Thursday, March 10, 2011

Movies and Books: Rango & The Lost Hero

I guess Thursdays might be review/what I'm reading at the moment days. I'm not sure, I might switch things up until they feel comfortable and natural.

So, last weekend, my sister and I went to see "Rango" the new animated Johnny Depp movie. It's getting decent reviews out there in critic-world and I love LOVE LOVE animation. I guess I'm still a kid though I'm way beyond kid years. I have a milestone birthday coming up in September... I think I get better with age, but I'm no kid. Still, my love for animation will never die. Case and point: "How to Train Your Dragon" is one of my all time favorite animation movies. It's just so cute. I could list more, but let me dedicate a few minutes to "Rango." I didn't realize that this was rated "PG" until one of the characters, a big scary rattle snake yells "Sign the damn paper woman!" Rango is a lizard (chameleon) who was once a pet but ends up in the Nevada desert. He moseys into a small, rough, cowboy town called "Dirt" and becomes the sheriff using his keen acting skills. Overall the movie was cute, but a bit slow in some sections (shocking for a animation in my point), and funny. And this movie was filmed differently than other animation movies. Check it out:

My rating: B. My recommendation: Maybe wait for it to come out on video.

I'm currently reading "The Lost Hero" by Rick Riordan, who wrote the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. This new book is a spin-off to the Percy franchise. (Did anyone see the movie? It was pretty good, but I was irritated that they aged the characters by a few years to put them in high school.) These books are classified as "middle grade" young adult (I believe that means 7-12?) although the main characters are 15 years old. "The Lost Hero" is a straight-up action/adventure story set around the ancient Greek/Roman gods. I find myself really drawn into the books and the characters. Riordan is a great writer and puts a lot of research into his stories. I like them because I remember nothing from having to read "Mythology" by Edith Hamilton in high school and feel like I'm learning something when I read (too bad I fail to remember anything). Riordan has hit upon a gold mine in a way. The books are original in there aren't many other books focusing on the Greek gods when the first Percy Jackson came out (there were a few other authors who came out with things after, I believe). I'm reminded of what J.K. Rowling did with Harry Potter. She is the queen of magical kids right now and nothing will probably ever beat out HP. I'm not saying that Riordan is at J.K.'s level of fame or anything like that, but he plugged into a niche and is very successful.

It makes me wonder what else out there hasn't been done (or done well)? Angel/Demon stories have been very popular lately. There are a lot out good stories out there, but how can an author make the genre his/her own? This is something I thought about a lot when I wrote "Surrender": How do I make mine different from the rest? I feel like I have a very original idea (and an untapped villain). As writers, we should all struggle with this. To find a unique ideas and try to be successful with it before anyone else. It's so hard though. I remember reading one fallen angel novel recently and became so upset because the author had given the angels lavender eyes, an idea that I had come up with. It forced me to change the eye color because I didn't want to be perceived as copying someone's idea. But I do feel like I was forced to think out of the box to find a new and memorable eye color.... Hopefully this new detail will remain mine, but who knows. That's the crazy thing about being artistic or being a writer--how often our ideas overlap with other authors. I almost feel like all writers are connected at some deep cellular level and we tap into one another through ESP. Crazy? Probably.

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Side Note: I love Barbara Kingsolver's writing and just received an email from a writing company (I guess that's what it's called) that included three tips on writing by Kingsolver. One really stood out to me as something I need to remember when writing and I wanted to share it here:

Question: What is the most valuable advice you received as a young writer?
Answer: "Your first sentence should make a promise that the rest of the story will keep." - Francine Prose (another good writer).


  1. I don't think it's ESP so much as human are influence by about the same things so when you do get inspired while there's some tings that will be wildly different there will be similarities because in your mind that just makes sense, lmao, doesn't make it any less frustrating though.

    By the same token, you give give people the same concept or say phrase to write a story from and you'll get five vastly different ideas based on the writer's on personal influences and experiences and writing style so I think it balances itself out, lol.

    And I haven't seen Rango. I'm more a cartoon gal myself although I'm really looking forward to the Puss in Boots movie, lol.

    I really like that promise quote, it's simple but it's absolutely the truth. Nothing worse then loving the first half of the book only to have the rest go to crap.

    Originality to me doesn't even have to come through worldbuilding so much as your characters. If you can create a character who feels like a real person and doesn't match everyone else that's out there, I will still read your series even if your world isn't that original. If I can fall in love with your character or even just your writing voice, I can forgive quite a few things, lol.

    I'm in advertising and my copywriting teacher told us that when you come up with your first idea, the very first thing that popped into your mind when you were given the brief or you come up with something and you're expanding on it, throw it out. Because no doubt about it five other people got the exact same image. If you really like it and feel it's unique brainstorm around it. Pick a word and then use a thesaurus and find other words that mean the same thing, push yourself that way because if your brain is actively working you're likely to go outside of everyone's first thought.

    I've been using it when it comes to my writing and so far it's been frustrating because you have to change everything but at the same time with my expansions I feel like I'm pushing myself and my characters while staying true to my voice.

  2. I read your review a few days ago, but didn't reply because my sister's and I were getting ready to watch a movie.
    Anyway the movie we planned to watch was rubbish quality. So we were stuck for idea's, until I remembered you recommended How To Train Your Dragon.
    I'm not a big massive fan of animation at the beginning but once it starts I do end up really enjoying it.
    my favourites have got to be Finding Nemo; my first animation, Monsters Inc; my favourite I think, The Incredibles; love the family dynamic and the cool superpowers.
    The only animation I've found really boring has got to be Cars, just couldn't seem to get interested in it.
    Anyway I really enjoyed How to Train Your Dragon and so did my cousin sister, it was her first animation. I liked Asterid and the fact that Gerald Butler was in it. :D I think Toothless could have been a cuter dragon though...

    I've seen the movie Percy Jackson and...something. The one when they're looking for lightening. I liked the movie and I did research the books but, I just felt like they were too kiddish for me, especially since the main boy was around 12-14.
    I love reading and watching Greek stuff. I've read some Mythology stuff on Fictionpress/fanfiction and most of it is really good.

    I think the only way you're going to get something TRULY original is by creating a whole new world in a different dimension. Forget earth and live on mars, jupiter or create a planet. Don't have skin one color but multi-color it.
    I think you'd have to be incredibly lucky to not have some idea that clashes with another authors. You just have to have a better plot and have quality writing. :)

    And on a different note, I like your writing buddy. I glanced at it before, thinking it was a artist's coloring before taking a closer look and realising it's a photograph. The socks gave it away. :)

  3. Thanks for the comments ladies!

    @Jammi: I totally agree with your comment about books with strong beginnings and mediocre endings. I read a vampire book recently that did it for me. She had a crazy plot shift in the middle of the novel that left me confused and a little irritated. I finished the book, but didn't go on to the second one. I am a big fan of the thesaurus and try to use it often, especially when I notice that I'm using the same word over and over again. But it can be tedious too trying to change everything. Sometimes the original idea is the best. I think it can be easy to ruin ideas if they're over thought. I like bouncing ideas off a team. I developed the plot of "Chemical Games" with a friend's help. It was a lot of fun. I too feel that it's all about strong (real-feeling) characters to make me stick with a story/author.

    @Sammi: I'm glad you liked How to Train Your Dragon. I feel like they gave Toothless a lot of dog characteristics, which I think made him cute. I agree with you about Cars, one of the ho-hum Pixar movies. I'm not sure what I'll think of Cars 2, which is coming out here soon... they're showing a lot of previews for it anyway. The first Percy Jackson books were definitely written for boys around 12-13... when I started reading the first one I was like "oh man, I don't know if I can get on board with how this kid talks" but I stuck with it and I'm happy that I did. "The Lost Hero" is definitely an older feeling book. You should look into that one and see if you like the writing. I don't know enough about Greek history to write such stories, but I do love them.

    Anyways... I need to think on a new blog to post today. :)

  4. I'm not going to comment on Rango or the spin of novels from Percy Jackson series because I have neither seen the movie Rango nor read the novels, what I am going to comment on it the similar ideas authors have. I remember on fp there were two stories about stepbrother-stepsister relationship, it was so similar that it annoyed me to the point where I didn't read either of them anymore (I was reading them simultaneously, stupid I know) point is, your right, your always going to cross over with someone, I mean there are so many colours in the rainbow but it is definitely how you use your colours that count. I would advise you if I thought you could, to stop reading other people's novels until you get published but as a fellow bookworm, I know that's like telling you to rip your eyeballs out so, all I will tell you is focus on the bigger picture. Read through crappy novels and make sure that you don't make the same mistakes. If you find something you like about a book, analyse why you like it and if you see that there's a specific part that reminds you of your work, get out a thesaurus and change your word order, not the scene because that idea was yours as much as it was the other author's. Unless you read the story first, you could not have possibly plagiarised so don't worry about it.
    Unfortunately for unpublished writers, you all share the burden of breaking into a market that's already got established favourites however, you have to remember that it was just as hard, if not harder for them to break into a market that hadn't been established.