June 24, 2002
Lilo and Stitch
The most anticipated Disney movie of the year, if you ask anyone in my household...
[review guest-starring Rainbow K, avid Disney-movie watcher, and kid, with associated child-reviewer credentials]
Rainbow K says:
"The movie is basically about a little Hawaiian girl who has no friends and finds one."
"The movie is about a genetically engineered creature gone horribly astray, and the intergalactic search to find him and dissect him for his own good."
That may be a bit of an over-simplification on both our parts, but SEE THE MOVIE. Much like the movie, "Toys," while the commercials were highly entertaining, none of them told you enough about the movie to get any idea of whether or not it was something you wanted to see.
"Toys" turned out to be not a children's film.
"Lilo and Stitch" is a kid's movie that adults can love.
Rainbow K says:
"It was really funny. Stitch was going to 'Block sewer lines, reverse street signs, and steal everybody's left shoe.'" She laughs.
"It had some incredibly on-the-spot dialogue. I was almost crying in the first few scenes between Lilo and Nani because of how true it seemed. I'd been there. I'd been both of them."
Rainbow K says:
"It was funny, and sad, and pretty cool."
"You go in there thinking, 'Stitch is cool.' You come out of it realizing Lilo is unlike almost any other Disney heroine. She's not tall, skinny, blonde, or a singer, but she's got grit, attitude, and she's got style."
Rainbow K says:
"You remember when she calls up Mr. Bubbles and says, 'Everything's all right now. My dog's found the chainsaw.' That was really funny. And, and, and, and... when the bad guys were playing hot potato--"
"We can't give away all the good bits."
"Well, it was really funny."
Ever since the first commercial, with the "Beauty and the Beast" scene where Belle tells Stitch to, "Get your own movie," and Stitch replies, "OK," he'd been a hit in our household. It was followed up with Stitch surfing in a "Little Mermaid" cameo, Jasmine being seduced off Aladdin's carpet and onto Stitch's spacescooter, and a Lion King, "That's not Simba," bit that had us watching and comparing ideas of what the movie was going to be like.
I went in with very little expectation of the storyline. Rainbow K saw some of a preview on Toon Disney, so she was better prepared. From the beginning I was impressed with the fact that while the animation wasn't intricate or delicate, it was still quite appropriate for the story. The colours and designs are pleasing to the eye, from the curves of the Hawaiians to the aliens.
Then the movie impressed me in one particularly important way: It was SMART.
A lot of obstacles in movies for the main characters (especially for children) have been known to forget little details, like the main character can fly, or the toughness factor. Stitch is almost indestructible, and the writers don't forget it. They remember he can crawl on ceilings. They remember that he's smart, and he learns quickly. Towards the end he pulls a stunt that had me chuckling and making comments to the LintKing that I would have to remember it for my next supers game.
Rainbow K says:
"I was really looking forward to it because Stitch was an alien and he was really cool. The songs were really neat, too." She mentions, "Hawaiian Rollercoaster Ride," which was a neat scene and very uninvasive.
Unlike a lot of past Disney flicks, where you could see, "PAUSE, and BEGIN SONG" almost imprinted straight from the script onto the screen, this one doesn't have gratuitous singing. There's a soundtrack that you notice, but not one that overwhelms you.
Rainbow K thinks the movie really does fall within her age range (the 9-13 crowd) but notices that the adults who saw it with her are still talking about it a couple days after having seen it, so it must have worked for them, too.
Anything more and we'd be giving too much away. Enjoy it. It's fun.
June 13, 2002
Shelters of Stone
Too much of a so-so thing
I suppose I should have learned from Episode I. When you wait over a decade for a sequel to come out, you're bound to be disappointed. Jean Auel's latest entry in her Earth's Children series is no exception. It comes 12 years after the last book, Plains of Passage, was published and that one was no winner either.
Shelters of Stone picks up the adventures of Ayla and Jondalar as they complete their year long journey arriving at Jondalar's home, the Ninth Cave of the Zelandonii.
For those unfamiliar with the series, Ayla is an orphan who was raised by a group of people known as The Clan. They were in modern terms Neanderthals and Ayla was one of The Others (aka modern humans). She left the Clan and lived alone for several years before finding Jondalar critcally wounded by a cave lion. She heals him, the get it on (a lot) and then travel back to his homeland with much stuff in between.
Ayla and Jondalar's arrival at the Ninth Cave is met with mixed emotions. Though they are happy to see Jondalar after a five year absence, they don't know quite what to make of Ayla. Between her odd way of speaking and her affinity to domesticate animals, they don't know if she is a freak or one of the chosen spiritual leaders called Zelandoni (not to be confused with the tribe name of Zelandonii, one i).
There is not much of a plot to Shelters. Ayla is pregnant, she tries to fit in, some people object, they hunt bison, they go to a Summer Meeting, Ayla and Jondalar mate (in this context it means they get married). There is no real conflict, no climax, no big story. They just go about their lives, and well, after four prior books about "the way they lived back then" it's no longer as interesting.
Part of Auel's problem is repetition. It's a big problem. Shelters weighs in at over 700 pages and frankly could be cut down by half if all the extraneous repetition was eliminated. For example, when people meet they introduce themselves formally with full names, ties and allegiances. So, it goes something like this:
"Ayla, this is Marthona, former leader if the Ninth Cave of the Zelandonii; daughter of Jemara; born to the hearth of Rabanar;mated to Willamar, Trade Master of the Ninth Cave;Mother of Joharran, leader of the Ninth Cave; Mother of Folara, blessed of Donii" Then he turned to his mother. "Marthona, this is Ayla of the Mamutoi, Daughter of the Mammoth Hearth, Chosen by the Spirit of the Cave Lion, Protected by the Spirit of the Cave Bear" Marthona held out her two hands. "In the name of Doni, the Great Earth Mother, I welcome you Ayla of the Mamutoi" "In the name of Mut, Great Mother of All, I greet you Marthona of the Ninth Cave of the Zelandonii, and Mother of Jondalar," Ayla said as they joined hands.
Fine, adds to the atmosphere, gives us an idea of the customs. However, this whole long process is repeated for just about every person Ayla meets - and since she's new to town, she meets a lot of people. One longed for a nice simple "She greeted him in the usual manner." to cut down on the words.
Auel also repeats events that transpired in previous novels very often. I understand this is necessary for people who haven't read the prior books or because the first book came out twenty years ago. In one instance, someone asks Ayla how she found out about firestones. She recounts how she was making tools and accidentally grabbed the wrong rock and noticed it made a spark. Good exposition for those who may not have remembered, but does she have to tell the whole story everytime someone asks her (and at least four people ask her throughtout the book).
The book doesn't even have as many of the infamous "paleo-porn" love scenes to help get through the many slow spots.
Aside from the repetition, the book fails to deliver any real bite. The book jacket talks about how not everyone accepts Ayla because of her background with the "flatheads" and it's played like it'll be this big drama. What it amounts to is someone, usually a person everyone in the tribe thinks is a schmuck anyway, objects to Ayla in some way and gets shot down by the leaders/Zelendoni with a "Too bad, we like her, go suck mammoth meat" speech.
I'm also getting tired of Ayla inventing everything from fire to sliced bread. Next thing you know she'll say "Hrm, wearing this big wad of bison fur between my legs every month is a pain in the butt, what if I rolled up some fabric in a nice tube and attached a piece of twine..."
Ok, that was catty.
In short, after reading Shelters of Stone I had to wonder why it took Jean Auel twelve years to write it. Yes, there was plenty of research involved, but I think she lost sight of the story. In my opinion, if Auel was a first time author, this book would have either never been published, or been published at about half its length.
If you're a series completist, skim the majority of this book then read the last 3-4 chapters to find out how it ends. Otherwise, give this one a pass and re-read the first three.