5 Most Anticipated YA Novels

Hi everybody,

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I love YA, particularly fantasy. Although I can’t say it’s been a lifelong love, somewhere along the line I started finding a crop of great YA with interesting characters, plots, and delicious detail. Today I’ll be presenting the books I’m most looking forward to coming out in the next year. If you’re a fan, you might find a surprising new book to add to your reading list. And if you are familiar with some of these picks, then we’re both excited (and I’d love you for to tell me all about it in the comments!)

Now, onto the countdown!

5. Carols and Chaos

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I put this one here at number 5 because it just seemed to have a lot of the elements I love — historic periods, romance, and Christmas (hello!) Now that’s a lethal combination. Set in 1817, the plot revolves around a maid and valet who find a little Christmas connection at Shackleford Park in the midst of a surprising counterfeiting scheme. Doesn’t it make you want to say — Aww?

It comes out October 9th 2018. Just in time for the holidays!

4. Strange Grace

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Just because I’m not familiar with an author’s work doesn’t mean their newest book can’t be one of my top picks. Case in point Strange Grace. Anytime the devil may have a good side, I’m always intrigued. This story centers on three friends, one of which is a witch, and an ancient deal. At the rising of the Slaughter Moon, a young man must be sacrificed in order to maintain peace in the village. Who will be sacrificed? And how will these three friends cope when they come face to face with the devil himself?

We’ll find out September 18th, 2018.

3. Stain

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Author of one of my favorite YA series ever, Splintered,  A.G. Howard retells another classic tale, this time The Princess and the Pea. A voiceless princess must bridge the worlds of daylight and night by proving her heritage and saving the prince. We’ve all heard the princess-that’s-not-a-typical-princess line before, but in Howard’s capable hands, this could be something worthy of its title.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t come out until January 15th, 2019. Darn!

2. Legendary

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Caraval was my favorite book of 2017 so you know I was coming back for seconds. And this one sounds Legend. . wait for it. . . .Dary! Stephanie Garber crafted a blissful, dark, world in Caraval, with magic and deceit around ever corner. Now, Tella, Scarlett’s sister, who made a deal in the previous book with Legend,  the master of Caraval, must fulfill her obligation by discovering his true name or lose everything in the process. Hopefully, it will be as lavish and spectacular as its predecessor.

Releases May 29th. Ooh, that’s soon!

1. Lie 

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Just found out the plot of this one a few days ago, and it soared right to the top of my list. In my 4 Underrated YA Fantasy Novels post, I listed Trick as my favorite underrated novel. This is the third in a series of books called Foolish Kingdoms, revolving around the kingdoms of the four seasons, each with a unique love story at its helm.

Here’s a link to the post for a description of this third book, Lie, from the author herself. Boiling it down, it centers on a female liar and and the knight who sees right through her. Oh, and did I tell you it’s inspired by Pinocchio? With another great romance to delve into, this is sure to be another excellent entry into the series.

It comes out Fall 2018 (fitting since the story takes place in the Kingdom of Autumn.)

 

What do you think? What are your most anticipated YA novels? Tell me in the comments.

Until next time, adieu!

 

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Top 5 Favorite Music Videos

Hi everyone!

Music videos. They’re opportunities to witness our favorite singers step in front of the camera and give us a visual interpretation of their songs. Sometimes we’re rewarded with stunning technical achievement (as in Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer”.)  At other times we’re treated to dramatic storytelling (Demi Lovato’s “Tell Me You Love Me”) or comedy (Eminem’s “Without Me” — always hilarious!)  They invite us to view the song and the musician in a whole new way, opening up incredible avenues of creativity and imagination.

When it came to choosing my absolute favorites, I picked the videos that I’ve watched and re-watched multiple times, the ones that exemplified my favorite aspects of music videos — light, darkness, humor, insanity, and of course, good music. Here’s hoping you find your new favorite among mine.

5. Nine in the Afternoon – Panic! at the Disco

This is one of the first music videos I ever really fell in love with, thanks to a kooky Brendon Urie seriously mugging it for the camera. A light-hearted, feel-good song, a Beatlesy-vibe, and a unique aesthetic made this one stand out from so many other songs on the radio at the time. I never get tired of the moment when Brendon looks at the clock and has a Yikes! moment (it happens at 2:07 in the video.) Overally fun video and song that lifts your spirits.

4. We Are Golden – MIKA

What’s better than watching MIKA dance around in his underwear? Not much, as this video goes to show. “We Are Golden” is my favorite song of his and rather than do anything elaborate in his video, MIKA keeps it simple — dancing around, lip-synching to his own song. It’s manically paced and bursting with brights colors and bedroom hijinks. If this song doesn’t get you hyped for the day, nothing will.

3. Partyman – Prince

Prince embraces his inner mischief-maker in this song from The Batman soundtrack. In it, he lives it up, wreaking havoc at a party as the nefarious clown prince of crime. He’s both sexy and funny, playing tricks on all the party guests.

It’s only recently I discovered this video, but I fell for it immediately. Not only do I love the video; I love the make-up. Half-Prince, Half Clown, All Magic. The extended version (which I’ve provided) adds a few more laughs into the mix. And if you can’t get enough of Prince Joker over here, you can catch him again, sporting a half-Batman side in the Batdance video.

2. Don’t Come Around Here No More – Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

One of Tom Petty’s best, “Don’t Come Around Here No More” is a crazy Alice-in-Wonderland-inspired video with Tom playing a mischievous mad hatter in a quirky black-and-white-checkered setting. Alice is in over her head dealing with Mad Petty, seeing herself become a pig, getting shrunk into a teacup, and finally turning into a delicious cake. It’s twisted, creepy, trippy, and all kinds of devilish goodness. Dig in!

1. I’m Going Slightly Mad – Queen

I’ll admit, when I first heard “I’m Going Slightly Mad”, it kind of creeped me out. Freddie sings in a distant voice as though he’s lost in a cloud of his own madness. Not the most uplifting listening experience.

And then I saw the video.

Of all the music videos I’ve watched (and re-watched) over the years, nothing beats this one (and Queen has a lot of contenders for that title.)

So what does this video have that makes it so special? Humor. Playfulness. Freddie looking like a twisted vampire clown.  A zippy, loopy production that takes (most) of the scary out of the song and replaces it with goofy charm.  I love this video because we get to see Freddie, late in life, having a ball, engaging in silly antics and teasing his fellow bandmates. He wears a bunch of bananas on his head, people!

Do yourself a favor. Watch this video. And laugh. Just laugh. ‘Cause it’s pure joy.

 

What do you think? What are your favorite music videos of all time? I’d love to know!

 

Until we meet again!

4 Underrated YA Fantasy Novels

Hi guys,

One thing you should know about me is that my favorite genre in books is fantasy. When I read, I love to see princesses in peril, magical powers, and romantic entanglements. No other audience in literature seems to understand what I want more than Young Adult. I used to fluff YA off as childish and cliched, but when I looked deeper I found many more great stories lying beneath the surface.

These 4 fantasy novels are some of my absolute favorites and they exemplify that searching a little bit harder can yield remarkable results.

 

4. Lips Touch: Three Times – Laini Taylor

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Fans of Strange The Dreamer should check out this collection of three separate dark fantasy stories that surprise as much as they make you swoon. In each tale, a dark-haired, blue-eyed female is faced with the magic of a kiss and the ramifications thereafter.

“Goblin Fruit” (my personal favorite) opens the collection. Kizzy is warned not to be tempted by goblins, but when the allure of a new boy at school (who may or not be a goblin himself) calls her, she has to decide whether to embrace her desires or deny her passions, all for the sake of one, tantalizing first kiss.

“Spicy Little Curses Such as These” centers on Anamique who is cursed at birth never to speak a word lest she kill all of those within earshot. When a soldier falls for her, she has to choose whether to believe the curse and stay silent or risk destroying the man she loves.

“Hatchling”, the longest and most complex of the collection, focuses on Esme and her mother, as they attempt to outrun and outwit the wicked, inhuman creatures known as Druj. When one Druj shows just a semblance of emotion, a torrent of questions are raised about the origins of the Druj and what lies at the source of their eternal brutality.

After reading the collection, you can’t help but be impressed by Laini Taylor’s skill (as well as the gorgeous illustrations by Jim Di Bartolo.) “Hatchling” alone is an intricate story, with an incredible depth and a vast knowledge of mythology. If none of these stories get you in the heart, then you may be just as heartless as a Druj yourself.

3. The Magic Toyshop – Angela Carter

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Fervent readers of fairy tales will likely be familiar with Angela Carter. Her short story collection The Bloody Chamber, and most notably its tale “The Company of Wolves” is her most popular work.  However, they might have passed over this wonderful little gem. That would be a shame.

The Magic Toyshop follows Melanie whose parents are killed in a plane crash. Her and her two siblings are taken to live with their estranged Uncle Philip, his wife Margaret, and her brothers Finn and Francie. While staying with them, she begins to develop a tender relationship with Finn while uncovering the disturbing secrets of her extended family.  It’s this story’s ambivalence that makes it work so well. The back and forth of Melanie’s feelings for Finn, the unsettling characters and atmosphere, along with the peculiar puppets that represent those involved create a unique story that isn’t going to be for everyone. And its revelations will have you reeling for days.

But if you’re willing to do into darker territory with your reading, this is a high recommendation from me. Not in the mood to read? A movie version is available on YouTube that’s really good; in ways, it even improves upon the book.

2. The Songweaver’s Vow – Laura VanArendonk Baugh

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Not only do I love a good fairy tale, I love mythology, particularly Greek and Norse. Both have such fascinating characters and stories that I don’t know which one I like more. With this book, I didn’t have to choose.

It follows Euthalia, a young woman captured by viking raiders and forced to marry a dragon god. Despite how this sounds, Euthalia actually comes to discover the dragon god, named Vidar, is quiet kind and gentle. Yet, their love is unconventional. Stricken by a curse, Vidar warns Euthalia never to look at him in the light. Euthalia breaks this promise and he leaves her. She eventually goes on a quest to find him, all while preventing the prosphesied Ragnarok from ever occurring.

Along the way, Euthalia tells Greek tales to the Norse Gods, making the story a unique blending of the two distinct mythologies. The execution of Loki’s character, a primary force in the novel, is exquisite while other gods and goddesses are also fleshed out. Don’t know the myths? Don’t worry. You don’t need to. Just enjoy the surprising, sweet, and bonkers journey this takes you on.

1. Trick – Natalia Jaster

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Set in a world ruled by the kings and queens of the four seasons, this entertaining and thoughtful romp pivots between the dual viewpoints of Briar, the level-headed princess of autumn and Poet, a jester of spring whose clever wit is matched only by his deviant bedroom antics. Considering his reputation, Briar instantly takes a disliking to the charismatic jester. After a creature attacks them in the forest, Briar gets wounded attempting to protect Poet and is taken back to a cottage where he reluctantly reveals his biggest kept secret. She starts to gradually lower her guard down while Poet also begins to see her in a new light. Like a flower in spring, a romance slowly blossoms, even at the risk of losing the things they hold dear. Are they willing to risk it all for true love?

I’m going to be honest with you. Brace yourself. This is the best book I’ve ever read. Hands down. While it is more NA (New Adult), than it is YA due to the mature content, it nevertheless is a funny, charming, steamy novel with two leads whose chemistry is off the charts. It’s not Disney-friendly, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a great princess story.

Honorable Mention: The Perfect Fool – Bethany Zohner Herbert

If Trick turns you on to jesters, this romantic (though much cleaner) story is still incredibly funny, lighthearted, and swoony. Fans of The Princess Bride will really get a kick out of this romantic medieval tale.

Fantasy, fairy tales, and mythology are all well-represented in modern YA. These 4 tales are examples of crisp, intelligent writing, intriguing characters, and fascinating plotlines. Look for them at your next visit to the book store. You’ll be pleasantly surprised.

 

See you next time!

10 Most Anticipated Movies of 2018 – Part 2

Hey everyone,

It’s part 2 of my 10 Most Anticipated Movies of 2018, served up hot and ready. These are my Top 5 hyped flicks of the year. Let’s see what they are, shall we?

5. Incredibles 2

Incredibles is one of Pixar’s more memorable flicks, even among its impressive line-up. The adult humor mixed with the lovable Incredible family packs a punch and offers something for every age. The trailer definitely shows this same slant, as Mr. Incredible is forced to be the parent to Jack-Jack while mom’s away saving the world. Honestly, I’m not sure how the franchise will do as it’s aged so much since 2004, but the fact that it starts right where the last one left off, with the Incredibles pitted against the Underminer is a great way to transition audiences back into the action and move us forward in time. Will it be Incredible? We’ll have to wait and see.

4. Jurassic Park: Fallen Kingdom

For me, Jurassic Park has fallen — from grace. I hated Jurassic World. Uh, that movie irritates me. The climactic dino fight was epic, I’ll give it that. But the kids in those pods? C’mon! And I’m sorry, neither Chris Pratt nor Bryce Dallas Howard did anything with their roles. They just stood there, basically. So why is this #4 on my list? It’s Jurassic Park, people, okay? Regardless of how the last movie went, there’s so much potential for this action-packed series to make up for its missteps. Dinosaurs don’t get old. Well, okay, they do get old, they became extinct, but they’re still fascinating to watch on screen. And I’m praying the return of the charming Dr. Ian Malcolm can save this franchise (we love you, Jeff Goldblum!)

3. X-Men: Dark Phoenix

Superhero movies blow me away these days. Whether it’s the hilarious humor and heart-pounding action of Thor: Ragnarok, the ragtag adventures of the Guardians of the Galaxy, or the incredible multi-hero brawl in Captain America: Civil War, we’ve got some heavy-hitting moments over the last few years. X-Men is the dark horse superhero franchise in all of this, and so is its next film (literally), Dark Phoenix. I really enjoyed the original X-Men of the early 2000s, but when the franchise went back in time, I wasn’t thrilled.

X-Men: Days of Future Past changed all of that. I loved how fun that entry was, the way it played with time, and the addition of the adorable Quicksilver (not to be confused with the less adorable version we got in Avengers: Age of Ultron.) X-Men: Apocalypse took a step down again, but this third (prequel? sequel? reboot? huh?) may just be able to make up for the mistake that was X-Men: The Last Stand. Jean Grey deserves a better ending. Fingers crossed this Phoenix rises from the ashes (had to do it!)

2. Bohemian Rhapsody

Finally, finally, finally. Ever since 2010 when the first inklings of this movie came about (when Sacha Baron Cohen was attached), I have been dying to see this picture. Queen is my favorite band of all time, and Freddie Mercury, the greatest male voice this world has ever known. His campy, flamboyant nature only added to his mystique, and I’ve wanted to see someone portray his larger than life persona to the fullest. The minute I heard Rami Malek was chosen to replace Sacha, I cheered. I was excited about SBC, but the project drastically changed in tone since his involvement, and I couldn’t have chosen anyone better than Malek. He clearly looks like Freddie and we haven’t seen all he’s capable of yet as an actor. This could be just the role he needs to break out. Thank God it’s Christmas Day 2018 that this baby comes out!

Before we get to number 1, here are some of my honorable mentions:

Ant-Man and the Wasp

  • Liked the first one; didn’t love it. Still curious to see how the story expands.

Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again!

  • This would have made the list if not for that trailer. Meryl’s dead! No, just no.

Ready Player One

  • Wreck-It-Ralph brings the cameos, and so does this one. But the trailer is so dark, it’s hard to see any of them. Hey, is that the Joker and Harley Quinn? Yes!

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

  • Not a Harry Potter fan, but I did like Fantastic Beasts (like, not love.) With Johnny Depp on-board (he still is, right?), this could be an exciting new outing for Newt and his pals.

 

1. Avengers: Infinity War

You had to know this would be #1. After setting up an epic showdown between good and evil, the Avengers vs. Thanos, this will be the culmination (well, the culmination before the real finale in 2019) that brings in the Guardians of the Galaxy for a superhero mega-battle. Look at all the superheroes just on this picture alone. Everybody’s here to kick intergalactic booty, and I for one cannot stand the wait! Luckily, the release date moved up a week to April 27th, so that helps.

Who’s good? Who’s bad? Who’ll live? Who’ll die? What will happen to Loki? To Bucky? To Tony? Who knows? This clash of the titans is going to be the blockbuster of the spring and will likely break some major box-office records, so be prepared for a mind-blowing experience! To Infinity and Beyond!

 

Well, that’s the list! I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I did compiling it. What are you looking forward to this year? Tell me in the comments. And have an awesome time at the movies!

10 Most Anticipated Movies of 2018 – Part 1

Happy February, everybody!

Yeah, not the happiest of months, I know. So in order to liven it up, I’ve compiled a list of my 10 Most Anticipated films of 2018. Last year, I had a pretty rockin’ list and those movies turned out great, better than expected. So, I decided to do it again. Like last time, I’m splitting it up into 2 posts. Look forward to part 2 in the coming weeks. For now, let’s start off the list. . .

10. Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2

Unlike many people, I was not a big fan of Wreck-It-Ralph. I loved the concept and the numerous video game references, but it just didn’t have that special sauce and I soon forgot about it. So why am I excited for the sequel? Princesses! I’m not joking. Wreck-it-Ralph 2 is reportedly going to have every single Disney princess in the film. Not only that, it’s also going to feature Star Wars characters and even have appearances by a few Marvel characters (because, you know, Disney owns everything now!) Honestly, the amount of cameos is why I’m hyped about this one. Sorry, Ralph!

9. Mary Poppins Returns

Similarly to Wreck it Ralph 2, I’m also not a huge Mary Poppins fan (although I kind of dig “Let’s Go Fly a Kite!”.) This sequel however has me pumped for 2 reasons:

1.) Emily Blunt is stepping into the iconic shoes of Julie Andrews (and I wouldn’t have chosen anyone else.)

2.) Lin-Manuel Miranda is starring in it! With his natural talent for song, I can’t wait to see what he’s going to add to the film.

Hopefully this one soars to the highest heights this December.

8. Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Okay, you had to know it was coming! This isn’t called Pop Culture Grinch for nothing, folks. This year, we’ll be treated to the likes of Benedict Cumberbatch voicing one of my favorite characters of all time. Why is it so low on the list then? It’s animated, that’s why! I love Jim Carrey’s manic portrayal in the live-action version, and no matter how excited I am to hear Cumberbatch’s deep voice give life to the Grinch, it’s still not the same as seeing the person in the fur (uh, flesh.) Plus, Illumination Entertainment is behind it and while I love Despicable Me and its sequels, they have not had a good run with Dr. Seuss (*cough* The Lorax *cough*.) But, I’ve got my fingers crossed that it’ll be half as fun as the live-action film. If anything, I like the Grinch’s design.

7. Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation

Drac and the gang our back in this third outing in which the group heads out on a luxury cruise ship for monsters. While on board, Drac meets its captain Ericka and a relationship blossoms. Turns out Ericka is actually a descendant of the great Van Helsing. Obviously, the “stakes” are high in this one! I joke. No, but I love the concept. We all want Drac to find a match, and who better than a relative of one of the most notorious vampire-killers of all time? The inherent romantic tension makes this entry an interesting one in the franchise, and one that may prove to have more bite than its predecessors.

6. I Feel Pretty

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Originally, this would have been the Barbie movie, but since that got pushed back, I decided to put this clever feel-good comedy about inner beauty in its place. After hitting her head, an insecure woman named Renee (Amy Schumer) forgets how she feels about herself and suddenly discovers she is as beautiful as she sees other women. Inspired by her new outlook, she starts embracing life, and finding out how great it can be when you’re secure in your own self-image. Great concept, excellent casting in Schumer, this one’s going to be the movie all women need to see.

 

Get ready for part 2 next time!

 

 

Best of the Year – 2017

Hi everyone,

2017 has been a year of surprises. The biggest one? That I actually enjoyed a lot of the things that came out of it! Movies in particular were better than they’ve been in years thanks to entries like Beauty and the Beast and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.

Today, I’m revealing my absolute favorites in 5 different categories – Best Movie, Best Song, Best Album/Soundtrack, Best Television Show, and Best Book. I’d love to hear your favorites too. Without further ado, here are my favs!

Best Movie:

Thor: Ragnarok

What can I say about this masterpiece that hasn’t already been said? A true “marvel”, Thor: Ragnarok is everything superhero nerds like me want — action, humor, style, did I mention humor? Thor 3 is full of one-liners and one-two punches. Not only that, it’s also brimming with characterization, turning what was essentially the most mediocre of the Big 4 Avengers into a star. Loki is also treated perfectly, vain, conflicted, deceitful. Brava! Oh, and all the new characters – Valkyrie, Grandmaster, Hela, Skurge — are dynamic and fun. It’s a non-stop joyride, and you’re crazy not to get on it!

Best Song:

Bad Liar – Selena Gomez

Earlier this year, I did a post called 10 Best Songs of 2017 (So Far). My top pick was, and still is, “Bad Liar”. We’ve had some great songs since June (“Feels” by Calvin Harris, “How Long” by Charlie Puth, “Thunder” by Imagine Dragons), but none compare to Selena Gomez’s clever ode to unspoken feelings. It sounds like nothing else on the radio, so merely for that, I like it. Selena’s voice also sounds great, it’s creative, and I hope to hear more songs like it in 2018.

Best Album/Soundtrack:

Tie: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 soundtrack and Anastasia Soundtrack

 

This was seriously a toss-up. The Guardians of the Galaxy 2 soundtrack kicks intergalactic booty with another powerhouse sampling of 70s hits including “The Chain” by Fleetwood Mac and “Mr. Blue Sky” by ELO. We are immersed in the film’s stellar moments thanks to Director James Gunn’s excellent song choices. On the other hand, Anastasia picks up right where the 1997 film left off with bright interpretations of classics like “Journey to the Past” and “Learn To Do It.” Plus, the same songwriters from the original film, Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, include new songs such as “In my Dreams” and “The Neva Flows”, crafting an enchanting musical embrace that takes you way back in time. Both go to show that some of the best music today lies in the past. Whether you’re in the mood for sweeping ballads or classic rock, these are two albums you definitely need to listen to.

Best Television Show:

The Orville

My most anticipated show of 2017 turned out to be one of my absolute favorites ever! And that’s saying a lot because I’ve seen a ton of shows. Seth MacFarlane is one of those guys you either love or hate. I personally love him! Family Guy aside, he’s funny, cheeky, dark, strange, and yet surprisingly heart-felt (Ted and Ted 2.) My original expectations for Orville, as they were for many people, revolved around the show being an out-and-out Star Trek parody. Boy, were we wrong! Orville is more like a space satire, a hodge-podge of funny episodes and impressive subversive episodes that critique societal norms.

What? From Seth MacFarlane? Yes! And I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love how Seth often takes a backseat as his character Ed Mercer, while his crew have unique, individual episodes of their own. He’s made a family at Fox, and I’m looking forward to seeing Season 2 blast off next year!

Best Book:

Caraval – Stephanie Garber

Before this year, I never picked up a brand new book for the simple reason that — I’m cheap. I’d rather wait until the books is on sale. But this story, I had to have right away. . .and I’m so glad I spent the money. This magical YA novel follows a young girl named Scarlett as she races through the mystical town of Caraval in order to rescue her kidnapped sister from the clutches of the elusive Legend. It’s a heart-pounding journey through a dark, fantastical land filled with love, danger, and sacrifice. This is YA at its finest people, and by a debut author no less! If you read one book next year, pick this one up. Oh, and it’s getting a sequel next year too. . .so there’s that!

 

And that’s 2017 for ya! Compiling this list was a lot of fun and I really enjoyed sharing my favorites with you guys. But these are just a few of my favorite things. I’d love to know yours. So please share in the comments.

Have a great holiday (hope no Grinches steal your presents!)

Top 5 Underrated Animated Films

Hey Peoples!

What are your favorite animated movies? The Lion King? Frozen? Shrek, maybe?

Rather than harp on how great these films are (and they are), I thought I’d talk about 5 animated movies that deserve more credit. While not all of these films are perfect, they have moments of brilliance. These moments are definitely enough to deserve another look.

To show you what I mean, underneath each film, I list the element that makes each of these films worth a watch. Then, I follow that up with some discussion. And away we go!

 

5.) Strange Magic

 

Best Part: Unconventional Romance

Okay, I know what you’re thinking. What is this movie doing here? It’s got terrible reviews and was a complete bomb for George Lucas (yes, the George Lucas.) The bland cover songs don’t help either.

However, it’s the core love story that makes it worth a watch. Strange Magic is an animated re-imagining of Shakespeare’s “A Mid-Summer Night’s Dream.” The movie is full of magic and misdirection. Charming romantic entanglements elevate it from its basic plot-line and characters.

The main love story is the one that stands out the most. No spoilers, but our heroine Marianne (voiced by Evan Rachel Wood) falls for the guy you least expect. This creates a really fun twist that benefits the movie overall. So, for the combination of good CGI-Animation, an assortment of average-but-nice songs, and a satisfying surprise, Strange Magic is worth checking out.

 

4.) Hercules

 

Best Part: Meg’s Story

Most people would say The Hunchback of Notre Dame is one of Disney’s most underrated films, primarily for its darker tone and bittersweet ending. I agree, for the most part. However, Hercules has one thing Hunchback doesn’t. . .Meg!

In my opinion, Marvel’s Thor films are better when seen through Loki’s eyes, rather than Thor’s. The story is more compelling, and the stakes are higher. The same goes for Hercules. After Hercules gets his goal of becoming admired by the world, there’s nothing left for him to do. That’s where Meg steps in. Without her, the movie would just fizzle out.

Meg is a slinky, sarcastic vixen who, despite her manipulation, cares deeply for Hercules. She’s not a typical good-two-shoes Disney princess, which already makes her stand out. But it’s her backstory that is so fascinating. In the movie, she pledges herself to Hades to save the man she loves from death, who ultimately ends up dumping her for another chick. Now, Meg is eternally bound to serve Hades. She gets the opportunity to be released, if she can just lure Hercules for Hades to destroy. Too bad love gets in the way.

It’s Meg’s motivation, it’s her goals, it’s her doubts, and it’s her sacrifice[s] that make this movie better than it seems. If you have seen Hercules, or if you haven’t, focus on Meg the next time you watch. I think you’ll find it to be a much more rewarding experience.

 

3.) Anastasia

 

Best Part: Soundtrack

I mentioned this movie’s soundtrack on My Top 10 Movie Soundtracks list, and there’s a reason it shows up again here. The music is amazing! Every song pops. The tracklist is so memorable, it makes up for the movie itself.

Anastasia is almost as good as a Disney princess movie. Almost. The heroine is likeable, there’s romance, and thanks to Bartok (voiced by Hank Azaria), there’s humor as well. My problems with the film stem from the animation of the characters. The art style is fantastic – when it pertains to the environment. It’s less impressive with the character models of Anastasia and Dimitri. Their faces just aren’t right.

But, luckily, where the movie stumbles in animation, it makes up for with its soundtrack. In fact, the soundtrack is so good, Anastasia is now a Broadway musical. Just take a listen to my favorite song off the soundtrack, “At the Beginning”, a duet sung by Richard Marx and Donna Lewis and you’ll see what I mean:

Next time Anastasia catches your eye, don’t watch. Just listen!

2.) Rise of the Guardians

Best Part: Jack Frost

If you haven’t seen Rise of the Guardians, this holiday season, it’s time. When I first saw R.O.T.G. it didn’t impress me. I found the character interpretations rather strange. A Russian Santa Claus? An Australian Easter Bunny? Odd, don’t you think?

That is, except for Jack Frost.

Jack was the sole saving grace of this film at the time. While few movies have utilized the character of Jack Frost (my favorite being Martin Short’s devilish version in Santa Clause 3), R.O.T.G. has the definitive version. Jack is charming and mischievous, and has a strong back-story.

In the movie he’s a teenager who falls into a lake trying to save his sister and becomes the cold mischief-maker that is Jack Frost. He joins the Guardians to help take down Pitch, a villain bent on bringing eternal darkness to the world. A solid plot-line that’s enlivened by Jack Frost’s involvement.

Another thing that really brings Jack to life is his voice actor. Chris Pine voices Jack, and he completely sells it. Due to the age difference, Chris’ voice makes Jack sound older than he is and he captures that sarcastic spirit that makes Jack so lovable. Honestly, he wouldn’t have been my first choice, but after hearing him, I wouldn’t want anyone else.

Overall, it’s one character that makes this movie well-worth a watch. Next time Christmas comes along watch Rise of the Guardians and try not to fall in love with Jack Frost!

 

1.) Megamind

 

Best Part: Love Story/Emotion

My #1 underrated animated film is this little gem that came out 7 years ago. Megamind is a criminal, and his movie is criminally overlooked. His case is a case of bad timing. In 2010, the year Dreamworks released Megamind, Illumination Entertainment also released the first entry in their juggernaut franchise, Despicable Me. Not only that, Despicable Me came out months ahead of Megamind. Both films revolve around two supervillains who undergo a dramatic change.

What works in Despicable Me is the familial bond between Gru and the little girls he comes to love. What works in Megamind is the romance. When I first saw both of these movies, I actually preferred Megamind for two reasons.

1.) There was a love story. Sure, Gru gets the girl in Despicable Me 2, but I never felt his relationship with Lucy (whose name I had to look up, I couldn’t even remember it) was well-developed or memorable. That’s not the case with Megamind and Roxanne Ritchie. These are two people who need each other. Megamind wants to be loved and Roxanne doesn’t want to be alone in a time where evil is reigning over the city. When Megamind disguises himself as a human, we get a glimpse of his own humanity and this shows the character for who he really is, which leads me to my second reason.

2. Emotion. We get so much emotion from these characters, it almost breaks your heart. When Roxanne discovers Megamind has tricked her, when Megamind discovers Tigthen is truly evil, when Minion (yes, ironic, huh?) worries about Megamind and their crumbling friendship, sadness is visualized so often. You really start to care about these characters because they care so much about what they’ve done and who they’ve hurt along the way.

That’s why I love this movie. It could be funnier at times, yes, but Megamind works far better as a animated dramedy than a pure comedy. The humor is sporadic and light, dashed over the drama at its heart. And this movie has a lot of heart. So watch it with fresh eyes and you’ll find a much deeper story lingering under a blue disguise.

 

What’s your favorite underrated animated film? Let me know in the comments.

Thanks for reading! See you again, real soon!