Inside Out

Inside_Out_2015_film_posterI have come to expect great things from Pixar; I think everyone has. All of their films have been amazing, from Toy Story to Ratatouille, each Pixar movie has entertained and delighted. That isn’t to say that some films weren’t better than others. Wall-E isn’t exactly the kind of film you watch over and over again, but you can’t call any of their movies bad. That’s a lot of pressure for an animation studio as it churns out its latest movie. But once again, Pixar comes through with Inside Out.

Inside Out is about the emotions inside of your head that make you who you are–Joy, Sadness, Anger, Disgust, and Fear. These little guys control your feelings and actions; they are what make you tick. This story focuses on Riley, a twelve year old girl from Minnesota, and the emotions in her head. Riley is a happy kid who loves her family and playing hockey. Riley’s family moves to San Francisco, which, as you can imagine, really sends the emotions of a 12-year-old spinning. Amidst the chaos inside Riley’s head, Joy and Sadness get separated from headquarters and lost in long term memory with Riley’s core memories–the memories that shape her personality. Now, Joy and Sadness must work together to get back to headquarters before it’s too late for Riley.

As expected of any Pixar movie, Inside Out is very funny. The whole theater I was in was laughing out loud, kids and adults. It’s very fun, but also pulls on the emotional heart strings. The voice acting is very good, starring Amy Poehler as Joy, Phyllis Smith as Sadness, Mindy Kahing as Disgust, Lewis Black as Anger, and Bill Hader as Fear. Every character is entertaining, and it’s very funny to get a look at the emotions in other people’s heads (stay for the first few minutes of the credits). And much of the humor is very clever, so it will entertain adults as well as children.

Inside Out - Emotion Poster Collaboration

The only thing I didn’t like was one of the characters who helps Joy and Sadness, Riley’s childhood imaginary friend Bing Bong. I understood the purpose his character served in the plot, but he was too, too weird–like a pink cotton candy elephant. Even in the fun, imaginative world of Riley’s head, he didn’t fit with the rest of the characters. I’m sure the kids in the theater liked him, but I thought he was too weird and discolored the flavor of the middle part of the film.

But Inside Out isn’t just a funny children’s film. As also expected from Pixar films, it had an important message. The message may surprise children, but probably not adults. The message was that sadness has a place in our lives. While we want children, and adults, to be happy all the time and not suffer the pain of feeling sad, sadness is a part of life. And even though it hurts, it serves a good and noble purpose. It makes us sympathetic to others, empathetic to others. Because we have felt sadness, we can comfort those who are sad. Sadness also lets others know we need help, so they can comfort us. It can bring people together as much as joy can.

sadnessjoyLife is a mixture of every kind of emotion–joy, anger, fear, disgust, and sadness. They all serve a purpose. Inside Out is a must-see movie for children and adults.

Advertisements

Sinner

sinnerA couple of months ago, I wrote about my top 3 OTPs, fictional couples that I ship so, so hard. Coming in at third place was ex-drug addict/rockstar/werewolf Cole St. Clair and L.A. no nonsense/you can kiss her a–/L.A. doll Isabel Culpepper from Maggie Stiefvater’s Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy. In these original books, Shiver, Linger, and Forever, Cole and Isabel were supporting—albeit awesome and incredibly interesting—characters. Now, they take center stage in Stiefvater’s newest book entitled Sinner.

When readers left Cole and Isabel at the end of Forever, Cole was werewolfing it up in Minnesota while Isabel was moving back to Los Angeles with her falling apart family. When Sinner picks up, Isabel is working in a Sunset Boulevard-esque boutique clothing store while attending classes to prep for medical school. She’s flying under the radar, doing her best to navigate her parents’ messy relationship and avoid any complications on her road to med school. Cole, on the other hand, is back in the spotlight. Returning to L.A. to film a reality television series while he records a new album, he is all the complications Isabel is trying to avoid. He is also determined to win her heart, but nothing is more guarded than Isabel Culpepper’s heart.

The entire book is a series of theatrical events as Cole and Isabel navigate through their own issues. L.A. is the perfect backdrop for the relationship drama and the music, and Stiefvater uses the setting to its full potential. Side characters fill out the story and provide the calm in the middle of the Colesabel hurricane. But while all the excitement and drama of the setting and characters is entertaining, the heart of the story is in the title, “Sinner.”

maggie

Maggie Stiefvater

Cole and Isabel both have sins to spare. Cole carries the sins of his past: drugs, the death of his friend and band member Victor, the hundreds of girls he’s slept with. Isabel is dealing with the sins of the present, the scars her parents’ messy relationship has left on her, her fear of emotional vulnerability, and major trust issues. But, as Isabel points out in the novel, their sins are what make them who they are, and throughout the book Cole and Isabel learn to work past their many issues in order to be together.

Sinner is an excellent book, and I’m not just saying that because I love Cole and Isabel, though I do. It’s an excellent book because of Maggie Stiefvater’s amazing portrayal of people with all their flaws, all their hopes and fears, and all their complexities. A reader can’t help but love Cole and Isabel, not just despite, but because of, their flaws. Sinner is a character masterpiece, a dream setting, and a great story. With all the flair one would expect from a Maggie Stiefvater novel.

One True Pairing

ImageA while ago I wrote a post about Maggie Stiefvater’s werewolf trilogy The Wolves of Mercy Falls. These three books—Shiver, Linger, and Forever—contain a plethora of engaging and complex characters. And out of all these characters, the most important to this reader are rock star Cole St. Clair and girl-who-takes-crap-from-no-one Isabel Culpepper. What’s so great about these two characters, you ask? Where to start. Their antagonistic chemistry, the personal growth they inspire in each other, the steamy hot kisses. Everything about them screams OTP. That’s “one true pairing” for you non-Tumblr people, a.k.a. your favorite couple ever. Well, Cole and Isabel (or Colesabel if you’re into celebrity couple names) definitely make my OTP list, so I just about had a heart attack when Maggie Stiefvater announced that she had written a stand alone book about Cole and Isabel in L.A. You can read the first heart-stopping chapters here. But in honor (and excitement) of Maggie’s new book coming out in July, I’ve made a list of my top 3 OTPs. Don’t worry, Colesabel makes the cut.

1. Faramir and Eowyn

Image

Art by Ted Nasmith

For those of you who read my post about Lord of the Rings, you’ll understand why this couple is number one. Eowyn is my all-time favorite fictional character ever, and not just because she’s a badass warrior chick (though she is that). She’s my favorite character because after she’s achieved her dream of glory in battle, she realizes that she’s still unfulfilled. Enter Faramir, the wise, and gentle son of the steward of Gondor. Faramir understands Eowyn more fully than anyone else, including Eomer her brother, Theoden her uncle, and Aragorn the man she loves. Faramir falls in love with her, and it’s his love that finally heals the emptiness and despair in Eowyn’s heart. Because of Faramir’s love, Eowyn goes from from this:

“But who knows what she spoke to the darkness, alone, in the bitter watches of the night, when all her life seemed shrinking, and the walls of her bower closing in about her, a hutch to trammel some wild thing in?” –Gandalf, The Two Towers

To this:

“I stand in Minas Anor, the Tower of the Sun; and behold! the Shadow has departed! I will be a Shieldmaiden no longer, nor vie with the great Riders, nor take joy only in the songs of slaying. I will be a healer, and love all things that grow and are not barren.” –Eowyn, The Return of the King

2. Roy Mustang and Riza Hawkeye

Image

From Fullmetal Alchemist (Brotherhood), my first excursion into the world of anime. Roy is a talented and cocky flame alchemist, and secretly an idealist. He gets himself into trouble all the time, especially when it rains. Riza is a no-nonsense soldier and the best sniper in the army. She also saves Roy’s life more times than I can list. But unlike most couples, their romance isn’t a hot and sexy love affair. They fight together in a war, where they witness the horrors of their own government on an innocent people. They work together in the military and eventually as part of a coup. Their “romance” is a series of complex and emotional events—from their childhoods to their professional partnership—that lead to a relationship so much deeper. Throughout the entire series there is no explicit exhibition of them dating or being romantically involved, but the love is blatantly apparent in each and every one of their actions. That’s love, people.

3. Cole St. Clair and Isabel Culpepper

Werewolf rock star meets L.A. doll in the middle of Mercy Falls, Minnesota. Sexual tension ensues. A lot of the appeal of Cole and Isabel’s relationship is the dramatic fights and sexy kissing, but that isn’t enough to give a fictional couple OTP status. What makes Cole and Isabel so interesting are the personal issues they each bring to the relationship—drug addictions, rock star status, your brother turning into a werewolf and then dying—and how they deal with these issues and each other. It’s a bonus that epic things, good and bad, happen whenever they’re together. I can’t wait to see what unfolds in Sinner.

Come July, be on the lookout for Maggie Stiefvater’s new book Sinner. Here’s the official description from Scholastic: Everybody thinks they know Cole’s story. Stardom. Addiction. Downfall. Disappearance. But only a few people know Cole’s darkest secret – his ability to shift into a wolf. One of these people is Isabel. At one point, they may have even loved each other. But that feels like a lifetime ago. Now Cole is back. Back in the spotlight. Back in the danger zone. Back in Isabel’s life. Can this sinner be saved?

So who are your top 3 OTPs?  Comment below to let us know! (Rhyme unintended!)

The Raven Boys

Maggie Stiefvater is the master of bringing the magical and supernatural into the real world. Her books often feature some mythical element set in a contemporary time. The Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy features werewolves living in modern day Minnesota. Lament and Ballad are about fairies getting involved in the lives of musical teenagers. The Scorpio Races tells the story of an island that is home to wild and dangerous sea horses. Stiefvater’s latest series The Raven Cycle is no exception.

ImageThe Raven Boys (book 1 of The Raven Cycle) follows the story of a girl named Blue who grows up in a family of psychics who constantly remind her that she if she kisses her true love he will die. As if a high school girl doesn’t have enough drama to deal with. The solution to this problem seems simple enough—avoid boys so she doesn’t fall in love and kiss/kill one. Blue thinks this is a solid plan considering that most boys in her hometown of Henrietta, Virginia are the entitled rich boys at Aglionby Academy. But if Blue was successful at avoiding boys and love, there wouldn’t be a book, so…

Into Blue’s life walks Gansey, Ronan, Adam, and Noah, four “Raven boys” from Aglionby Academy, but they don’t turn out to be the stereotypical boys Blue expected. Adam is a scholarship student. Ronan has secrets of his own, as does Noah. And Gansey is out to find a long-dead Welsh king. Each of these boys is an interesting character with a unique personality. The boys and Blue all draw the reader’s interest and sympathy, but it is Gansey’s quest for the dead Welsh king that has the magical pull over readers.

ImageMaggie Stievfater uses Gansey’s quest for his Welsh king to bring in magical and mythical elements into her novel. Much like her other books, this mythical element is one of the most charming elements of the novel. She expertly weaves old Welsh and British mythology in the modern day, giving readers both a taste for the magical and a contemporary reality they can relate to. Even more than purely mythical or magical books, I think that books like Maggie Stiefvater’s offer something special to readers. When mythical stories are set in mythical times and in mythical settings, they are often enjoyable and relatable. But when mythical stories are set in contemporary times and modern settings, the magical seems even more possible. This is the appeal of books like The Raven Boys, Harry Potter, The Chronicles of Narnia, and other books like these. They promise that the magical can happen to contemporary people—i.e. the reader.

Book of all genres are a form of escape. Readers escape into the stories and the characters and the adventures. You can imagine you’re traveling with Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit or going down the rabbit whole with Alice in Alice In Wonderland. These stories are vivid and real in many ways to a reader. But Maggie Stiefvater books are special because her readers find magical adventures in the real world. In The Raven Boys Blue, Gansey, Adam, and Ronan get caught up in the supernatural. And Maggie Stiefvater, in the vein of C.S. Lewis and J.K. Rowling, promises readers that magic is out there in the real world, and just maybe you will find it.

Image

Gansey and Blue Kiss, artwork by Maggie Stiefvater