Friday, August 9, 2013

Planes (film)

Planes, Klay Hall, DisneyToon Studios.

Synopsis: Dusty is a cropdusting plane who dreams of competing in a famous aerial race. The problem? He is hopelessly afraid of heights. With the support of his mentor Skipper and a host of new friends, Dusty sets off to make his dreams come true.

My thoughts: It doesn't take very long to notice that Planes is a watered-down film. All you need to see is the logo to realize there isn't much to see that's new. A ridiculed dark horse makes his way to the big leagues, realizes he must change to continue the course, and with the help of his friends shows everyone who's the real winner. I'm beginning to wonder if a non-Pixar animated studio will be capable of releasing anything different for a few years (save for the HTTYD and CWACOM sequels).

The similarities, or copies, of ideas in the Cars films were more annoying than engaging, because they didn't often develop past what Pixar did. There are only a few good reasons to see this film, and here is one: watch it to find and list all the references to concepts in Cars (such as a fuel aficionado).

There is one concept that I enjoyed seeing developed, only because Cars 2 showed such a limited scope. This concept is travel, seeing the world, beautiful views and different cultures. Because the race is all around the world, you get to see many, many places, and the vehicles that live there. My absolute favorite was the German bar, so watch for it if you choose to view Planes.

The dialogue was mostly geared towards children, with a few exceptions, and didn't have the dual charm (children and adults) that Pixar has mastered. Still, I laughed on occasion, and I've seen more embarrassing scripts.

The animation was exactly what I expected. Slightly less precise than Cars 2, but only slightly. Where the movie excelled the most, in my opinion, was in the camera angles. They were an absolute treat throughout, despite it being an animated film. The 3D was good, but didn't have any scenes where it stood out.

Here is one more good reason to see Planes: Dane Cook. Throughout the feature, his voice acting stood out as quite a talent to watch for in the future. As a side note, I didn't appreciate the John Ratzenberger cameo, as this wasn't a Pixar film, and he already has a character in the universe. Take it how you will.

The only surprise that came to me was the "ride into the sunset" moment. I wasn't expecting a bold change, but it still happened. What came after the credits cleared it up, but didn't make me feel better. Planes: Fire and Rescue is a full-length sequel being planned with the same screenwriter. I'm more than a little disappointed they already approved it.

In conclusion, this movie is great for kids, but adults can busy themselves counting the "rip-offs". See Planes for the beautiful camera angles, vehicular takes on cultures and landmarks, and Dane Cook, but expect little else to impress.

My rating: 3 stars

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Gamecocks

The Gamecocks, Stephanie M. Sellers, CreateSpace, Literary Fiction, 260 pages, March 3, 2013

Synopsis: Historical theories braid North Carolina's Lumbee Indians and America's largest ongoing mystery, The Lost Colony, with a friendship that will never leave you. Jake Wilkes has ownership of his best friend’s bank account and winery and is engaged to the woman of their dreams. But he doesn’t have the highly coveted proof of North Carolina’s Lumbee Indians’ true origins. It was stolen it from his best friend, Bruce Black. His death made headlines. So Jake bravely directs his first presentation, ‘Lumbee Indians and America’s First Christians,’ which seems like a fiasco, and receives death threats and a proposition by an unassuming wordsmith. When Jake shares his true life tale of growing up with a Lum as his best friend he reveals a secret subculture and life on the swamp becomes a jubious ride to live to tell the tale. While a world away a second chance at love rides in on a turbulent tide. Set in rural North Carolina where moonshine, conjuring, church and fifty five thousand Lumbee Indians truly are as much a part of the beloved culture as America’s largest ongoing mystery, The Lost Colony. Includes references and guide to Lumbees' endangered language.

My thoughts: The only category I feel no doubt placing The Gamecocks in is “Southern.” It has dramatic, mysterious, mischievous, and most importantly historic content. The book is set up with the main character introducing each chapter of his story by reading it to us, himself being the author. This gives a sense of realism which is necessary because, in fact, the historical reveal brought forth here is being brought forth right now.

Jake, the main character and “author”, is quite a real person. In fact, this is true with each of the greater-seen cast. The time Mrs. Stephanie Sellers invests in her characters is very clear to see, and impresses me a great deal. She tied these characters very close to the South, and therefore the reader too. I felt ready to see a rowdy procession at the church, boys being told off by their momma, or Fisk and Wart runnin’ after a snake. Likewise, she doesn’t tone the speak down completely, neither.

Now, for the history. I appreciated the beginning exposition on the discovery of the Lumbee’s origin. This helped me track the book as I was reading, and made it much easier to understand once repeated. But, I also appreciate it for not saying all that would be said. It left quite a bit at the end for the Knights Templar, the Portuguese, the Council, etc.

The title of the book doesn’t become very clear until the end. This is where the action begins to unfold, and abruptly finishes the story. The end was unexpected, but when I think about it, was necessary. This is because it leaves much room for mystery that won’t be revealed, meaning there will likely be no sequel (not that it needs one).

In conclusion, The Gamecocks is a Southern-to-the-heart story of two friends trying to bring the historical truth of the Lumbee origins to light. It has fantastic characters which bring out the South in the reader, and has great historical enlightenment, which we would all benefit to learn.

My rating: 5 stars