trying to beat the in crowd was nice, despite Sulley kind of being a jerk most of the film. It's also weird about how many times Mike and Sulley blatantly break the rules set in the universe, when they act like they've never done so in the first one. See, retcon! It's hard to reconcile the two stories. Therefore I rank this pretty low in the Pixar field, between the first two Cars.
Best Character: Art. Charlie Day in any movie is a treat and his animated characters are always great (I also appreciate Benny in The LEGO Movie). Plus, Art looks like a Muppet and is hilarious.
Villain: This is hard. Mike and Sulley can both be considered villains at certain points. Dean Hardscrabble (excellently voiced by Helen Mirren) is clearly the antagonist as she is the reason Mike and Sulley team up but her actions are not motivated by anger but by what is best for the school and the monster community at large. The Roar Omega Roar fraternity brothers are also villainous.
My Rating: 3 1/2 stars

Frozen (2013 film) poster.jpgFrozen (2013)
Thoughts: Before this movie came out I was very worried. I didn't like that the character design was so similar to Tangled (but now I know it's due to the fact that they created a whole new animation software program that cost a lot of money) and the previews were vague focusing more on Olaf who I was sure I was going to hate because I had a negative opinion of Josh Gad (I didn't like any of his previous work). I wound up absolutely adoring this movie. As someone with two sisters, the whole storyline revolving around Anna and Elsa really struck me. I know it doesn't follow the actual fairy tale, but really which one does? It's funny and sweet and the voice cast is really great. I could do without the trolls though as Olaf is definitely enough (and not annoying like I thought!) for cute merchandising opportunities.
Favorite Song: This is probably one of the strongest soundtracks in the latest era. "For the First Time in Forever" is perfect. "Let It Go" is a great anthem. "Love is an Open Door" is quite possibly the best love song which is infuriating for reasons I will get to below. However I'm mad that Jonathan Groff got stuck with such a measly song.
Best Character: Elsa. So I'm the middle child between two sisters. I am both an Anna and an Elsa. I feel like I identify more with Elsa because I am extremely emotional and everyone always tells me to keep things inside. My younger sister and I have only recently started to get along so I really understood where Elsa was coming from regarding Anna.
Villain: Well, here's something fun. Let's do a rundown of all the villains or could be villains from the beginning. Anna and Elsa's parents are definitely villains! While I get they were only trying to protect Anna, what they did to both of their children is child abuse, plain and simple. Anna pushes Elsa to reveal her powers by being stupid which makes her a bit of a villain. And Elsa is considered a villain by the public because she triggers an eternal winter and injures some people, mainly Anna. Though there are many clues to who the real villain was, I was blindsided when I first saw it because Santino Fontana is perfect and did not deserve to voice that traitor Hans! He was extremely cruel at the end and I definitely hate him now.
My Rating: 4 1/2 stars

Sunday, November 12, 2017

attend: not too deep with grace helbig live

Let's back up a bit. In college, I became familiar with a theatre group from University of Michigan called Team Starkid. They are most famous for A Very Potter Musical and producing Darren Criss as an amazing human being. They are all pretty much my age and graduated at the same time I did. One of them, Joe Moses, moved to New York and occasionally did comedy shows in the city with other local comedians. One of the shows had Grace Helbig as a guest. I hadn't heard of her before and afterward found her videos on YouTube. She was instantly relatable with her awkwardness and humor and I have been a fan ever since. Even though I fail at watching her videos most time (I've gotten better lately!), I have both of her books, went to one of her comedy shows #NoFilter with fellow YouTubers Hannah Hart and Mamrie Hart, and listen to her podcast Not Too Deep, where she interviews YouTubers and comedians but never goes for anything "too deep".

About a month ago, she announced she was returning to New York for the Comedy Festival doing a live podcast. I bought a ticket immediately. She didn't announce the guest until earlier this week and it wound up being Iliza Shlesinger, who I must confess had not heard about previously.

The show started with the theme song from Flula and Grace and her producer, Jack Ferry, reminisced about New York. Then, they did audience questions from a bucket they left in the lobby. There were many questions about Taylor Swift's "Reputation" which was annoying as I cannot stand her but I know Grace likes her and the audience is clearly her fanbase. I am an anomaly. Most of the other questions required silly answers which fits with her brand so I was amused.

Then, she brought out Iliza and Iliza's adorable dog, Blanche. Iliza was promoting her book Girl Logic. She briefly brought up Louis C.K.'s actions and how she wants to help female comedians avoid situations like that which I appreciated. I honestly was wondering if anyone would address some of the scandals breaking lately. She was extremely frank and honest and I am definitely going to look into her standup. There were definitely times I felt she went "too deep" and was curious if Grace would stop her but it was a really great conversation.

I'm very glad I decided to go despite the cold. I also got to meet Grace again afterward which was awesome. I highly recommend checking out her work on YouTube and Not Too Deep on iTunes or wherever you find podcasts.


Thursday, November 9, 2017

listen: miley cyrus "younger now"

Miley Cyrus - Younger Now (Official Album Cover).png
I've been a Miley fan since Hannah Montana. Yes, I was technically "too old" to be watching Disney Channel shows when it started to air (I graduated high school the year it premiered) but I couldn't help it. It was the right amount of silly and the songs were so goddamn catchy.

I've followed her career since and generally enjoyed her albums. Even "Bangerz" but it felt like two different albums and she didn't know which person she wanted to be (seriously, listen to it again. There is a clear midpoint when the tone completely changes).

This album is probably her most cohesive. At least since she really broke free from Disney pop. She picked songs suited for her voice, which is not everyone's cup of tea but I like it. She does better with country-like ballads than anything else. The country twinge on this works really well. But I also like that some of the songs had an old school R&B feel and the arrangements are incredible. The lyrics are also more grown-up and relatable than her older stuff. I especially liked her duet with her godmother, Dolly Parton "Rainbowland". But my favorite song is "Bad Mood".

Keep it Miley! I was always rooting for you.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

watch: thor: ragnarok

Thor Ragnarok poster.jpgI like Thor (well, mostly Loki) but his movies are probably the weakest of the MCU. That's not to say they're bad or that I don't enjoy them, it's just the other ones (Iron Man and Captain America) have been more solid.

As some critics have said, Thor is the one character in the MCU that didn't come fully formed in his origin film. They never really seemed to know what to do with him. I think The Avengers captured him in the best light but then again, The Avengers is my favorite MCU film.

So, here we are. Third Thor film and it was very highly praised as the "best Marvel movie ever". I personally do not believe it was. It is definitely the best Thor film though.

When Hela (Cate Blanchett), the Goddess of Death, is released from prison, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Loki (Tom Hiddleston) wind up on the planet Sakaar where they encounter the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) and a bounty hunter, Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson). Thor needs to get off the planet in order to save Asgard from Hela's wrath.

Spoilers from here on out:

Saturday, November 4, 2017

read: the girl at midnight by melissa grey

Image resultIt's embarrassing. I've had this book for two years. I went to the book launch party at Books of Wonder. I met Melissa Grey (who is friends with one of my friends!). And here we are, I finally read it.

Echo is a seventeen-year-old runaway who is accepted into the Avicen, a race of people with magic and feathers, as a child. On a mission for the Ala to find the mysterious firebird, she becomes entangled with the Avicen's enemy, the Drakharin, another race of people but with scales.

This was a highly enjoyable book. I loved all the characters and the locations. Echo lives in the New York Public Library! She travels to Japan and France by magic. If I'm being honest though, I loved Ivy and Dorian most of all. Echo was clearly the most relatable but Ivy's sweetness and Dorian's uncertainty were wonderful. Caius was a bit of a wildcard for most of the book but I was pleased with his turnaround. And Jasper is great.

Because it's YA, it falls into some of the usual pitfalls: love triangle between two guys of different and warring races, quick action that doesn't entirely make sense, and a somewhat predictable twist. It's instantly visual and I would love to see how this translates to the screen. I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the series as well.

Friday, November 3, 2017

life: september/october

I have been a mess lately so I'm combining two months into this. I'm extremely busy lately (mental health problems, death in the family, work still sucks, I'm taking a production class at NYU, trying to actually focus on things) so this is going to be different than normal.

Read
  • Helliconia Spring by Brian Aldiss (I can't seem to get into older sci-fi)
  • Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton (Sad and a weird book for my high school to read)
  • A Dance With Dragons by George R.R. Martin (too many characters that I don't care about but I need the sixth book to see the differences between the show and book)
  • Bright Lines by Tanwi Nandini Islam (too much jampacked into this book, if the book followed what was said on the back, it would have been better)
  • Dubliners by James Joyce (I finally like a James Joyce book! Didn't understand much but I didn't outright hate it so progress!)
  • Daily Dishonesty by Lauren Hom (a cheat because it's mostly typography but she's so good at it and it was pretty funny)
  • A Promise of Fire by Amanda Bouchet (I loved this book. Cat was such a great character and it was super sexy)
  • A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess (Weird novel but I've seen the play and movie so wanted to see the differences)
  • Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell (I hate myself for not reading this sooner. I identified so strongly with Cath and the story within a story was amazing. Need to read Carry On!)
  • Bee and Puppycat, Volume 1 by Natasha Allegri (I wish it had been one overarching story but it fit the show well and I loved the different artists.)
  • Sensation Comics featuring Wonder Woman, Volume 1 (another compilation comic series; I loved Wonder Woman in Gotham and hanging out with Catwoman. More admiration to all the different artists)
  • The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter by Theodora Goss (super cute, wish there wasn't as many asides but the characters were fun)
  • Hunger by Roxane Gay (I hadn't read any of her work before. She is a very engrossing writer and this was heartbreaking for many reasons.)
  • Oedipus at Colonus by Sophocles (I had to read Oedipus in high school and wanted to finish the trilogy)

Watch

Movies:
  • Wind River (review here)
  • Home Again (I worked an event that was screening this. It was cute, nothing more or less.)
  • Kingsman: The Secret Service (I failed at seeing this when it first came out. Lots of fun. Huge fan of the cast and I always enjoy ridiculous violence)
  • Blade Runner 2049 (incredible, I keep thinking back to it at random points. It was too long but devastating and beautiful.)
  • Bad Moms (another movie I missed the first time around. Very raunchy but the cast is so good)
TV (I was going to do separate posts but it's too much right now):
  • You're the Worst (still one of the best romantic comedies; still identifying with Gretchen, Jimmy still hasn't been redeemed in my eyes, and I kind of love Lindsay and Edgar hooking up)
  • Outlander (it's been an interesting season so far, I'm so happy Claire and Jamie are back together!!)
  • The Mindy Project (final season is going well; not sure I want Mindy to end up with anyone at this point but loving all the growth with the rest of the characters!)
  • The Orville (surprisingly great! McFarlane is clearly the weakest part but I genuinely look forward to their adventures)
  • Vice Principals (WALTON MOTHERFUCKING GOGGINS IS BRILLIANT. I'm sad that this is the final season but understand that going longer might be more of a rehash of things they've already done)
  • Dancing With the Stars (first season I'm officially watching in years. Amazing what a decent cast, Nick Lachey!, and a Hough-free zone would do. Not thrilled with some of the eliminations, especially this past week's but it's been a very enjoyable season)
  • The Good Place (one of the best comedies on TV. Ted Danson is killing it and I am boggled by the writers)
  • Gotham (still not great but loving Bruce's current arc.)
  • This Is Us (I still don't cry like everyone else but it is such a lovely show. The little twists and turns are really great)
  • The Mick (absolutely crazy and I wouldn't have it any other way)
  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine (I can't believe they've made this show so watchable after five seasons. Nothing is old hat. And I squeed so hard at the Halloween episode)
  • The Blacklist (meh, the reveal of Reddington being Liz's dad was handled so poorly and she's lost as a character now.)
  • American Housewife (still funny)
  • Designated Survivor (still wish this could be our reality)
  • Great News (the addition of Tina Fey was absolutely brilliant but I think the show is hysterical anyway)
  • How to Get Away With Murder (insane but I can't stop watching)
  • MacGyver (still fun; appreciate the addition of Isabel Lucas even if her acting bugs me sometimes)
  • Hell's Kitchen (not that impressed with the All-Stars tbh)
  • SNL (so far, so good. The hosts have been great)
  • Me, Myself, & I (adorable! I love Bobby Moynihan and it's really a sweet show.)
  • The Last Man on Earth (bonkers)
  • Lucifer (fun but I miss Maize! They like shift the characters around a lot lately and I don't know how I feel about it)
  • The Gifted (slow but picking up. I love all the mutants but wish Amy Acker had more to do because I love her and she's brilliant)
  • Liar (holy shit, this show. It came out at just the right time with all the sexual assault accusations and really bring up prejudices toward women. Ioan Gruffudd playing an ambiguous bad guy is not something I enjoy but he is doing amazing)
  • Kevin (Probably) Saves the World (I don't know where it's going but I love Jason Ritter and it's really cute)
  • Will & Grace (I feel like it's something of a warm blanket. It's oddly soothing to see these characters again even though the disregard toward the later seasons has been really weird. Mainly, I loved Will and Vince and finding out they didn't make it upsets me)
  • The Mayor (funny but Lea Michele is wrong and David Spade needs to be there more)
  • Supergirl (getting better now that Kara is moving on from Mon-El.)
  • The Flash (getting better now that Barry isn't all emo and annoying)
  • Legends of Tomorrow (honestly, I don't understand how this is the best DC show on television. It's ridiculous but I love it so much)
  • Riverdale (what the fuck is happening?! Loveeeeeee)
  • Mr. Robot (what the fuck is happening? No, really, please tell me. I'm so confused)
  • Arrow (been on the decline but I like the new team a lot)
  • Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (REBECCA, WHAT ARE YOU DOING? Also, can Greg come back now? I like Nathaniel but GREGGGGGGGG)
  • Inhumans (I don't know how I've watched a majority of the episodes. The show barely makes any sense, the actors are trying but the scripts are awful, the effects aren't great. Why did I put effort into this?)
  • Ghosted (it's weird for Craig Robinson to play the straight man and I have the weird thing against Adam Scott but I've enjoyed the show a lot)
  • Wisdom of the Crowd (not great, Piven is weirdly understated. The rest of the cast is fun but the overall theme is troubling)
  • Good Behavior (oh my God, will Letty ever learn?)
  • Dynasty (just the type of trashy fun I need. Liz Gillies is fabulous and Grant Show is always a fave in these type of shows. I am obsessed with the fact that Alan Dale is playing the butler as well.)
I also checked out The Deuce (I recognize that it is a good show but it's not for me), Ghost Wars (boring), The Brave (more action than the other military shows but not good), SEAL Team (totally boring, David Boreanez deserves better), Valor (also boring but appreciate the female lead despite the crap they pulled in the pilot), The Good Doctor (Freddie Highmore is great but the rest of the cast bugged me and I also felt weird about the premise), Star Trek: Discovery (I refuse to pay for CBS All Access but I liked the pilot), 9JKL (seriously one of the best casts on television stuck in the most unfunny show I've ever seen), and The Collection (boring which is a shame because the cast is great). I got five minutes into White Famous before turning it off because of whatever the hell that Cosby defense was. Jay Pharoah deserves better.

Listen
  • Paramore "After Laughter" (it's hilarious that I rebelled against them for so long. This album is exactly what I needed as it tackles depression head on)
  • Foster the People "Sacred Hearts Club" (not as good as their previous albums but still a bop)
  • 98 Degrees' version of "Circle of Life" is really great guys
  • Fifth Harmony "Fifth Harmony" (I can't quit my girl groups)
  • Losing Tom Petty last month was upsetting and I put more of his greatest hits on my iPod. Man could write a song.
  • Downloaded a song from Smash, "Broadway Here I Come" after seeing Jeremy Jordan perform at Elsie Fest
  • Ghost Quartet, which I will discuss below

Run

(I earned these but I'm still not doing a great job running or walking. I did finally figure out what's wrong with my knee though!)

  • Dash for Donuts
  • Platform 9 3/4 K: Year Four
  • Brain Aneurysm Walk
  • First Day 5K 
Attend
    • Live Your Big Life (Six Degrees Society event with Ann Shoket, author of The Big Life)
    • From A Certain Point of View panel at NYCC (I don't do NYCC anymore but this was off-site and I got a special edition copy of the book. Nineteen authors out of 40 were there and it was a really fun panel. I love Star Wars guys)
    • Elsie Fest (third annual! I don't think anything will top last year's and the first year's lineup was stellar but I had a good time. Jeremy Jordan is amazing. Lea Michele was fine. Alan Cumming was great. Can't wait to see Keala Settle get more attention. The Band's Visit seems interesting. Wish they had promoted another show besides Miss Saigon as it's closing anyway but Eva Noblezada is wonderful. And Darren, man what can I say? He never disappoints. I loved seeing Auli'i Cravalho perform "How Far I'll Go" live. Ingrid Michaelson was beautiful as was Norm Lewis.)
    • What Makes You Unique (another Six Degrees event which was more a workshop to try to figure out a new job)
    • New York Botanical Garden (I went with my family to see the Chihuly exhibit. It was gorgeous. I love the garden and wish it was easier to get to and cheaper. We picked a great day to go and I really loved the pieces.)
    • BORNS (Man, is he talented. It was a short concert but he played all the songs I wanted to hear)
    • Ghost Quartet (Dave Malloy is brilliant. It was haunting and beautiful. Brittan Ashford needs to be a bigger star. I'll take Gelsey Bell getting more attention as well. A unique theatre experience that I'm glad I got to see)

    Sunday, October 29, 2017

    #disneydare: brave/wreck-it ralph

    A girl with long, curly red hair stares at the viewer holding a bow and an arrow. Behind her is the film's title while at the left shows a bear staring at her.Brave (2012)
    Thoughts: I really do love this movie but 2012 was an amazing year for animated features and this one was definitely my least favorite and should not have won the Oscar (in my opinion, ParaNorman deserved it, or the film I'll talk about next). It is a beautiful film but the story is a bit uneven. I have a complicated relationship with my mom so it guts me in that way but it meanders a bit and you can tell there may have been too many people working on it. I like that Pixar tried to make a princess movie and actually, I realized that since Tangled, all of the princess movies have not totally been about finding a prince or having a handsome male help them out. Progress! I'm so glad they used Scottish actors for the voices. I remember when Reese Witherspoon was attached and man, that would have been a very different movie. All in all, I do enjoy the movie: the humor, the main story, the characters, the lush Scottish scenery, Patrick Doyle's score, but wish it had been just a little more.
    Best Character: Merida! Most relatable princess! I wish I was better at archery, but as a Sagittarius, always respect it. I love that she rails against society and her mother. She never loses herself even when she understands where her mother is coming from. Definitely one of my favorite princesses.
    Villain: Here's where it gets a little weird. Mor'du I guess is the villain? But he really only comes for Fergus. The whole Mor'du plotline really needed to be fleshed out more. So, the witch can be the villain? I mean, who goes turning people into bears all the time?! That does not seem like a good way to fix anyone's problems.
    My Rating: 4 stars

    Wreck-It Ralph (2012)
    Theatrical release poster depicting Ralph along with various video game charactersThoughts: I absolutely adore this movie. I love video games but I am terrible at them. I need cheats and everything. What works about this movie is that the universe created is amazing and makes sense. It's also a great subversion of the hero story as Ralph is the "villain" of his game. It's so bright and colorful and all the characters are fantastic as is the voice cast. Everyone is solid and brings so much more to the role than you would think. I'm so burned out that I'm having trouble verbalizing what I love about this one but it really makes me happy and that's all we really need.
    Favorite Song: Not a typical Disney film with songs but I really just need to say how much I love the song that plays over the end credits "When Can I See You Again" by Owl City. It got a bit of a second life because it plays in the best Disney Parks parade, Paint the Night, which I miss terribly. Also, "Sugar Rush" is super catchy.
    Best Character: Vanellope! Expertly voiced by Sarah Silverman, she only wants to race and be respected by everyone. She is considered a glitch and everyone shuns her for it but she doesn't care. She is surprisingly optimistic for all the bullying and the fact that unlike everyone else in the arcade, she can't leave to visit anyone else. She can be a bit annoying but she's awesome and the twist is incredible.
    Villain: Ralph is the villain of his game but he wants to be a hero. Most of the inhabitants of Fix-It Felix Jr. are mean to him but I don't think they're really villains either. The inhabitants of Sugar Rush are definitely villainous to Vanellope and to an extent, Ralph, as he tries to help her. The biggest one is King Candy who is revealed to be someone else and it is crazy. Knowing the twist, I tried to see if there were any real hints throughout the film and no, it is so solid, it's insane.
    My Rating: 5 stars