Wednesday, September 27, 2006


Hello all.

I'm currently undergoing the final stages of recovering from a particularly nasty cold, the kind that radiates pain from sinuses, thus causing my cheekbones and the teeth of my upperjaw to ache as well. The kind of cold that made me forgo attending my film lab to watch a three-hour-long '50s Bollywood movie on Monday, so now I have to take the film out of Reserve and find the time to watch it at home. Argh.

I have considerably less time on my hands. My classes are all very detail-oriented, so there isn't a lot of class-time that I can afford to spend writing my novel or cruising the Internet. My part-time job usually eats up my hours until 5pm, so that means most of my work has to be done at night. Which means that recently I have been getting very little done, because I am tired.

The last two years I've made a habit of working in the afternoon and leaving my nights free for television watching and goofing off, so my mind is not yet accustomed to having to work after supper. I tried reading an essay in bed last night, and I ended up falling asleep - at eight o'clock at night!

And I'm STILL thinking of Zathura - it's one of those movies that is so good that you feel sad once the movie's over, the same way one feels when one wakes up on Boxing Day to discover that Christmas has come and gone. I felt the same way about Spider-Man and Unbreakable. I don't want to bore myself with it, so I'll have to make myself wait at least four months before I watch it again.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Jumanji vs Zathura

Both movies are about magical boardgames that pull the players into a world of danger and adventure. I enjoyed both movies. However, which movie has the leg up? Read on for my point-by-point take. BEWARE - MAJOR MOVIE SPOILERS AHEAD, so you've been warned.

The Setting - and its Dangers
Jumanji: The jungle, which means stampedes, monsoons, poisonous flowers and hungry foliage.
Zathura: Outerspace - with blackholes, gravity fields, meteors, and cryogenic chambers.
Advantage: Jumanji, at least in the case of realism. The Zathura boys have it easy - that film decidedly leaves science by the wayside, as the kids are still permitted electricity, heat, and water, and the whole concept of the airless vacuum of space is pointedly ignored. However, sometimes the dangers of Jumanji become too extreme for the movie to be truly enjoyed, whereas the safe incontinuity of Zathura allows time for more wonder at the glorious surroundings.

The Special Effects
Jumanji: Mainly CGI, used for stampeding animals, grasping vines, splitting houses, lions, and monkeys.
Zathura: Some CGI (for backgrounds and spaceships), more physical explosions, puppetry, and costuming (for some of the robot, the Zorgons, the damage to the house).
Advantage: Zathura. Jumanji relied too much on CGI when CGI was still a newer technology, and as such, lots of the effects are very weird-looking and awkward (particularly the monkeys and the lion). By keeping most of the effects old-school, Zathura's look remained consistent, magical, and realistic.

The Strong-Willed Older Sibling
Jumanji: Judy Shepherd (Kirsten Dunst)
Zathura: Walter Budwing (Josh Hutcherson)
Advantage: Walter. For one thing, he's a main character who directly manipulates the course of events, emerging from the experience as a different person. In Jumanji, Alan Parrish (Robin Williams) is the centre of attention, so Judy and her brother Peter are really only along for the ride, and end up forgetting the experience anyway (more on that to be revealed).

The Weak-Willed, Cheating Younger Sibling
Jumanji: Peter Shepherd (Bradley Pierce)
Zathura: Danny Budwing (Jonah Bobo)
Advantage: Tie - Peter's more mature, and Danny has more of a stake in the game, but they're both surprisingly similar, not only because both summon disastrous consequences when they attempt to cheat at their respective games (Peter turns into a monkey as punishment, and Danny's brother Walter gets blamed for Danny's misstep and ends up ejected into space). On an interesting note - both characters end up being the ones who release the Trapped-In-The-Game Adults.

The Trapped-In-The-Game Adult
Jumanji: Alan Parrish (Robin Williams) - trapped in the jungle at age nine for 26 years after he lands on a spot that sucks him into the game until someone rolls a five or an eight. Released when Peter rolls a five.
Zathura: The Astronaut (Dax Shepard) - trapped in space at age ten for fifteen years, when he recklessly wishes his brother out of existence. Without his brother to complete his turn, the Astronaut was unable to continue the game to its conclusion. Summoned when Danny spins the "Rescue Stranded Astronaut" card.
Advantage: The Astronaut - for one thing, he's sexier. For another, he's more entertaining as the unwilling referee between the two squabbling brothers than Alan, who emerges from the game as a loin-cloth wearing, bearded adult to discover his family is dead and his house abandoned. I bought Shepard's wiseass approach more than William's child-trapped-in-a-man's-body portrayal.

The Unwittingly-Dragged-Into-The-Game Authority Figure
Jumanji: Sarah Whittle - started the game as a girl with Alan Parrish, fled when Alan was sucked into the game, and spent the next 26 years convincing herself the entire incident was a psychotic breakdown until Alan and co. remind her that her turn is needed to continue the game to its conclusion.
Zathura: Lisa Budwing - the boys' older sister who is recruited to babysit them, at least until she winds up cryogenically frozen. Not an actual player.
Advantage: Sarah. For one thing, she doesn't spend three-quarters of the movie as an amusing inanimate prop, only to wake up screaming and out of touch, and for another, she lends a needed adult perspective to the adventure that Alan's wounded-man-boy cannot provide.

The Concluding Time-Warp
Jumanji: Upon completing the game, Alan and and Sarah find themselves nine-years-old again in 1969, when they first started the game. Judy and Peter don't exist yet, and don't remember them when they meet again in the future.
Zathura: At the end of the movie, the Astronaut is revealed to be an adult version of Walter, who came back in time through a black hole in order to prevent his younger self from being trapped in the game by wishing Danny had never been born.
Advantage: Jumanji. Simple, fast, and easy, the time-warp ending concludes in a manner where everyone wins. Alan makes up with his dad, Sarah's not labeled as psychotic, and the two manage to keep Judy and Peter from being orphaned! Sure, Zathura's twist was cool - but it takes a good long while for the ending to make sense, more time than the movie can afford.

The Family Theme
Jumanji: Father-and-Son Relationships - Alan feuds with his father when his dad suggests sending him to boarding school, but regrets his callousness after he is released to find out his father died before he could apologize. Finds himself becoming a father-figure to Judy and Peter.
Zathura: Brother Relationships - Walter and Danny find themselves competing for their divorced dad's attention, with Walter being increasingly hostile towards Danny's presence. Throughout the game, they must tighten their bond in order to survive.
Advantage: Tie. Alan's relationship with his father is more psychological, and is visually demonstrated by the character of Hunter Van Pelt, a sadistic gun-toting maniac who hunts Alan throughout the film, and presumably while Alan was living in the jungle, as well. The Hunter and Alan's father are played by the same actor (Jonathan Hyde), and spout the same diatribes about "acting like a man", which brings into question whether the world of Jumanji is created by the game, or its players.
The relationship between Walter and Danny is demonstrated by the contrasting metaphor of the Astronaut, who provides the image of a grim future of a Walter without a Danny to help him finish the game. The Astronaut is a living testament to brotherly hatred taken too far, and is only redeemed when young Walter wishes back the alternate-timeline Danny that the Astronaut carelessly wished away. Alternate- and Present-Danny merge into one, as do Older and Younger Walter, and the timeline is restored.

Winner: A tie. Jumanji may seem a little dated now, especially in the special effects department, but the story is sound, although the violence of scenes seems to aim the movie at an older audience. Zathura is still bright and new and shiny-looking, but is appealing to all ages and could very well become a children's classic.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Back Again

Sorry again for the gap between posts. Things have been going great lately. First off, I've finished my entire semester's reading (novel-wise), so I'm back to reading the series that I've claimed is my favourite even though I've only read it once - that is, Tad Williams' Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn quartet. It's a little hard to get back into the groove of his extremely crowded prose, but all in all, I'm still enjoying it.

I actually got to interview Camilla Gibb, the author of Sweetness in the Belly, the book I mentioned before. She was very nice to talk to, and not at all intimidating or condescending.

Now, other things, other things...Oh, yeah - I've developed a certain interest in Dax Shepard, co-star of Punk'd. I've just rented Zathura, a movie which I adored, so now I guess I'm obligated to watch Employee of the Month and Let's Go To Prison. Can't wait!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Ah! Books!

Sorry if it seems like I've been devouring books two at a time - the novels assigned to my "Overview of Children's Literature" class are bite-sized treasures to be read in a day. Not only did I finish I was a Child of Holocaust Survivors, by Bernice Eisenstein, but also the creepy Coraline by Neil Gaiman (which I'm pretty sure is pronounced "COH-RAH-LINE", intead of "COH-RAN-LEEN", because it would explain why everyone keeps calling her "Caroline" by accident), and Uncle Ronald, a story of a boy and his mum fleeing an abusive father to the benevolent relative of the title, by Brian Doyle.

Now I'm back onto my Contemporary Canadian Lit books, with What We All Long For. I usually read the children's books two at a time, because they're so slender and quick to read, then jump into a meatier adult Canadian novel. I haven't read too much of my Popular Culture books (other than the Eisenstein), as they're all graphic novels regarding the Holocaust and two out of the three books are wrapped, so they'd be impossible to return if they turned out to be removed from the list.

Also, I've been butchering "Magic Doesn't Grow on Trees". The original first draft ballooned to sixty-one pages of single-spaced prose, hardly a short story, and my attempts to simply transcribe it into the second draft while cutting the fat haven't been working. I'm fond of starting at a certain point that sets up the the story, but apparently that's not the sort of thing that attracts readers nowadays. Now, they want to start with some action, or some immediate contact, and have the information about the setting, story, etc. filter through in the way the author tells the story.

That's fine with me, it just means that when I make a second draft, I end up chopping off the first couple of pages, because they helped me to discover the story, but the readers aren't going to want to deal with them. So I've strongly reworked "Magic Doesn't Grow on Trees" - the crazy guy's turned into a obsessively orderly jerk, the magician-looney-bin has been converted into a fully-functioning (but boring) office, and Ravine is slightly more competant at her job, only now she's making mistakes on purpose to piss the crazy- er, I mean the jerky guy off because it's the only way he can let loose. ^_^

I think it has very little connection with the original story, except for the central idea of magic. And that's not such a bad thing. I can only hope I can keep it down to a seemly story length, I tend to be wordy at times and I need to learn how to restrain my writing.

My new story, "House Hunting", is going well. Things usually do when I write a new story on a fresh idea, as opposed to an idea I've abandoned or an idea I've written down on a list to use later when I'm in a dry spell. This is the story that I'm going to use to try and win the McTaggart scholarship at my University. It's basically a short-story contest where the winner gets $12 000 in travel money. Europe, baby! Scotland, Italy, Ireland....and maybe Japan. But only if I win.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

A Busy Year To Come

Sorry that I haven't updated, I've been a little overwhelmed by the incredibly busy (at least for me) year that I have ahead.

1. I'm rejoined the UAMC (and I'm hoping to go on Tour next year).

2. I'm renewing my loyalty to The Gateway (I was lazy last year, and ended up not earning a bound edition of all last year's issues because I fell below the 15-articles-a-year marker. I know, it sounds lazy, but CD reviews only count for half an article, and the editor for last year was very lax when putting in CD reviews, so only about half the CD reviews sent in were actually published.

3. I've got a part-time job as a receptionist/computer guru.

4. I've volunteered to be Staff Writer for the upcoming Animethon 14. I didn't actually go to Animethon 13 last year, but I still like anime, and it'll look good on my resume and I'll probably make a lot of friends along the way.

5. Also, this is the year where my GPA counts towards whether or not I'm accepted into the School of Library and Information Studies.

So, lots of stuff to do, lots of reading and writing, and already my lazy mind thinks all of this will be impossible to perform. But laziness is definitely not a virtue, so I guess the only way to pry that bad habit from my life is to fill it up with rewarding things to do.