Monday, July 29, 2013

Movie Review: Monsters University

So apparently Monsters University has been out for longer than I thought.  It was only playing at 4 theaters within 30 miles of my house!  So I suppose this review is a bit late, but hey, it's still worth writing.

I was very happy with this movie.  I've always been a huge fan of Monsters Inc.  Mike and Sully are some of my favorite characters.  I thought that the world of Monsters Inc was so unique and fun.  I was so excited when we finally got another movie 12 years later!  Usually when they take that much time between movies it usually means they've taken their time to make sure it's good.  Unlike the ones where they hurry up a sequel and it sucks.  Well, I'm happy to report that they did not disappoint with this prequel!

It starts out with a scene when Mike is a little kid attending a school Field Trip to Monsters Inc.  This is basically where he becomes obsessed with becoming a scarer.  I thought it was adorable!  And I loved that is showed how studying and hardwork can really help you acheive your goal.  I'm a big proponent of hardwork and dedication.

Flash forward 10 years, now Mike is off to college.  He got in to Monsters University (MU) as a scaring major.  The college is beautiful, and very true to college life.  The creators always do a great job building the world and translating things from the human world to the monster world. I love it.  So creative.  Even down to the science labs where they create the doors to the human world.  (Of course I loved labs because I was a science major!)

I don’t want to give away too much, but both Mike and Sully were very different characters when they were in college.  And so we as the audience really got to see them grow while in college.  Through a series of events, the two must work together to achieve a mutual goal.  It teaches about teamwork, camaraderie, overcoming obstacles, using your specific skills in unique ways to achieve your goal.  I really liked all the morals portrayed in this film.  I think it will be a really good movie for young kids to watch.

I watched the whole movie trying to figure out how Mike and Sully were going to end up at Monsters Incorporated and working together.  I actually ended up really liking how they got there.  And at the end it shows you Mike and Sully’s rise to the best scare team at Monsters Incorporated.

This movie was really done well.  It was quite funny and smart.  I really liked watching their problem solving skills.  It was just done really well.  Now I want to go back and watch Monsters Inc again to conclude my Mike and Sully story.  Maybe in another few years they’ll create a sequel to Monsters Inc to show how the world has changed with child laughter instead of screams.  But they ended Monsters Inc  in a way that they really don’t have to – and perhaps they shouldn’t mess with a good thing.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Movie Review: Despicable Me 2

I saw Despicable Me 2 last weekend.  I absolutely loved the first one and I'm always so leery of sequels, because they usually don't do the first one justice.  While the first Despicable Me is still my favorite, the sequel was still quite entertaining and I will definitely buy it when it comes out on Blu-Ray.

As with the first movie, the previews really didn't let you know what the movie was going to be about.  So I had no expectations.  This movie is actually about Gru who now has adopted the girls and is sad when he is no longer in the villain world.  He is approached by Anti-Villain League to help catch, what else? Villains!!

This movie actually focuses on the girls more as well.  Mostly on Agnes and her struggle that she doesn't have a mom while the other kids at school do.  But also with her relationship with Gru.  It was so sweet.  And it also deals with Margo getting older and liking boys and what that is like as a father.  Edith's character didn't really have much growth in this movie, she's just usually there to be funny.

I really liked the girl from the Anti-Villain League that Gru has to team up with to catch the super villain.  She was really funny and perfect match for Gru.  And there were more flashbacks to Gru's life as a child which are always fun and sad at the same time.

And the minions.  We cannot forget the minions.  They are by far the best part of these movies.  They are hilarious. And though they don't speak English, you can still always figure out what they're talking about.  I remember seeing pictures of purple crazy haired minions once I saw the movie...but I won't spoil it for you what that is.  You'll just have to go see yourself.

Overall I thought it was really cute.  I really liked the ending of it.  I think they did a really good job with the sequel, but of course, the original will always be my favorite because it was so unique.  I love Steve Carell.  I'm not sure if anyone else could make Gru who he is.

If you liked the first Despicable Me, I highly suggest you go see the sequel.  You won't be disappointed.

Book Review: Anya's Ghost

Anya's Ghost
Date Read:  7/24/2013
Rating:  ★

This is the first graphic novel that I’ve read.  I’ve read all the Avatar comic books/graphic novels, but they’re very short and definitely more on the comic book side.  This book was much longer.

It actually read really fast because there were several pages where there were no words, just pictures of things happening.  No color was used in this book which was unique.  I actually kinda liked it.  The style meshed really well with the story of the book.

One thing I didn’t like about the book was how prevalent and okay smoking was made out to be.  I hate smoking, so that really bothered me.  And I don’t want my teenager to read this and then think smoking is cool.  It also focused a lot on her personal image and fitting in at school.  It was really irritating at the beginning, but the morals at the end of the story work themselves out.

This book actually gets pretty creepy.  I read Anna Dressed in Blood a few months and absolutely loved it.  Everyone had told me that it was a scary book, but I didn’t think it was at all.  But this book, it definitely turns kind of dark. And with the pictures, it actually makes it pretty creepy!  I had sort of figured the plot twist, but it was still fun and exciting once it happened, even though I had predicted it.

I actually really liked the book.  I started it and finished it in one day.  You just kind of have to get past the first few pages of annoying, and then the story picks up and the dialogue gets way better.  If you enjoy ghost stories and stories that have a bit of a creep factor, you should definitely pick this up.  I think I’ll go and pick up some more graphic novels.  I enjoyed it.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Book Review: Avatar: The Search Part 2

Avatar: The Search Part 2
Date Read:  7/16/2013

Rating:  ★

This book was still fun.  Not as much happened in this book though.  But we did get more background on Zuko's mom.  I like seeing all the flashbacks.  And I like how they do a flashback that we had seen in the TV show, but then expand upon it and give us more info.  It was pretty awesome.  Several of the scenes that I had always wanted more information came up in this book.  So I loved that.

I actually enjoyed the banter between Zuko and Azula.  I like Zuko trying to make them get along.

But the actual story was pretty boring.  And the ending?  It's hardly even a cliffhanger.  I was left wanting more, but not for good reasons.  This definitely suffers from middle book syndrome.  But I'm very excited for what is to come in part 3!!


And what is this with Azula having a different destiny?  Is she really going to turn out good???  That intrigued me.  Looking forward to more.  But this really just set up the next book.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Book Review: Beautiful Creatures

Beautiful Creatures
by  Kim Garcia and Margaret Stohl
Date Read:  7/11/2013

Rating:  ★

This was a long book.  It was actually hard to keep the book open!  I was a little skeptical when I knew that they made this book into only one movie.  Usually books this long are turned into two movies.  Well, now I know why.

The first half of this book almost nothing happened.  All it did was set up certain things and the relationship between Lena and Ethan.  I feel like that could have been done much quicker.  I do not believe that anyone can say that there was insta-love in this.  Which is a good thing.  However, it was torture trying to get through the first half.  It wasn’t bad, but it didn’t suck me in at all.  I had to force myself to sit down a read.  I think I read a total of 3 books while I was reading this.  It was just so hard to get into.

But then about half way through, things started picking up.  Finally!  And once things got going, they got going and I was finally hooked.  I read the second half of the book in about 3 days…and it took me about 6 weeks to get through the first half.  So if you pick this up, I suggest sticking it out until about the half way mark.

The world was built pretty well in this.  It better be when it is THAT slow at the beginning.  Though there are still several questions.  But most of them have been answered.  I’m still not really sure what is special about Ethan. 

I actually liked the relationship between Lena and Ethan.  I liked how they sort of started out as friends and how it just kind of transformed into a romantic relationship.  I liked how Ethan stood by Lena and didn’t let his stupid friends get into his head.  I actually liked Link a lot too.  He was a lot of fun.

I love Uncle Macon.  My favorite part of the book was at the Disciplinary Hearing when he just went off on everyone.  It was pretty awesome. I actually found myself laughing out loud a couple times.  There were quite a few side characters in this.  It took me a while to keep track of who was who.  But the book is long enough that you have time to sort it all out.

I really liked the casting world.  I liked how they didn’t like the word witch.  And they didn’t use wands.  Every caster was different and had a different power.  I thought it was very different and sort of refreshing.  I just wish we had gotten a little more into that world.

I think this story was probably dragged out a little much.  Too many things happening to connect all the dots.  The dreams, the visions, the locket, the Book of Moons, the library, the lies - just way too many things.  I felt like there was too much going on and I couldn’t remember if certain things were from this book or a different book because it was so long. I read things about the dreams and visions so long ago, that I couldn’t remember it was from this book.

The only thing I didn’t like about the end is I’m not sure what happened to the bad guys.  One minute they’re there, and the next not.  I wasn’t really sure what happened and why they left. It was a little vague.  Otherwise I thought the end was pretty good.  And of course, the way it ends, I have to now go get the next book.  Sigh.  It’s just as long.  But I’m hoping the beginning won’t be as slow since the world and characters have all been built.

I’m looking forward to watching the movie now to see what it’s like.  How much they cut out (which must be a lot since it’s a very long book and only one movie, and honestly, I think a lot could be cut out and still be a good story).  And I’m interesting to see how the magic is handled and whatnot.  I’ll have to post a review of the movie also once I watch it.

If you want a story with a unique magic story with a good love story, this is worth picking up.  Overall I liked it.  I just can’t get over how slow the beginning was, which is what lowered the rating for me.

I will most likely come back and edit this review soon. I know I'm missing stuff and I'm having a hard time articulating my thoughts on this book...

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Book Review: The Fault in Our Stars

The Fault in Our Stars
by  John Green
Date Read:  7/7/2013

Rating:  ★

I’m not even sure how to review this book.  It evoked so many emotions.  I’ve never known anyone who died from cancer.  I’ve known some pretty amazing people who have had loved ones die to cancer.  And my grandma suffered from Lymphoma 10 years ago.  She missed my high school graduation because she was undergoing chemo and was too weak.  But I’m happy to report that she has been in remission now for 10 years.  So I still can sympathize about cancer…but I do not have the experience to really report what it’s really like to watch someone so young have to deal with death.

These characters, Hazel and Gus, felt like they became my friends.  Like I actually knew them.  They were very real.  And therefore their pain felt real to me.  In this book, not a whole lot happened.  It was mostly about this love that they find.  Sure, they went to Amsterdam to find the author they love, but that was about it.  Otherwise it was just their love story.  And you know what?  It was one of the most gripping stories I’ve read in a long time.  It’s been a long time since I’ve had a book I couldn’t put down.  A book where it would sit on my desk at work and wait for lunchtime for me to read it, but I’d stare at it all day just wanting to read instead of work.  This book has pulled me out of my reading slump.  And it didn’t take action or magic or anything else.  It just took amazing characters and a deep story.

This story is really about Hazel.  Her fight with Thyroid cancer that spread to her lungs.  But it is also about her love of boy who has also fought Osteosarcoma.  The first half of this book is actually fairly light hearted.  Of course they talk about cancer and hospital visits and nurses and cancer perks. But they mostly joke about it.  I think being teens with cancer, it was easier for them to joke about it with each other than sit and really talk about the possibility of death.  That’s why Hazel didn’t like going to Support Group.  It was so sad to hear that all the kids who died from cancer in that support group were mentioned at the end.  But that the list was so long that no one was paying attention at the end for the last names.  It broke my heart.

Hearing Hazel’s view of the world was probably the most interesting thing about the book.  The world is so different from her eyes.  From living with her illness.  I knew a girl who died from Cystic Fibrosis.  And I think back to all the condolences and what people would say when she was sick and how everyone championed her fight against the disease.  And then reading from Hazel’s POV, you see how silly all of that actually sounds.  It was so interesting to see the view from the other side, and I completely agreed with her.  And I think that is why she was so close to Augustus, because she always knew just what to say to him.  [SPOILER: One of the saddest most heartwarming sentences in the book was when Augustus’s dad says “I thank God for you every day, kid” ].
At about page 215 I started crying.  And I never really stopped crying after that.  Have a Kleenex box with you once you get to that point.  There were a couple points where I actually felt like I might have been sobbing. 

This book will make you realize how short life is.  And how unfair life can be.  How valuable every day is with the people you love.  How to remember those we’ve lost.  This was a really good book that I think everyone should read.  It will give everyone perspective on their own life. 

I think I will pick up another book from John Green after reading this amazing story.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Book Review: Body for Life for Women

Body for Life for Women
by  Pamela Peeke
Date Read:  7/6/2013

Rating:  ★

I checked this book out from the library because I'd heard that the Body For Life books are really good, and I know that women have some fundamentally different obstacles when trying to loose weight and get in shape.  I'm definitely not in as good of shape as I was in high school and college.  Not that I want to get all the way back to that (or that I think I can even physically do that anymore), but I know my body could look a lot better.  I've already been working out in a gym for several months and I see progress in my upper body (neck, shoulders, arms and pecs), but I definitely have some trouble spots that I'd really like to get rid of.  So that is why I checked this out.

To be fair, I skimmed a lot of it.  It's very wordy.  I'm sure it helps sink some of the principles in, but I was mostly in it for the types of food to eat and the types of exercises that will help the most.  She also breaks it down in to 4 stages of life.  I'm kind of in the middle of Milestone 1 and 2 right now, so I'd read those and completely skip Milestones 3 and 4 because they don't apply to me right now.  There is also some mental stuff in the book, but it didn't seem to have any specific ways to keep motivated...most of what you've already heard.

However, there are some nice tables that outline what foods fall into what categories and how much to eat of them.  And then based on your activity level and body type how many servings of those you should eat.  I think I'll have to write down some of this information before I give the book back because it will be great to reference.

The book also gives a table of how many calories are burned doing what types of cardio exercises based on your weight.  What I liked is that it seems to be more specific to a woman, because at the gym, the elliptical told me I burned 180 calories in 20 minutes last week, but according to the book at my weight, I would have burned 220 calories in 20 minutes.  I can only assume that is because the machine at the gym didn't take into account my gender and perhaps it didn't ask for my weight that day.

Also, I liked the Weight Removal Segment Checklist. I will have to create my own version of this to use.  Because though I've been working in the gym for several months and dieting for about 4 weeks, I haven't seen any weight loss.  I assume that it's based on my muscle mass gain, and of course muscle weighs more than fat.  So this checklist is nice because it will measure more than just my scale weight so I can see other progress I'm making, so I don't get so discouraged when I step on a scale.

And of course, at the back of the book is an entire appendix of exercises and stretches.  They all only use dumbells, but as long as I can find a machine at the gym that replicates the motion, then I'm good.

I'm going to read the regular Body for Life book as well, because I heard that the food plan is easier to follow that the one for Women.  But overall I got a lot out of this book and hopefully it helps me get to my goal.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Movie Review: Epic

I took my nephews, who are 4 and 2, to see Epic last weekend.  Though the movie has been out for a while, I decided to write a review anyway.  Overall I enjoyed the movie.  It was fun.  I liked the characters. I always like the forest.  It kept my nephews entertained.

The 4 year old sat and ate popcorn the entire time.  He didn’t say a word except when he had a revelation about the bad guys toward the end of the movie.  I was shocked because I’ve tried to sit and watch movies with this kid before, and he just can’t sit still for that long.  So I guess that’s saying something.  Though, perhaps he felt more immersed because the screen is so much bigger than at home – and there weren’t toys taking his attention away.

The 2 year was entertained for about the first half.  I was surprised he lasted that long, honestly.  I think at that age they haven’t learned to appreciate movies.

The movie itself though was very similar to Fern Gully.  However, the major difference wasn’t that mankind was destroying the forest, it was something else.  But it all other aspects it was very Fern Gully – just like Avatar was very much a remake of Fern Gully.

In Epic, a human was shrunk to fairy size.  And naturally she has to help save the forest from the bad people.  It was cute.  There are a few lingering questions after watching it, but it was entertaining.  I enjoyed the young male fairy – watching him mature through the movie was nice.

It was actually pretty funny.  My husband and I laughed more than my nephews did.  I think there were some funny things that just went over my nephews’ heads because they are too young. And of course it had a happy ending.

I just found out that there were some pretty big name actors voicing the characters.  I guess that’s why they sounded fairly familiar.  Amanda Seyfried voice the main character, Mary Katherine (aka MK), Josh Hutcherson (from the Hunger Games) voiced Nod.  Beyonce voiced Queen Tara.  And Collin Farrell voiced Ronin.  Those are some pretty big names!

I don’t know if it was worth paying for at the movie theater, but if you see it on Netflix, it’s probably good enough to watch once. 

Now the next movie I have to take my nephews to see is Despicable Me 2 and Monsters University!
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