Diana Wynne Jones RIP

There are two fantasy authors who have shaped my childhood and influenced the types of fantasy books I choose to read, and whose books will never bore m., I will read, re-read, and re-re-re-read their books for years to come. They are Dianne Wynne Jones and Tamora Pierce.  Today I discovered that Diana Wynne Jones died on the 26 March from cancer.

I’m heartbroken.  I feel like a bit of my childhood has slipped away. It’s amazing how someone whom you have never had contact with, can have such a huge impact on your childhood, help you grow in a certain direction, and yet never meet in person.  After many years of trying to figure out what kind of books I liked, I had finally figured out that I liked fantasy. But the fantasy genre during my childhood was woefully small, there seemed to be no interest in reading fantasy, there was oodles of Puppy Patrol books, and Animal Farm, the goddamn awful Sweet Valley books (shudders, those books were terrible and false and nasty like you won’t believe).  There was very little fantasy being stocked or released. That’s when I found Diana Wynne Jones’ books. I started on the Chrestomanci Series. I absolutely loved the series. They were set on the premise that there were multiple magical realities, either incredibly similar or totally different to our world. The Chrestomanci is a nine-lived enchanter whose duty it is to watch over the magical worlds and supervise the use of magic, in the reality he lives in and all others. Each book happens in a different realm, and is about the misuse of magic or when magic goes awry. One of my most favourite books in this series is the Magicians of Caprona.  The story follows that of Romeo and Juliet, two warring families, who happen to be magicians.  They always end up fighting each other (often ending with disastrous results).  They cast spells by singing, which I find such a novel idea.

My other all time favourite Diana Wynne Jones book of all time it Howls Moving Castle. Dianne Wynne Jones has this talent for writing about magic which isn’t overtly obvious. Yes, there are grand displays of magic like the people transforming into animals and making it rain cow-pats (Magicians of Caprona), but quite often the magic is subtle, like in Howls Moving Castle, where Sophie, the main character, can cast spells by talking to things! She’s a hat maker who chats to the hats she’s making and imbues them with magic which leads her into all sorts of trouble. I don’t want to say anymore than that because Howls Moving Castle is the most fantastically written book ever, it’s different and special, and while I absolutely loved Studio Ghibli’s interpretation of the book, the book is better.

While I readily admit I own a fraction of Diana Wynne Jones books, I believe that everyone has to own at least one of her books, most of them may be aimed at kids, but it doesn’t mean you’re too old to read them. They are fast paced and funny, clever and unusual and I’m immensely saddened that my favourite author is no longer with us.

PS. This is the cover to my copy of Howl’s Moving Castle, and how I like to imagine it. (Even though Howl in the Ghibli movie is super sexy).

PPS. The castle in the book doesn’t have legs!!!! It’s just a simple castle that FLOATS across the plains!

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Battle Los Angeles

On Friday my sister and I went to the early morning show of Battle: Los Angeles. As I was doing my best Speed Racer impersonation in order to get to the cinema on time, we heard about the earthquake in Japan on the radio. It’s quite ironic that the day my sister and I go to watch an end-of-the-world movie, an end-of-the-world type scenario was happening.

Well, onto something more shallow and frivolous, Battle: Los Angeles movie review!

This movie is a must for anyone who loves end-of-the-world or alien invasion movies. Greatest alien invasion movie of all time – Independence Day (1996) now has some competition.

While watching the initial invading force of the alien enemy, it suddenly occurred to me that I had no clue how this movie could end on a positive note. (Usually I have the ending of any movie or program figured out after the first 15min to half an hour). So story wise it was nice not to be able to predict the storyline. Don’t get me wrong, the premises of the story is very simple, it’s the getting there that’s unpredictable.

Ok so I’m not making much sense, so let’s move on.

The characters were nicely fleshed out considering that most of them would eventually die. Considering that the movie is about an alien invasion, and you need to spend your time setting that up, and your characters spend most of their time running around trying not to get killed, killing aliens, and then getting killed, the establishing of the characters was nicely done. They had enough personality not to be boring and flat, and that would help the viewer to be able to identify whose who considering that the moment you create a cast of soldiers, who all have buzz cuts, the same army fatigues, and are all wearing helmets that cover their hair, it gets difficult to figure out who’s who. Also, the cast had a lovely natural dynamic, and their acting didn’t feel forced or unnatural. It’s sad though that the Marine unit starts out with something like 20 members, and these poor guys drop like flies, most die early on, and then you have a set group for a while. The major problem is that when they have the next set of deaths, it happens all at the same time, and you aren’t able to figure out who’s died until the movie ends!

The effects were amazing. They looked totally real, which is something one strives for in an alien invasion movie. The one thing that always sells me on Independence Day is that the effects are so damn realistic, from the destroying of New York and the White House, to the huge wall of fire, to the alien fighter jets, to the aliens themselves, the effects are just brilliant and way ahead of it’s time. Battle LA has the same seamless effects, a good blend of visual effects and actual sets and props.

My favourite visual in the entire movie, apart from all the wonderful shots of destroying LA, is right at the end of the film, where we get our final shot of LA, sun setting, LA completely burnt, and the helicopters flying towards it.

The one thing that prevents Battle LA from beating Independence Day in my mind (apart from not having the individuality and coolness of Will Smith, and the movie being my all-time favourite childhood memory), is this annoying filmic technique that modern filmmakers love, and that is: THE BLOODY DOCUMENTRY STYLE FILMING!!!!!! Seriously I cannot stand action scenes where the camera runs around bouncing all over the place blurring the image so that there’s no point in even watching the scene, and leaves you feeling slightly ill. To be fair, the technique isn’t too bad in this film, but I like to be able to SEE and FOLLOW my action, not blunder through it. Ick the worst example of this technique is the Bourne Supremacy (2004). What a waste of a movie, the majority of it is action which you can’t follow because the stupid director is so in love with the on the ground documentary style, that all you see are blurs. I also hate the movie because they killed off his girlfriend in the first 15 minutes, and I liked her.

I don’t think I can adequately review Battle LA, it’s a very visual movie, with a simple storyline, and oodles of Marine bad-assery. This movie is not made for small screens, you need to see it in a cinema, and then go home and buy a 52 inch flat screen TV in preparation for owning the movie. (*sigh* I say that but there as so many other awesome movies that need 52 inches of flat high def epicness. Saw Lord of the Rings extended edition on a 52 inch, it was life changing). Oh and don’t even think about downloading this movie, fuzzy camera quality that moves will not work, and will leave you feeling queasy.

So go see this movie, it’s not in 3D so tickets will be cheaper YAY.

Kung-Fu Panda 2 New Trailer

Wow, pure chance that I found this. Kung-Fu Panda is such a funny movie, an original and different concept; I can’t wait to watch the sequel. While the first movie we don’t get to see Po’s kung-fu awesomeness until the end, this movie gives us more of Po’s kung-fu awesomeness. WOOPIE!!!! I howled with laughter right at the end of this trailer when Po’s says: ‘Ah my old enemy’…. ‘Stairs’!!!! I found it hysterical; it’s a reference back to the first movie and Po’s never ending battle of getting thrown down the mountain and having to run up it again. Cannot wait to see this movie.