Saturday, 30 July 2016

I need a (Super) hero!

So I was at the gym earlier this week, and the song Holding out for a hero by Bonnie Tyler came on my workout playlist. As I puffed along, I suddenly thought YES! my next blog post has found me! My previous graphic novel posts (Graphic novels for Grown Ups: Terry Moore and Graphic novels for Grown ups: Part 2) have been for the most part not very superhero focused. Sure, Powers by Brian Michael Bendis is about cops solving crimes that involve capes, but the focus of the series is more of a crime noir one than that of your traditional superhero book.

But I'm pretty broad in my comic book reading tastes, and love me some superheroes as much as the next fangirl or fanboy. In fact, in the early 90s, it was those cool Fleer Ultra Marvel collectable cards that got me back into comic reading in the first place. My younger brother brought some home from school, and before I knew it, the collector in me took over, and the Card Crazy stores were my favourite place to hang (anyone else remember them?). Those Marvel cards were intriguing, I loved the art, and was fascinated by the characters, and so I got hooked. I'd also always had a soft spot for Batman, so DC was my friend too. There's no DC vs Marvel favouritism here, I love 'em equally, along with Image, Dark Horse and way too many other publishers to name.

This is an exciting time to be a fangirl or boy, with the plethora of movies and TV shows based on all our favourites (and can I tell you HOW MUCH I geeked out about Tyler Hoechlin from Teen Wolf being cast as Superman in Supergirl...YES YES YES...ahem, sorry, sidetracked there). So here are a few of my favourite heroes.

First up is a bit of a newcomer, but I gotta tell you, I adore her! In Ms Marvel, G. Willow Wilson introduces us to Kamala Khan, who takes on the Marvel mantle (as in Captain Marvel) in a spectacular fashion. Kamala is the first Muslim character to headline her own book, which in itself is a wonderful thing. But she is also such a fangirl (she even writes fanfic I would totally read), which makes her in book cameos from characters such as Wolverine, Loki, Carol Danvers and so many others such a joy. This is such a well written book, watching Kamala juggling her new role as a superhero with her role within her family and community and finding her place in both makes for a superb read. I couldn't read this series fast enough, and I can't wait for what's up next for Kamala. (And can I please have my Kamala Pop! figure now Funko, thank you very much).

Talking about Wolverine, he's up next on my list. He has always been the highlight of the X-men books for me. In fact, don't tell anyone, but our youngest son MAY have the middle name Logan for this very reason. He's gruff, slightly antisocial, but is often the best mentor around (just ask Jubilee, Kitty Pryde or even Ms Marvel). For many years, the origin of Wolverine was unknown, even to himself. A mutant with a healing factor, he was a subject of the Weapon X Programme, where Adamantium was fused to his bones turning him into a super soldier.  Wolverine: Weapon X by Barry Windsor-Smith tells this tale, and is considered to be one the best of them all.

And how could I miss Wonder Woman! Oh how I wanted to be Lynda Carter when I was younger, with those cool bracelets and that lasso. I love that Diana more than holds her own in the Justice League (where would those boys be without her!), and yes, I am hanging out for her stand alone movie which can't come soon enough. We have loads of great Wonder Woman titles in our collection, but I'm going to share Wonder Woman: Warkiller mostly because it is written by the brilliant Gail Simone, but also because it features a team up with another favourite of mine, Black Canary.

Next up is Daredevil. I'm proud to say I had read several Daredevil titles before the Netflix series came out, mostly because one of my favourite artists David Mack did some of the art for them (he also did the covers for the Alias books, featuring Jessica Jones). If you are a fan of the Daredevil of Hell's Kitchen, you really want to check out Daredevil: End of days by the sublime Brian M Bendis. This series features the death of Matt Murdock, and has Ben Urich hunting down the meaning of his mysterious last words. A number of Matt's former foes and lovers feature in this compelling story.

And I have to finish with Batman, because I do have a bit of a soft spot for Mr Wayne. It wasn't really the movies (ALL the movies), because none of them really quite get it right for me. I think it may be because he is a self made hero, he isn't from another world, he didn't get bitten by anything radioactive, he just worked at making himself a hero. Sure, a dark broody vigilante orphaned one, but a hero nonetheless. I also think he has such a great gallery of villains to play off against. There are so many fab Batman comic series, but I'm going with Batman: The long Halloween as one of my all time favs. I love the stunning art by Tim Sale, and Jeph Loeb has crafted a must read series about a new serial killer in Gotham called Holiday, who is killing to a monthly schedule. This is a classic Batman, the detective at work title.

So who are your favourites? and do you have a whole new appreciation for the character Aquaman after seeing that latest Justice League trailer?
Jason Mamoa, you are 100% rocking it dude ;)

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Disney's The BFG - movie review

I was always going to love The BFG. Roald Dahl has forever been a fixture in my life, and what’s more, I snagged a free ticket – the greatest of many perks in library work! However, I was honestly surprised at how much I loved it, nay, respected it.

Firstly, whatever kind of new-fangled expensive CGI techniques they used, I am on board completely. I generally have a fairly low cringe tolerance for anything even facing in the direction of the uncanny valley, but I am very happy to say they the film was never even close to such territory. The BFG’s enormous mug is actually very realistic, alternating between crinkly and charming and touchingly solemn. At first I was furious to discover that my primary school teacher was NOT cast in this role, but I’ve since eased up. Peter, you would have been marvellous – but Mark Rylance does a wonderful job.

The landscapes are colourful, fantastic, stunning enough to rival your favourite avant-garde/surrealist directors. I cannot stress enough how much I appreciated the use of colour, and the palette is very of the moment in its techni-coloured shades of nebula/galaxy. In true Dahl fashion, there are plenty of silly gags (read: farts) to allow for chuckles across the age spectrum, and also some sage life lessons – i.e., bullies sadly exist (Jemaine Clement is brilliant as the main antagonist, the Fleshlumpeater), families are often neither neat or nuclear, and happiness invariably occurs alongside a dose of sadness. Of course in the end, kindness prevails – but if you’re into having your heartstrings tugged *gently* then it’s pretty much a winner in that respect.

If I had any complaints, I suppose it would be that there was nothing really scary about the film, which, to dedicated Dahl fans, may seem an aberration – especially as (in my opinion anyway) the trailer seemed to promise some chills. And you know, it’s about a little girl being kidnapped by a giant man and taken away to a land where other giants – GIANT giants considering that The BFG is really a runt of a giant – eat little children. But, if you’re willing to suspend your disbelief, giving up on the more sinister side of Dahl’s oeuvre and making way for his sentimental elements, then I believe you will enjoy it. What it lacks in wickedness, it more than makes up for in lovely visuals, charm, silliness and warmth.

The BFG opens in New Zealand cinemas on Thursday 7 July, 2016.

Our thanks to Disney for providing the movie passes to our reviewer.

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Popcultural Picturebooks: Spotlight on Elys Dolan

Image by Elys Dolan

One of the best things about becoming a parent was the wonder of sharing all things magical, geeky and pop cultural with our two mini-geeks. I'm not sure who was more enraptured about their first viewing of Star Wars: A new hope, but I suspect it may have been their Dad and I. We have since gone on to share the geek loving wherever we can, with Dr Who, Star Wars and Minecraft themed Christmas trees, themed birthday parties (we have a Harry Potter one coming up in the few months) and visits to Armageddon all on the agenda.

We are equally as big on reading to our mini-geeks, and I'm fairly proud of the fact that I can use the threat of one less bedtime story to get them to behave at the end of the day, they NEVER want to lose a story. So when we find our two great loves intersecting, life is extra good!

One of the VERY BEST authors who successfully does this, is the fantastic Elys Dolan. Her picture books are a marvel, with big glossy pages full of super fun art, hilarious dialogue and sneaky humour. There are always lots of hidden in jokes to be found. Her books are rather like Pixar movies, kids love them, but there is a little something there for the grown ups to get a sneaky laugh from too. There are references to Star Wars, Star Trek, and Ghostbusters, and her latest offering even has a bit of a throw back to those fun action movies of the 90s. What more could a geek parent and mini-geeks ask for really? Here are some of her book highlights which you can borrow from our collection.

Weasels was the first Elys Dolan book we had the good fortune to come across. I initially borrowed it because I noticed that one of the subject headings on the library catalogue was Megalomania: Children's picture books, and that is just not something you see every day!
In this book, the author asks what is it weasels do all day? and would you believe it is PLOT WORLD DOMINATION. They have created a machine to enable them to take over the world, but just as countdown commences, disaster strikes. The boys loved seeing the plotting weasels and working out just what happened to the machine, Mummy loved all the coffee and health and safety in jokes.

When I found Nuts in Space on the shelf at the library I was so excited. The weasels lady had done another book AND it referenced both Star Trek and Star Wars, it really can't get much better than that. (And no, I am not one of those purists that thinks there can only be one great Star thingy, I love them equally, so there ;) ) In Nuts in space, a rather furry Trekkie type crew have found the celebrated Lost Nuts of Legend and are on a mission to return to their home planet. Unfortunately, a hungry crew member has eaten the map, so they have to make a few stops on the way to ask for directions. The highlight for the mini-geeks and I had to be the Death Banana, which was a super fun spin on the Death Star.

The mystery of the haunted farm introduced the boys to the joys of Ghostbusters, or rather the Three Pigs Ghost-hunters, who are on the job at Farmer Greg's place with their Phantom Finder 5000, the latest in Scare-o-Meter equipment. Something is amiss down on the farm, with zombie ducks at the pond, and an array of other supernatural creatures taking over the barn (Frankenhorse and The Mighty Donkula anyone?) We didn't expect that twist in the ending, which made the book even more fun. There is nothing like a good twist!

My Mr 6 was very proud that our libraries ordered Steven seagull: action hero after he put in a suggested purchase for it. Steven Seagull is a retired cop (I hear there are rumours he was kicked from the force for being too much of a renegade) who is asked to come back and help save the beach. Some perpetrator has been stealing the sand and leaving massive holes everywhere. A gull's gotta do what a gull's gotta do, and Steven takes on the case and checks out the usual suspects. Does he manage to save the day? I'll leave that for you to find out, I'm off now to look up old Steven Seagal movies ;)

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Fractured Fairy Tales

In our library, the staff all take part in a reading challenge we call DER (Dare to Extend your Reading). Every few months we read a book based on a different theme. We do it so that we read something that we might not have read ordinarily, which is a great way of growing our collection knowledge so we can help our lovely customers to find just the perfect book.

Over the last two months, our theme was a book that was a modern retelling of a classic. It was really interesting to see how many of us ended up reading retold versions of classic fairy tales such as Snow White, Cinderella, The little mermaid and so on. You can check out some of the reviews here on our Pinterest page.

I really loved my book, and it got me thinking about just how many fractured fairy tales I have enjoyed over the years. Fractured fairy tales are the fairy tales we know and love, but changed up a little, such as changing the characters, setting or the point of view. I just love seeing favourite characters doing new and unexpected things!

So here are a few of my all time favourites, and I would LOVE to hear about yours in the comments. I'm always looking for another good read.

First up is Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine. I loved this when it first came out, and was even happier when it was turned into a movie featuring Anne Hathaway several years later. This is a retelling of Cinderella, but this Ella (who was cursed at birth to always be obedient) is incredibly smart and sassy. Yes there is a glass slipper (and a happily ever after), but Ella doesn't wait to be rescued by her Prince, she takes matters in her own hands and heads off on a quest to reverse her curse, with many adventures along the way.

My read for the DER challenge was Spelled by Betsy Schow, which was a whole new spin on The Wizard of Oz. In this version,  our main character Dorthea, the Emerald Princess, is a bit of of spoilt brat. She is sick of being cooped up in the castle due to a family curse, and when her family decide to marry her off to a prince without her consent, she makes a bit of a bad wish, undoing magic in the realm and losing her parents. It is now up to her, Prince Kato (who is now a chimera)  and insolent servant Rexxi to try and put things right, without dying in the process as the Gray Witch chases them, intent on stealing Dorthea’s magic for herself. Many other fairy tale favourites pop up along the way during this fun read. 

I've already blogged about graphic novel series Fables by Bill Willingham before in my Graphic novels for Grown Ups post, but it is definitely worth a second mention. In this series, all the fairytale and folklore characters we know and love have been forced from their homelands by the big bad 'The Adversary', and they are living in a secret community called Fabletown within our world New York. They call themselves Fables (we're the mundys), and anyone who can't pass themselves off as a mundy ends up at the Farm in upstate New York. All of your favourites are there, mostly in whole new ways you have NEVER seen them before. The central ongoing relationship between Snow White and Bigby (also known as the Big Bad Wolf) is possibly my favourite literary relationship ever!

And from one for the grown ups to one for the kids. The true story of the 3 little pigs by A.Wolf as told to Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith  is a fun wee tale I've loved sharing with my mini-geeks at home. The wolf tells his version of those famous events concerning those certain pigs in this entertaining read. Who knew just how much trouble a sneeze can get you into? 

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Alice Through The Looking Glass - Movie Review

Many of us have an enduring affinity with Alice in Wonderland in at least one of its many incarnations. I have fond memories of an obsession with my cassette tape copy of the original Disney film’s soundtrack. A Unbirthday Song was my cue to pick up the (toy) mic and subject my house to the gift of karaoke.

Later in life I was given the opportunity to study the original Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass through the excellent Annotated Alice, which explains literally everything you might ever want or need to know about the satire-dense texts.

Most film-goers now will be well aware of Disney’s 2010 Tim Burton-helmed reimagining of Alice in Wonderland. The lush backgrounds, elaborate wardrobes, extensive special effects, and expanded storyline have inspired a renewed interest in the classic cult film adaptation, and it was inevitable that a sequel would follow up on Mia Wasikowska’s plucky 1800s Alice.

Central to the film's heart are the themes of family bonds, forgiveness, regret, and as always with Alice themed works, the importance of personal fortitude. Alice (Mia Wasikowska) and the Hatter (Johnny Depp feat. oodles of make-up and special effects) find their pasts having a direct effect on their presents in both Underland and 1800s London. As always, the adventure is sparked by the both of them having discovering that something formerly concrete to their lives is not quite as it seems…

Expect another gorgeous wardrobe of gloriously vivid and textured outfits for every character, especially those of Alice and the White Queen (Anne Hathaway). Particularly of note are the numerous fantastic stylised naval uniforms, many of which I left the theatre coveting.

As Through the Looking Glass follows directly on from the first film you may want to take advantage of a rewatch of the first (the DVD is conveniently available from Auckland Libraries), as Through the Looking Glass is a complex story, traversing time and space…I won’t say much more so as not to spoil any plot points!

Very young children may find the fast paced and intricate plot difficult to follow, but the visual spectacle was more than enough entrance most watchers at my session. Much like Maleficent, Disney’s newest reimagining of a classic, is no rigid re-enactment of the original tale, and you can expect to enjoy an engrossing original story with much homage to elements of the books.

Our thanks to Disney for providing tickets to an advanced screening for our reviewer.