Category Archives: Star Rapture Blog

Show and Prove

sofiaquintero-showandproveSHOW AND PROVE is a powerful, gritty book that is told from two different perspectives — Smiles’ and Nike’s, two teens in the South Bronx in 1983. While some big changes are going on in the world, the two best friends are seeing changes come to their own lives. Not only is Smiles involved in a summer camp counselor rivalry with Cookie, but he is also thinking about joining the Five Percenters. Nike has struggles of his own — he likes Sara, a sweet new camp counselor, plus he wants to win the breakdancing competition and has to face his own ignorance. As the summer wears on, the two find purpose in their lives as they overcome struggles and rethink their assumptions about people in their community.

Author Sofia Quintero knows her characters and the world of 1983 Bronx through and through. She jumps right into the characters’ slang and voices, and I initially had read it especially slowly and carefully to anchor myself in their world. After a few chapters though, it became easy to picture Nike and Smiles — and what vibrant, unique and flawed characters they are. Readers can’t but help love them for who they are, even with their multiple shortcomings. The way that Nike and Smiles transform throughout the book is incredibly rewarding to experience; the characters feel so real that I feel pride for how much they’ve grown.

Though the novel is set more than three decades ago, the story feels like it could happen today. Perhaps with the turbulent world we live in today, the themes of friendship, respect, passion, compassion and countering prejudice are all the more important and relevant. SHOW AND PROVE is an instant classic with all the staying power and youthful vigor of hip-hop for generations to come.

First Published @Teenreads

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Cas & Dylan REVIEW

 

Richard Dreyfuss and Tatiana Maslany are pictured in a scene from the film "Cas & Dylan." THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Chris Large ORG XMIT: cpt123

Richard Dreyfuss and Tatiana Maslany are pictured in a scene from the film “Cas & Dylan.” THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Chris Large 

When terminally ill Dr. Cas Pepper meets Dylan Morgan, a young woman with big dreams stuck between a rock and a hard place, no matter how he tries to shake her, he can’t. Dylan hitches a ride with Cas on his journey “west,” where she plans to become a published writer and he plans to enjoy the last part of his life. Their relationship, though rocky at first with Cas pleading that Dylan would shut up, fits the unusual-but-sweet friendship cliché as the two find each other in their loneliness.

I usually can’t stand “roadtrip” stories, but Cas & Dylan was so skillfully written I couldn’t help but love the movie. The poster looks like it’s advertising some hokey “Western” comedy, and while there is a lot of Bluegrass Country music played, it’s much more than that. Screenwriter Jessie Gabe dared to bring the audiences to unexpected destinations in moral dilemmas and serious content matter such as suicide, death, and abuse. Gabe manages to balance that out with dry humor infused in the banter between Cas and Dylan.

The film relies entirely on the two actors’ shoulders—and they pulled it off brilliantly. Tatiana Maslany (Dylan) delivers every line with perfect sass, wit, and optimism—I wished I had even a fraction of Dylan’s daring spunk and spontaneity. Richard Dreyfuss’s performance as Cas brought tears to my eyes even after the credits stopped rolling. It wasn’t an easy ending, and that is what makes the movie different from the Hollywood tropes it employs. Suitable for older teens due to language and heavy themes.

 

First Published At Crixit.com

Beyond The Mask REVIEW

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Set in the turmoil of the Revolutionary War, Beyond the Mask explores the fictional tale of an East India Company assassin’s quest to clear his ledger. Betrayed by his own company, Will Reynolds sets out for a new life armed with a new identity. His new occupation as a vicar does not suit him in the least, but on the plus side, he meets a charming young lady, Charlotte. He soon travels to the Americas where he must foil a murderous plot aimed at the founding fathers and win Charlotte’s trust and affection, even as his past is being uncovered.

With action, romance, and good morals, Beyond the Mask tells quite the interesting historical-fiction plot. We get to meet Benjamin Franklin with his quirky bits of wisdom and we even get a brief scene with George Washington. However, the movie moved at a much too slow pace, especially when there wasn’t any explosions or fights on screen. Even with a wholesome message about forgiveness and redemption, the film can’t redeem itself from its over stretched runtime and obvious CGI backgrounds.

 

First Published at Crixit.com

From page to stage: the hero’s journey

tumblr_inline_nk6zghW1Bd1rh8jpsWriting is a superpower, and it comes with its own high stakes.

It was hard for me to imagine that words on a page—mostly written for my private entertainment—would be projected on the stage of Symphony Hall, a gorgeous theater with high ceilings and velvet cushioned seats. I had no idea what it would feel like to see the characters that I had written four months ago strut around stage, taking audiences on an emotional journey. I couldn’t fathom what it would be like to be transported into the setting I had scrawled on a piece of paper. And I was definitely not prepared for the overwhelming sense of pride I felt as applause, whoops, and cheers filled the house.

This was the first year that OCSA’s Creative Writing Conservatory collaborated with the Acting Conservatory for the Annual Playfest. My play MEET & GREET, about a chance encounter with a character at Disneyland, was among the nine plays chosen to be directed by Acting students and performed by actors of all conservatories. The Playfest, themed One Act of Heroism: An Evening of Original One Acts, ran for two nights, Feb. 20 and 21.

As soon as the Creative Writing playwrights, including myself, were notified that our plays had been selected, we immediately met up with the prospective student directors. It took a great deal of bravery to pitch our scripts to directors, hold our breaths, and hope that someone liked our plays. The directors pitched their vision back to us, and the collaboration between writer and director began. I was blessed with a fantastic director, senior Tara Byk. As a first time director, she was a bit daunted at the prospect but also very excited to sit on the other side of auditions with me next to her.

“It’s cool how you know the person who writes the script,” said Byk. “You can see how the ideas sort of formed. When you know your writer, you can ask them questions and know all the answers.”

tumblr_inline_nk8x4cF4p71rh8jpsWriters were invited to attend as many rehearsals as possible. We had the opportunity to revise our scripts, and the director-writer super team allowed for last minute changes to make a particular line sound better or to switch blocking around.

“It’s incredibly heartening to see [my script] brought to life,” said Sophie Neely, a junior Creative Writer. “My director and I had a very open communication line so if I felt like something needed to be shifted in a different direction, he was very open to that.”

The flexibility of the organic process turned out to be a tricky thing to handle, but the end product was remarkable, something that had never been done before.

“I was excited,” said Mr. Michael Fountain, one of the Acting Faculty Directors. “There were moments of, ‘We don’t have a lot of time,’ or ‘This is going to present some interesting challenges,’ but for the most part it was pure excitement and we were ready to go for it and see what happens.”

Though the writers’ presence did add a certain pressure for actors, it pushed them to be better performers.

“Now that I’m performing for the writer, I need to serve that script to the best of my ability and honor that writer who created this remarkably beautiful script,” said Hayden Allcorn, who was cast in two plays. “It is my job as the actor to tell the world every single word, every syllable, and every punctuation mark that was in that script.”

For Mr. Pete Uribe, one of the Acting Faculty Directors, seeing students take ownership of their art and mentoring young writers and directors was the best part of the experience.

“It’s been fantastic to empower both the writers and the directors. Almost all the work you see up there, it’s theirs,” he said. “We threw them into the pool, gave them a few tools and said ‘swim,’ and I think everyone has swam fantastically.”

The night was filled with laughter and heartbreaks as each play presented a different spin on what it meant to be a hero. Everything from the transition music to the costume designs to the themes in the plays paid homage to the classic superhero genre. Like iconic superheroes leave an impression on our minds, the action-packed evening left the audience in awe of the evening’s heroes: the writers, directors, actors, and set designers.

tumblr_inline_nk8vghPCUC1rh8jps“The best part is seeing how many people we could get involved and how many people are happy right now,” said Ms. Tira Palmquist, Creative Writing Faculty Dramaturge. She looked around at a lobby full of audience members congratulating cast members. “Being a playwright, I know how great it is when you can see your work fully realized and see how actors enjoy the words that you’ve written. Having a director bring that to life with you is really gratifying.”

At the end of the night, I realized that though I may not be an archetypal superhero with martial arts skills and a cape, I do have a deadly superpower. Stakes are high in that everything is built from my Hero’s Journey, but it is my job to fight off the bad guys of doubt and insecurity. It is my sworn duty to do my best, and now I fully understand what a great hero was once told: “With great power comes great responsibility.”

This year’s One Act plays were: SUPPORTING CHARACTER by Lani Kording; AMERICA’s NEXT TOP VILLAIN by Emma Kuli; FAME IS FOR THE FOOLISH by Jerica Dunton; SUPER HERO CREW by Emily Normandin-Parker; HOW TO BE A HERO by Chayse Peña and Katie Boër; FIRST CHAPTER OF JAMES: SEVENTEEN by Sophie Neely; MEET & GREET by Cassandra Hsiao; BRAVE FACES SAVE LIVES by Bailey Saewert; and MY BROTHER IS A SUPERHERO by Michelle Vera.

First Published @ LATIMESHIGHSCHOOLINSIDER

Ginnifer Goodwin Talks To Us About Her Love For All Things Disney!

IMG_3830It’s no secret that Ginnifer Goodwin, star of ABC’s Once Upon A Time, is a massive Disneyphile. In fact, she couldn’t be happier if she worked for Disney the rest of her life. Playing iconic character Snow White on OUAT is already a dream come true, and now as the voice of Fawn in the 6th installment of the Tinker Bell franchise, Goodwin has experience in both live-action and animation acting for Disney—every actor’s dream.

In Tinker Bell and the NeverBeast, animal fairy Fawn meets a beast unbeknownst to the history of Pixie Hollow. Though he appears menacing at first with his armadillo-like tail, giant teeth, and mysterious green eyes, Fawn discovers his playful side and affectionately names him Gruff. However, the rest of the fairy world sees him as a danger to life as they know it. It’s up to Fawn to learn how to use both her heart and her head to save both Gruff and Pixie Hollow.

Opposing Fawn is Nyx, a scout fairy determined to do what it takes to protect Pixie Hollow. Neither Fawn or Nyx is wrong, and this Tinker Bell movie does not have a defined “bad guy.” Goodwin spoke about how in Once Upon A Time and in other media, there is a continuous trend of redefining what it means to be an antagonist.

There’s so much information accessible to all of us now about everything that I think the world is becoming less and less black-and-white. We are understanding that people’s reasons behind the choices that they’re making because they’re so many outlets for them to express themselves. Our storytelling has to reflect that or it wouldn’t be relevant anymore.

Tinker Bell has certainly evolved to be much more relevant in that respect. The success of the franchise proves that audiences are enraptured by these characters who are far from being paper cutouts. Goodwin shared that the franchise tugs at heartstrings equally as the feature films that are released theatrically.

They appeal to absolutely any age, and this particular movie to either gender. They have a way of teaching morals to young people in a way that isn’t preachy or self-conscious. You want to live in these worlds with these characters and you want to be friends with them. They’re so creative and they really take your imaginations to its limit. What’s not to like about that?

Goodwin and Fawn share many personality traits—kind, compassionate, impulsive. It doesn’t escape OUAT fans that her character on the TV show also shares a similar personality.

Today I’ve thought about the fact that coming from a fantasy world where anything is possible—which is the world that I’ve always played—certainly helped liberate myself for Fawn’s world. As far as her qualities go, I think that all my characters really share a lot of the same characteristics and that just comes with my playing them and being cast to play certain aspects of myself over and over again, which I really enjoy.

Goodwin said that she would be happy playing any character in the future—as long as it was Disney.

I will happily peep as a mouse in the corner. I’ve told [Disney] repeatedly, if they will continue to hire me, I will happily do nothing else again ever. I far prefer this life to any other… It’s an honor. Working for Disney is the pinnacle. I do not think there is better storytelling than the storytelling at Disney. I don’t think anyone has been able to tell stories with so much heart and evolved messages… and take such flawed characters and make them so admirable and relatable at the same time as Disney has. They’ve done this through history, beginning with Walt and continuing through the work of John Lasseter.

Ever since she moved to Los Angeles in 2003, she has auditioned for all of Disney’s animated films, and after ten years, it paid off. This truly shows her love for Disney, as well as the unspeakable amount of merchandise in her house.

I have a lot of all Disney merchandise and was told I have to get that under control.

She teased what’s coming next for second half of Once Upon A Time’s 4th season, picking up in March 2015.

I think it will be one of our darker half seasons, which I’m ecstatic about because I went back to work full time post-baby for the second half of the season. I’ve gotten to be far more a part of the second half storyline. It’s ruled by the Queens of Darkness, the trio of terror.

First Published @ Fanlala.com

Get The Scoop Behind ‘Tinkerbell & The Legend of the NeverBeast’ with Cassandra Hsiao!

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Tinkerbell Press Day
What is the secret of the successful Disney franchises? Not only has Disney mastered on-screen theater takeovers, but also the realm of straight-to-DVD movies. One of these franchises depicting Tinker Bell and her fairy friends has been extremely successful, literally hitting home with an audience of mostly pre-teen girls. However the 6th and latest installment, Tinker Bell and the NeverBeast, is sure to appeal to both genders and the whole family. Makul Wigert, the producer of the movie, spoke about why Disney movies resonate so well with audiences.

[They’ve] got an emotional part to [them]. They’re funny with both adventure and drama. We’ve had a fantastic run with Tinker Bell and her friends in creating stories about friendship and trust. It has always been stories for families to share with each other. They reflect qualities and attributes we all aspire to have.

Tinker Bell and the NeverBeast follows Fawn, an impulsive animal fairy who has a big heart. When she discovers a beast unknown to the fairies of Pixie Hollow, her heart and her head are divided on what to do. The Scout fairies that protect Pixie Hollow are lead by Nyx, who will take any measures to keep fairies safe. Nyx’s practicality juxtaposes with Fawn’s compassion.

Director Steve Loter was inspired by his family life in the making of the movie. He identifies most with Nyx as a parent.

Nyx’s point of view is [similar to] my job in taking care of everyone. I may be strict and I’m a helicopter parent. But the thing is, it’s a point of view. I may be a little too drastic in my discipline. It contrasts with Fawn. Fawn just sees that life is wonderful, whereas Nyx says to beware of things. It was important that Nyx is a character that didn’t come across as a villain. It’s an emotional story. I did want to tell the honest story of what I’ve experience with my family.

In the movie, there is no true “bad guy”—or at least one we would think of when we say the word “villain.” We see less and less mustache-twirling destroy-the-world type of antagonists in books, movies, and TV. Loter spoke about why there is no clear-cut villain in Tinker Bell and the NeverBeast.

It’s more honest storytelling… You’ve got characters who have strong beliefs—and they’re not wrong! Nyx is right—you do need to protect these fairies. But in the same way that Fawn needs to start thinking with her head, Nyx also has to start thinking with her heart. She learns compassion by the end of the film. For me, it’s a more honest version… Everyone has facets and shades to them.

The filmmakers wanted to make the minuscule fairy world relatable to audiences. Loter’s 8-year-old daughter is a gymnast and her gymnast friends wanted to see fairies who were like them—physical and tough. Loter was determined to represent the gymnasts in the movie.

That’s where the scouts came from! It’s a group of fairies that are physical. They do parkour. They jump. They’re able. I would like to hope that children see aspects of themselves in all the characters.

One of the new characters introduced in the movie is Gruff, the mysterious NeverBeast that is awakened once each thousand years. Audiences will definitely fall in love with Gruff, a hybrid of a bison, hippo, rhino, and triceratops with the qualities of an energetic puppy. Mike Greenholt, the animation supervisor, said that it took 70 versions of Gruff to finally arrive at the perfect form for his character.

As we were going into animation we had the challenge of making this fantasy creature feel like he was a living, breathing animal.

Though Gruff went through many evolutions, the final lovable product was worth it.

Tinker Bell and the NeverBeast is out on Blu-Ray and DVD in stores March 3, 2015!

First Published @ Fanlala.com

The Cracks in the Kingdom

index-2.aspxJaclyn Moriarty
Ages 12+
Reviewed by Cassandra
The Cracks in the Kingdom is author Jaclyn Moriarty’s second book in the trilogy of The Colors of Madeleine, and like the first, Moriarty’s words dance with the whimsicality of a poet. This sequel picks up right where the first left off, with Madeleine in the Real World communicating with farm boy Elliot Baranski in another universe, a kingdom called Cello. Cello’s royal family is missing, and Princess Ko has three weeks to get them back. She gathers a Youth Alliance from across the kingdom to help her crack the case of the missing royals. The Princess, Elliot, and Madeleine must all work together to save the family and bring them home to Cello. Every sentence is a breath of magic, as Moriarty’s talent lies in seamlessly weaving metaphors and similes into her descriptions. She practically paints with words in her magical realism novel. Her creativity shines through in little things such as the “Color” attacks on Cello, in which the colors are some sort of creature, each color with its own attributes.

Readers are drawn in immediately in this hard-to-put-down book with witty dialogue and an intricate plot. Madeleine and Elliot’s friendship reflects the struggles of adolescence in a realistic way, yet the morals are never too heavy-handed. It’s a rewarding read as Moriarty brings the plot full circle in the end.

First Publish@ County of Los Angeles Public Library
Genre: Fantasy, Romance

How To Train Your Dragon 2 Movie Review

ImageSequel. The word often makes people cringe, as more often than not, studios are in for the money rather than the quality. In my mind, only certain sequels are up to par or even better than the original, bringing up names like Toy Story 2, The Empire Strikes Back, and now, How to Train Your Dragon 2.

It’s five years since the first movie. Hiccup, Astrid, and their friends have transformed Berk into a dragon-friendly island where Vikings participate in a Quidditch-like sport that involves tossing sheep in the air. Hiccup and beloved dragon Toothless are charting unknown territory when they discover a villain’s plan to build a dragon army. With a new addition to the family, the Vikings go to battle against a fearsome enemy to protect their dragons.

I went into this movie with high expectations based on raving reviews I read, and HTTYD2 did not disappoint. The plot incorporated it all—humor, heart, action, adventure, whimsy. With the addition of new dragons and new territory, the animators created an exotic, gorgeous world filled with unparalleled creations and ideas that popped to life especially in 3D. I couldn’t help but marvel at lush green oasis backdrops and the stunning flight sequences over the ocean. The orchestral score by John Powell outdid the first movie’s. HTTYD2 is the best DreamWorks Animation movie in a decade, with a little something for everyone. Not only will children enjoy it, but adults will, too—I heard grown adults gleefully chortling one moment and sniffling the next. Hiccup’s struggles in finding himself and accepting a role of leadership are very relatable, and I’m sure young boys will find a bit of themselves reflected in our protagonist who relies on his wits and courage to defeat the bad guys.

First Published @http://crixit.com/review/movie/how-train-your-dragon-2

Getty Villa: Living Mythological History

IMG_0684The pool itself is painted an ocean blue, so the water in the main fountain glitters an impossibly luminous light cyan. The architecture is simply gorgeous, especially the miniature dome that houses the statue of Hercules, or Herukles (meaning glory of Hera). The tours are in-depth and the food at the cafe is scrumptiously delicious. It’s my first time at the Getty Villa, and like the McDonald’s slogan, I’m lovin’ it. There’s a balcony that overlooks the road winding up here, and from the top of the hill, I can see the ocean. As I trip over my own feet in trying to keep up with the tour guide, who is showing us the highlights of the Villa, I realize the difference between this replica of an ancient upper-class Roman house, and the Getty Museum. Aside from the obvious in accommodating fewer paintings and more sculptures, this Villa specifically focuses on one of my favorite history cultures and pieces of literature, the era of the Greeks and Romans.

Of course, J.P. Getty built the Villa from his inspiration of the Villa of the Papyri, and so the history I feel resonate deep inside of me from the sights of the columns and arches is merely conceived, existing only in my brain. However, the actual pieces of pottery and shreds of fabric are truly from that archaic time. I experience a sense of pride when I’m able to recognize the tour guide’s explanation of a carving that stems from tales of the Odyssey, and even more so when I can explain to my father about the three goddesses’ fight over the golden apple in The Judgment of Paris. I’ve read Homer’s The Odyssey as well as the Percy Jackson series, both of which have given me a strong foundation in the Greek version of Mount Olympus, but I’ve only barely begun to dive into the Roman version of the gods. They’re harsher, less compassionate, and more brutal than the Greek gods.

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At the front of the pool/fountain, a statue of greets us—it’s Hermes, I know this because of the wings attached to his ankles. I start up a competition with my brother to see who can find the most pieces of art depicting a god or goddess. We move from room to room, and I’m fascinated by the jewelry, with their extensive golden chains and heavy bangles. A delicate ring that seems to have golden embroidery catches my eye, and for a moment, wild caper plots run through my mind. Could I pull a heist and escape with that beautiful necklace around my neck? I gaze at the Greek and Roman coins, stamped with the faces of the gods/goddesses. I want the one with Athena seated on her throne holding a little winged creature, or even better, the tortoise minted on the island Aegina. During the tour, I relive the stories of the Trojan War, Orpheus and the sirens, Hercules and the 12 labors, Leda and the swan, and the “origin” story of how Earth and the Universe came to be. The tour guide teaches us how to “read” art—back then, the Greeks did not read traditional words and letters—they read through symbols of art. So much can be interpreted from a simple carving of a man with a crown and scepter on the side of a loutrophoros (vase used for washing purposes). The man is Zeus, of course, because only gods could sit on thrones (the Greeks didn’t have furniture) and only figures held in very high esteem were shown nude. DSC_0319

When the tour finishes, I ask the tour guide if she’s ever heard of Cassandra. She nods yes. “Cassandra was the daughter of Priam, the King of Troy,” she says. “She had the gift of prophecy—” “Curse of Apollo,” I add. The tour guide looks at me appraisingly. “She predicted the Trojan war, but nobody listened to her. Then Clytemnestra, wife of King Agamemnon and her lover, Aegisthus, killed both Cassandra and Agamemnon. It’s quite a sad story. That’s why I usually don’t tell it,” says the tour guide. I tell her my name is Cassandra and she says it’s a beautiful name. Certainly, I had alreadyDSC_0297 known the tragedy that happened to the princess, prophet of disaster and seductress of men. I suppose I just wanted to hear the tale again from a different perspective, in a different location where I can look upon the statue of Apollo and curse him for cursing Cassandra with that blasted gift of prophecy. It’s the same reason that I return to museums and look upon sculptures even though I already know the stories behind them. It’s real, living pieces of history that embodies their ideas of the deities, and seeing it first-hand at the Villa is a priceless experience.DSC_0277DSC_0293

DIVERGENT Movie Review

ImageBased on the best-selling novel by Veronica Roth, Divergenttakes place in the future in a seemingly perfect, utopian society where there are five factions, or categories, in which people develop a certain virtue (Dauntless, the brave; Erudite, the intelligent; Abnegation, the selfless; Amity, the peaceful; and Candor, the honest). 16-year-old Tris Prior is Abnegation-born. When she takes the test to help determine which faction she belongs in, her results come up inconclusive and she learns she is “Divergent.” Her mind cannot conform to a single way of thinking for long. She chooses Dauntless to hide herself within the dangerous, thrill-seeking faction, but when she discovers a scheme that will undermine her world, her life is not the only one that is in danger.

Inevitably, many critics will want to compare Divergent to The Hunger Games. The only thing the two drastically different movies share is a stubborn female protagonist fighting in a dystopian world. This movie stays very true to the book in bringing alive the complex world and interesting premises. The detailed sets are simply stunning in their authenticity from the Dauntless Pit to the Chicago skyline. Every single actor was top notch. Shailene Woodley (Tris) brought vulnerability and strength to her role while co-star Theo James (Four) was perfectly mysterious yet emotionally open on screen. Their chemistry was communicated through both the dialogue and their expressive eyes. The rest of the cast was phenomenal as well.

Aside from having an underdeveloped plot and a long run time of 140 minutes, Divergent was overall very likable from the grounded real sets to the talented cast. Although it doesn’t reach the scope and high stakes of The Hunger Games, Divergent was, at its core, an action movie with guns galore without feeling too much like an action blockbuster. The line between war games and real war begins to blur towards the end. The overwhelming violence during the Dauntless training is also brutal, so parents should be aware of the film’s PG-13 rating. Divergent is an exhilarating thrill-ride, and audiences will love the rush of adrenaline in this dystopian film.

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