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A  True Selfless Act Always Sparks Another: A Review of Klaus

Last year I blogged about my to-watch list of science fiction and fantasy films. Since then, I’ve been periodically reviewing science fiction, fantasy, and other speculative fiction films. Previous instalments in this series include Into the Forest, Annihilation, CocoWinchester, The Little Stranger, Astraea, The House with a Clock in Its WallsA Dog’s Purpose, and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, and Downsizing.

Film poster for Klaus. It shows santa with Jesper and a village child. Theyre surrounded by other characters who are looking at them with emotions ranging from adoration to annoyance. No content warning is necessary. I’d recommend this movie to viewers of all ages and backgrounds.

Klaus is a 2019 animated children’s film about a young, wealthy man named Jespen whose father sent him to a small, freezing cold town called Smeerensburg in order to establish a working postal office there.

I’ll leave it up to you to learn why his father decided to do this. It was something addressed in the opening scene, but it was so important to the plot that I’d rather not I’ve away any hints about it.

Smeerensburg was a community filled with families who were feuding with each other. Their grudges were so enormous that none of the children were even sent to school lest they end up sitting next to the child of a family their parents hated. This meant that many of the young citizens of this town couldn’t read or write!

Needless to say, this wasn’t an easy assignment for Jespen. Luckily, his budding friendship with a toymaker named Klaus provided one bright spot in his new life.

 

Characters

Jason Schwartzman as Jesper
Jason Schwartzman as Jesper

Jesper was a postman who’d never actually finished postman school. He could be selfish at times, but he was also a creative and intelligent person.

J. K. Simmons as Klaus
J. K. Simmons (right) as Klaus

Klaus was the village carpenter who made toys that no one had ever played with. He was a deeply kind and generous man.

Rashida Jones as Alva
Rashida Jones as Alva

Alva was the town fishmonger who had originally trained to be a school teacher. Since it’s hard to teach an empty classroom, she’d been forced to change occupations and was not particularly happy about it. Her biggest wish at the beginning of this film was to move somewhere far away from Smeerensburg once she’d saved up enough money.

Needa Margrethe Labba
Needa Margrethe Labba as Márgu

Márgu was a Saami girl whose family lived on the outskirts of town. She did not speak English, but she did love visiting Jesper and playing with the other children.

 

My Review

I’m writing this review as someone who doesn’t celebrate Christmas or enjoy the sentimentality of the holiday season, so what I’m about to say may come as a surprise: I loved this film!

Jesper was a wonderful protagonist. There was a lot of information about his backstory that I couldn’t include in this post for spoiler reasons, but he was a pretty well-rounded character…especially for something written for kids. I found it entertaining to see how he adjusted to life in dreary Smeerensburg. This wasn’t a cheerful place to live to say the least, and Jesper didn’t have a lot of experience in weathering unpleasant circumstances.

I also appreciated the lack of sentimentality (for the most part) in the story. Life in this community was hard for a lot of people, and the filmmakers showed as much of that as was appropriate for the age group they were marketing this towards. The fact that they managed to pull that off without including anything scary or too mature for kids to watch was impressive.

Honestly, some of the best scenes in this film were the ones that explained how the legend of Santa was formed.

For example, when and why did people first start believing that his sled was powered by flying reindeer? That question and many more were given funny, heartwarming answers that fit the tone of the plot perfectly. The photo near this paragraph gives a hint about another winter tradition that was explained in the plot, although that’s also something best left to each new viewer to discover for themselves.

A  true selfless act always sparks another.

Speaking of Santa, I’m guessing you can all guess which character he was in this tale. The storyline began long before he or anyone else knew what his destiny would be. There were so many lovely hints about who he was becoming along the way. I’ve never seen a story that focused on his origins before, so it was a ton of fun to check this one out.

The quote I shared above and in the title of this post came from this character. He had a lot of wise things to say, but this was my favourite line from him. It captured the essence of this film beautifully. Smeerensburg had so many problems that fed into each other that it was hard for the people who lived there to imagine how anything could change.

I really liked the idea of focusing on small things individuals could do to make the lives of others better without expecting anything in return. That’s the sort of philosophy that I think would make the world a better place if it were followed by everyone.

There were plenty of humorous moments as well. While the message itself was a serious one, the characters had no problem cracking jokes to suit every age group. I enjoyed that mixture of serious and silly content.

This was one of those children’s films that I’d recommend just as highly to adults. Watching it was a wonderful experience.

Klaus is available on Netflix.

A Review of Delightfully Twisted Tales: Close Encounters of the Worst Kind (Volume One)

Delightfully Twisted Tales: Close Encounters of the Worst Kind (Volume One) book cover. Image on the cover is of two robots facing the viewer and reaching their arms out to us. Title: Delightfully Twisted Tales: Close Encounters of the Worst Kind (Volume One)

Author: Nicky Drayden

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: 2011

Genres: Science Fiction

Length: About 20 pages (see note below).

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 4 Stars

Blurb:

This collection of short stories contains 70% of your daily value for weirdness. If you’re still feeling deficient after reading these tales, stay tuned for Nicky Drayden’s forthcoming debut novel, THE PREY OF GODS from Harper Voyager, Summer 2017.

A shifty shapeshifter cons an intergalactic casino, a married robot couple moves to the burbs, punker space rhinos invade a small town in Colorado, and you, yes you, get to see firsthand what goes on in one of the strangest restrooms in the universe. This delightfully twisted collection of four short stories is easily devoured in one sitting and will leave you hungry for more.

Review:

If you love weird science fiction, keep reading.

Normally, I pick a few stories out of an anthology to highlight in my reviews. Since this collection only had four of them, I’ll talk about all of them.

The only other note I’ll make about this book before diving into my review is about the page count. My ebook was divided into shorter pages than usual, so I estimated the total length for this collection based on how long I thought it would be if each page had the usual 250-300 words in it. At any rate, it was a quick read!

“Winning Streak” followed a shapeshifter named Traleel Az who aroused the suspicions of the casino owners after winning far more money from a slot machine than anyone was supposed to get from playing that game. I was mesmerized by all of the fantasy creatures who worked at and visited that establishment. It sounds like an incredible, if also possibly dangerous, place to visit, and I wanted to know more with every passing scene. This is a world I’d love to visit again sometime if the author ever decides to revisit it.

As mentioned in the blurb, “Memories and All That” was about newlywed robots who moved to the suburbs. Kath-090 and Bit-722 were so excited to make this change in their lives that I was curious to see how their organic neighbours would respond to them. The pacing for this tale felt a little off to me, especially in the beginning when the characters were talking about which possessions they’d brought with them on their move. This momentary slowdown of the plot was more than made up for by the final scene, though. I couldn’t stop giggling at it.

The thought of sharing a town with space rhinos was more than enough to make me want to read “The Pudding Master and I.” Rynoss was the name of this species. Since they acted quite a bit like Earth rhinoceroses, just imagine all of the chaos they caused when they moved into human neighbourhoods. Their understanding of Earth culture was yet another reason why I was fascinated by these creature. Let’s just say that there were plenty of misunderstandings along the way and that some of them were pretty funny. The only thing better than this part of the storyline were all of the plot twists that happened after it.

“Wrath of the Porcelain Gods” was one of the best short story titles I’ve seen in ages. The main character in it was an amateur anthropologist living onboard a space ship who was attempting to figure out how an alien species called the Asiphants used the washroom. I would have liked to see more attention spent on explaining why the protagonist was so fascinated by this topic. It seemed odd to me, especially since they’d described themselves as someone who had spent plenty of time working and living alongside other humanoid species. Surely they would have gotten used to things like this by now? While I still enjoyed reading it, having more information about that part of the plot would have made it a better experience for this reader.

This was the first book I’ve read from Nicky Drayden. Based on how much I enjoyed it, I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for more from her!

Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: My Earliest Memory

Hosted by Long and Short Reviews.

apple growing on an apple treeMy earliest memory involves an apple tree.

My family lived in a farmhouse on the edge of a small town in Ohio for the first four or five years of my life. An apple tree was growing in our front yard.

As soon as the apples on it grew large enough for me to recognize them, I decided I wanted to taste them.

The problem was, I wasn’t strong enough to pick the apple first no matter how much I tugged on it. (In retrospect, I wonder if the apple also wasn’t fully ripe yet).

After accepting the fact that the apple wasn’t going into the house with me after all, I decided to have a bite right then and there. I don’t remember what happened after that, but years later my parents told me they found that apple with a tiny little bite in it and laughed.

And, yes, I still love apples to this day

Click here to read everyone else’s replies to this week’s question. The image below is the list of upcoming prompts for this blog hop.

Top Ten Tuesday: Cookbooks for Winter Holiday Feasts

Hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

Gingerbread people lying on a table. My Brain: Okay, it’s time to write this week’s Top Ten Tuesday entry now. What should we talk about in our freebie post?

My Stomach: Food!

Brain: Well, it’s supposed to be a bookish topic and, ideally, at least tangentially related to winter or the holiday season in general.

Stomach: We will be surrounded by more delicious food than usual until at least the first week of January. It’s the only thing I want to talk about, so there must be a way to blog about it while still technically following Jana’s rules.

Brain: What if we decide to use this prompt to discuss cookbooks? Will that work for you?

Stomach: Yes, I’ll agree to that deal.

Now that you all know how I came up with today’s topic, let’s talk about cookbooks. All of the winter holidays I’m aware of share one delicious and important thing in common: special dishes and meals. Every culture has them, and this is a very common time of the year for people from all walks of life to start making that famous family recipe that everyone expects during the holidays.

If my apartment were large enough for me to host holiday get-togethers, I’d want to browse through these books to plan the perfect meals for all of my guests.

Book cover for Roast Figs Sugar Snow: Winter Food to Warm the Soul by Diana Henry.

1. Roast Figs Sugar Snow: Winter Food to Warm the Soul by Diana Henry

Book cover for Husbands That Cook: More Than 120 Irresistible Vegetarian Recipes and Tales from Our Tiny Kitchen by Ryan Alvarez

2. Husbands That Cook: More Than 120 Irresistible Vegetarian Recipes and Tales from Our Tiny Kitchen by Ryan Alvarez

Book cover for Nadiya's Kitchen by Nadiya Hussain

3. Nadiya’s Kitchen by Nadiya Hussain

Book cover for Bread (River Cottage Handbook) by Daniel Stevens

4. Bread (River Cottage Handbook) by Daniel Stevens

Book cover for The Christmas Chronicles: Notes, Stories and 100 Essential Recipes for Midwinter by Nigel Slater

5. The Christmas Chronicles: Notes, Stories and 100 Essential Recipes for Midwinter by Nigel Slater

Book cover for The Complete Guide to Vegan Food Substitutions: Veganize It! Foolproof Methods for Transforming Any Dish into a Delicious New Vegan Favorite by Celine Steen

6. The Complete Guide to Vegan Food Substitutions: Veganize It! Foolproof Methods for Transforming Any Dish into a Delicious New Vegan Favorite by Celine Steen

Book cover for How to Cook Without a Book: Recipes and Techniques Every Cook Should Know by Heart by Pam Anderson

7. How to Cook Without a Book: Recipes and Techniques Every Cook Should Know by Heart by Pam Anderson

Book cover for Diabetic Living The Ultimate Diabetes Cookbook by Diabetic Living Editors

8. Diabetic Living The Ultimate Diabetes Cookbook by Diabetic Living Editors

And for dessert…

Book cover for Wintersweet: Seasonal Desserts to Warm the Home by Tammy Donroe Inman

9. Wintersweet: Seasonal Desserts to Warm the Home by Tammy Donroe Inman

Book cover for The Joy of Vegan Baking: The Compassionate Cooks' Traditional Treats and Sinful Sweets by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau

10. The Joy of Vegan Baking: The Compassionate Cooks’ Traditional Treats and Sinful Sweets by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau

Which cookbooks do you love? What are a few of your favourite things to eat during the winter holidays?