Monday, December 7, 2015

Movie Review - Home

Home is a CG animated film from Dreamworks, released in spring of 2015. It stars the voices of Jim Parsons (the BAZINGA! guy), singer Rihanna, and comedian Steve Martin.

The film opens with a plan by the Boov, a race of squat purple aliens, to take over Earth and use it as a hiding spot from their relentlessly pursuing enemies, the Gorg. Being much more technologically advanced than humans, they manage this easily, trapping the human population in bubbles and whisking them away to Stepford-like habitats built in the deserts of Australia.

One human, a girl named Gratuity "Tip" Tucci, is separated from her mother and left abandoned alone, surrounded by a city of alien invaders.

Enter Oh, a friendly but bumbling Boov. Oh means well, but is despised by the rest of his race because of his absent minded and disaster prone personality. After accidentally sending a party invite to the entire universe, including the terrifying Gorg mothership bent on Boov destruction, he becomes a fugitive and goes on the run. Oh and Tip meet and reluctantly join forces to escape, having lots of "odd couple" experiences along the way as they try to adapt to each other's alien customs. Memorable moments include Oh outfitting Tip's car with the entire contents of a convenience store - slushies, nachos, lottery tickets, you name it - and the overexposed scene from the commercials where Oh learns to dance via involuntary twerking. ("My hands are in the air like they just do not care!" ...still not as annoying as DA DA DADADADA CIRCUS AFRO)

Eventually the story takes a serious turn, as Oh must decide between helping Tip find her mother and escaping with the rest of his kind from the terrifying Gorg.

Sort of like Minions, but slightly more coherent.

Visually, the film is bright, shiny, and upbeat, with lots of rounded shapes and pastel colors. The Boov may not have the best personalities in the galaxy, but they are cute, octopus-like creatures with curled Sailor Moon style headbuns (lekku?) and "mood skin" that changes colors depending on their current emotion. Bubbles are a recurring visual theme, used as vehicles by the Boov and as propulsion by "Slushious", Tip's tricked out 7-11 hovercar. There are some nice touches in the animation, like the constantly changing skin hues, the sheen on the surfaces of the bubbles, and the bounce of Tip's curly hair.

Speaking of unique aspect of Home is the ethnicity of the lead human characters. Tip and her mother are immigrants from Barbados, and her feelings of social difference and isolation help her bond with Oh, who is also not entirely accepted by the people around him. I'm sure lots of POC girls will be thrilled to see a main character in an animated film who looks like them, since unfortunately that's not as common as it should be.

Sound wise the film has a distinctive signature, mainly because all of the songs are Rihanna's. The Boov also talk entirely in lolspeak, which works in 2015 but will sound awfully dated in a few years. But then again, Dreamworks has always been a fan of flash-in-the-pan pop culture references, so I doubt they're sweating it.

Overall, Home is a cute children's movie. Kids will probably love it; the Boov are cute and colorful, and there's no shortage of slapstick humor (I predict that Steve Martin's character, Smek, gets lots of kiddie laughs). It's definitely a Dreamworks movie, with the aforementioned pop culture references, mild toilet humor, and, yes, wait for it....another dance party ending. Has Dreamworks patented that yet?

This kid, however, is NOT enjoying it. At all.

I give Home a score of 3 out of 5 stars. I watched it while sewing for my Etsy shop, and I think that's probably the best way to watch - on in the background while you're doing something else. I totally want one of the little baby dudes at the end, though!

Awwwwwwww! :3

My Little Pony Cleanup Tutorial

I love finding cool vintage items, and one of my favorite finds are old toys. Most toys get broken and destroyed by their owners, but a few types show up fairly often in decent shape. One toy I always grab when I see it are My Little Ponies! MLP began in the early 1980s, and was huge throughout that decade.

These old pony toys are very collectible, and have a big fanbase of aficionados and collectors. These ponies are usually intact, but are often dirty, marked with pens or crayons, and have terribly tangly hair. Fortunately, they are fairly easy to clean up and get them looking presentable again. :)

I found these two ponies at Goodwill last week. The first one is a So Soft pony named Paradise. She’s a white flocked pegasus, with soft, fuzzy fibers covering her entire body. The mane was tangled, and the tail had been double braided (three regular braids that are then braided together into one). The “fur” was dingy, with some yellow discoloration around one of the wings.

The second one is an Earth Pony named Sundance, who is white with pink hair. She was dirty and had red crayon on her neck, and two pen marks near her cutie mark. Her mane and tail were also tangled.

The first step was to unbraid Paradise’s tail. Who knows how long the tail has been this way…possibly years! Don’t try to do any brushing at this point; it’s hopeless and will only cause damage.

 Let the cleanup begin!

The next step is a nice bubble bath. I use warm water and a small amount of dish detergent, and submerge the ponies completely. An old toothbrush is used to gently scrub the bodies to clean off the general dirt. The flocked pony can also be cleaned with the toothbrush…VERY VERY GENTLY! I scrub very lightly in circles until the whole pony is sudsy and clean.

After a good rinse, the next step is de-marking. Spots like pen marks, crayon, sticker residue, etc can often be cleaned off with rubbing alcohol. I like to take a Q-tip and gently rub the spot until it comes clean, being extra careful around paint applications like the eyes and cutie mark. Unfortunately not all spots will come off, but a good percentage will.

The red crayon mark on Sundance’s neck did come off with the alcohol, but the blue pen marks on her rump didn’t.

After as much cleanup as possible has been done, it’s time for the most fun part: detangling! (Yes, it’s fun!) Take a small amount of liquid fabric softener (hair conditioner will also work) and saturate the mane and tail with it. I like to put the toys on a large dinner plate as a work surface.

Once all of the fibers are wet and slick with softener, I take a fine toothed comb, which in this case is my cat’s metal flea comb, and gently brush out the hair. I find it easiest to lay the toy down, stretch out the hair, and brush against the surface of the plate. Start at the ends and untangle a centimeter or so at a time, slowly working up the length of the hair to the body. For super tangly knotty hair, you may have to do this strand by strand.

After some patient and gentle brushing, the hair is untangled! As you can see, Paradise’s hair still has some waves in it from the braid. These will straighten out over time.

After a light rinse to remove the excess softener, the ponies are set up on a shelf to air dry. After they are completely dry, the hair is smooth and untangled, and can be easily brushed!

 And here are the final results:


And Paradise:

 Here are some before/after comparison shots:

Pretty cool, huh? :) These two were actually in fairly good shape for their age. I’ve seen some toys with hair so tangled it’s literally just a ball of knots! But this method has worked every time.

 I’ll be ready the next time a pony or two shows up!

My shops | Handmade: Peachpod | Vintage: PeachNifty

Movie Review - The Good Dinosaur

Last week I went with my two brothers to see The Good Dinosaur, the latest animated film from Pixar. We had to choose between that and the final Hunger Games movie, but one of my brothers hadn't seen any of the previous HG The Good Dinosaur it was! I don't think any of us knew much about the film going in, other than that it was about a dinosaur and his pet human, so we didn't have any preconceptions about what we were going to see.

The main character of the story is Arlo, a timid Apatosaurus who lives with his family on a corn farm in the shadow of the Rockies. Yes, that's right, a farm. Farming dinos. Why not?

In this world, the devastating meteor strike that wiped out the dinosaurs never happened, so dinosaurs remained as the dominant life form on Earth. The setting of the movie is in the present day, and the dinosaurs have evolved a high level of intelligence. However, they are still quadrupeds, meaning that they have to hold objects with their mouths, and do things like plow dirt with their faces(!). In other words, don't expect any kind of real saurian biology here (though there are a handful of characters with feathers...that's something, I suppose).

After some scenes involving farming and chasing silo-robbing critters, aka humans, Arlo gets washed down a river and ends up hundreds of miles from his home and family. Luckily the little human boy he was chasing made it there too, and the two of them slowly become friends as the movie progresses. Who knew having a pet with opposable thumbs would be so useful?

The most obviously noticeable thing about the film is the visuals. The setting appears to be in or around Colorado, and Pixar makes excellent use of the setting. Backdrops of jagged mountains, deep canyons, and endless pine forests are rendered in exquisite detail. Many of the shots are almost frighteningly photo-realistic. The CG landscapes really must be seen to be believed! I can't wait to see them in HD, it'll be drool worthy. Check out The Art of the Good Dinosaur for some gorgeous concept art!

On the other hand, the characters are rendered very cartoonishly, with stylized cartoon bodies, giant eyes, and bright crayon box colors. Arlo and his family members look and move way more like Dino from the Flintstones than any real dinosaur. The contrast between the cartoony characters and the near-perfect realism of the backgrounds is a little jarring. It was obviously a deliberate choice, and I'm always in favor of trying new styles and techniques in movie making. But personally, I found the contrast distracting and unappealing. Even a little more realism in the characters would have helped bridge the gap, I think.

The story is fairly generic; a tale about two different people who learn to work together and care about each other as they journey home. There are some touching moments, but I never came anywhere near tears as I often do with Pixar films.

One big surprise for all of us was the genre of the movie - it's a western! There's a homestead on the prairie, a trio of T-Rex cowboys (one of them voiced by veteran western actor Sam Elliot), a family of redneck velociraptor cattle rustlers, and some low-down good-fer-nuthin' Pterosaur bandits. The T-Rexes even travel at an odd gallop, making them imitate the movement of a rider on a horse. The only thing missing is a town with a sheriff, and maybe a shootout in front of the saloon!

Yee-haw, Lurlene!

Overall, The Good Dinosaur is ok, but it's definitely one of Pixar's weaker films. It's cute and heartwarming, and has a good message about friendship and family and responsibility, but there's nothing we haven't seen before (ok, I'm pretty sure this is the first ever occurrence of raptors with mullets, but you know what I mean). The best part is absolutely the nature backgrounds...I would happily remove the characters and just watch an hour and a half of the landscapes accompanied by music!

I give The Good Dinosaur a 3 out of 5 score. A good choice if you have children, but don't expect too much depth or complexity for adults. Tissues probably not required, but put one in your pocket just in case.

Oh yeah, the short, "Sanjay's Super Team", was great! I actually enjoyed it more than the movie.