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September 2010 Archives

DVD Review: "Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue"
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How did you meet your best friend? Was it "like at first sight" or did it take a while for you to get to know each other? Are you so similar you could be sibs, or do you get along despite being very different? Is your relationship always smooth sailing, or do you have to weather the occasional storm?

Tinker-Bell-Great-Fairy-Rescue.jpgThese are some of the themes explored in a new movie just released on DVD and Blu-Ray: "Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue." It's the third installment of Disney's computer animated fairy series, following the adventures of the sassy little pixie and all her fairy friends like Silvermist, Fawn, Iridessa, Rosetta, and the boys Bobble and Clank. Foul -tempered Vidia, Tinkerbell's number one "frenemy" is also back, and it's her rather competitive relationship with Tink that gets the story rolling.

The first two Tinker Bell movies took place in spring and fall, so now it's time for a summertime story. The fairies of Pixie Hollow spend the sunny season at "camp" on the mainland, where they have various important jobs like painting butterfly wings, putting the black stripes on bees, and generally helping the plants and animals make summer happen. But there is one important rule here: stay away from the humans. Inquisitive Tinker Bell breaks this rule almost immediately, of course, and can't resist exploring a cardboard box "fairy house" left out by a human girl named Lizzy. Vidia, annoyed with Tink's human obsession, decides to give her a little scare, closing her inside the house. But the prank goes too far, and soon Tink is locked in a birdcage in Lizzy's bedroom and hiding from the girl's scientist father who is way too reasonable to believe in things like fairies.

Kind, curious Lizzy does believe in fairies, and she doesn't want Tinker Bell to be a captive. She wants her to be a friend. But there's a lot of mistrust and misunderstanding (not to mention a language barrier) to get over if this unusual friendship is going to work. There's also a rather dangerous cat and the little matter of a grand rescue attempt mounted by Tink's pixie pals, including the reformed Vidia, who feels guilty about her own part in Tinker Bell's capture.

We really like this whole theme of unexpected friendships, because these are the types of friendships that often end up being the strongest and most rewarding. It's no challenge to get along with someone who's just like you; similarities and common ground can help you form bonds very quickly and easily. Getting close to someone who is different from you takes some effort, on the other hand...but the effort can really be worth it. Think of it this way: how would we ever experience new things if everyone we knew were just like us? How would we grow, expand our horizons, and see life from a new perspective if we didn't reach out and try to make connections with people (or pixies?) who have different experiences, different viewpoints, and different ways of seeing things and doing things? It's by coming together with people who are "not like us" that we truly grow and change...and the experience can help us lead richer, more interesting lives.

In the movie, we see Tinker Bell and Lizzy work together to learn about each other's worlds, and build up a relationship based on trust and friendship. We also see Vidia try to turn over a new leaf and be a better friend to Tink, rushing to her rescue after accidentally playing a part in her capture. We even see all the different fairy characters pulling together, using their unique talents and gifts for a common purpose: rescuing their friend.

These are great themes in a very entertaining movie, and we're happy to see the Tinker Bell franchise is still going strong with fun stories, great humor, and beautiful visuals. Younger IML readers, and even teenagers,  will likely enjoy this fanciful fairy tale and all its cool DVD/Blu-ray extras, including "Design a Fairy House" and the "Fairy Field Guide Builder." IML rates this an A.

Here are a few more of our likes and dislikes:

We loved:

Fairies in the Human World. After two Tinker Bell movies, we're kinda used to seeing our cast of tiny sprites in their home of Pixie Hollow, but this story takes place on "The Mainland," which is England to the rest of us. Everything is much bigger there (if you're only a couple inches high) so it presents a whole new set of adventures and challenges. There's a rainy gutter that rages like a river, a yucky, slimy mud hole that seems like an enormous swamp...and don't even get us started on cars. Those monstrous machines are nothing but a menace (although Tinker Bell, who loves gears and springs, seems fascinated by them).

Tink_ultimate_small.jpgTinker Bell Tinkles. When the first Tinker Bell movie came out, some fans were upset to learn that the famous fairy, who only "tinkled" like a bell in "Peter Pan," would actually talk.  Well, as it turns out, having Tink talk actually worked great, but in this movie we're glad to see (or hear, actually) a little of the old Tink. Humans can't hear fairy talk, you see, so when Tink tries to speak to Lizzy, all we hear is that old familiar tinkling bell. We hear her voice a lot too...but it's great to hear the bell again.

Tinker Bell Tinkers. Tinkerbell isn't just cute...she's smart too. She gets to do some giggly kid stuff with her human friend, like drawing colorful crayon pictures and dressing up, and that's great. But she also gets to roll up her sleeves (well, she doesn't have sleeves, but you know what we mean) and do some real practical problem-solving, messing about with mechanical stuff and coming up with ingenious machines and clever schemes to help out herself and the humans. For all you IML fans who constantly debate the relative merits of being a girly-girl or a tomboy, Tinkerbell proves that you can be both. Equally comfortable sniffing a flower as wielding a wrench, she's tender and tough at the same time. And we love that about her.

The Music. The soundtrack to this movie is a delight to the ears. There are four terrific songs: "Summer's Just Begun," "Come Flying With Me," "How to Believe," and "Forgiven." The incidental music and score are also awesome, with more of the magical-sounding Celtic music we've come to expect from the Disney fairy movies.

The Flying. Not since the original "You Can Fly" sequence in "Peter Pan" has pixie dust worked such magic. It's delightful to see Lizzy (and many other things, including a set of dishes) float and fly in this movie. Faith, trust and pixie dust!

Not So Much:

Wet Fairies. Okay, this is gonna sound finicky (or nit-picky, whatever),  because overall the computer animation in this movie is pretty darn great, just like with the two previous Tinker Bell flicks. But for some reason, the artists and animators are still having a little trouble with water... and there's a lot of it in this rainy summertime story. You see, fairies can't fly when they're wet,  so to keep the story going and make sure that they can't pull off the rescue in, like, ten seconds, they're wet for most of the time. Only to us, they don't look so much wet as covered in salad dressing. There's sort of a slicky-sticky look to the hair and clothes and...oh, honestly, it isn't a big deal. It just bugs a little, okay?

Bad Cat. We like cats, but the feline in this film isn't very likable. A big, bulging baddie, this bully of a kitty reminds us of the sourpuss puss from Cinderella. Sure, he's great for chasing the pixies and giving the story a little danger, but why does the nasty one always  have to be a cat, huh? Let's see a naughty dog once in a while! (Apologies to dog lovers. We love dogs too.)

Disbelieving Dad. We understand that Lizzy's father must go on a "journey" in this story, starting out stern and practical and then learning to let go. But he just seems a bit too stern and strict at times, constantly lecturing his daughter and wanting her to change and act differently. Lighten up, dude! Give your kid a break!

"Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue" is rated G for General Audiences.

Book Review: "The Magnificent 12: The Call"
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Many memorable adventure stories begin the same way: You meet a young person whose life is pretty crummy, until they meet someone weird who tells them they need to start a journey to do something really important (usually fighting evil), and they're like, "What? No way!"

People who study literature and mythology know that as The Call, and the "No way!" part is referred to as "Refusing the call." Can you think of other stories that start like this?

mag12.jpgThe first book of the new series "The Magnificent 12" (HarperCollins) is now one of them (it helps that this book is actually subtitled "The Call"). Written by "Gone" author Michael Grant, "The Magnificent 12" introduces us to twelve-year-old Mack MacAvoy, who's average in every way except for the many phobias he suffers from. One day, a three-thousand-year-old man named Grimluk appears in the boys' bathroom to inform Mack that he is one of the Magnificent Twelve. An evil force is on its way, and it's up to Mack to track down eleven other twelve-year-olds in order to stop it.

IML enjoyed this book and thinks you will too. The story of Mack, Grimluk, and the people and creatures they meet on their adventures is hilarious and imaginative. While the publisher is setting this series up to be a huge "brand" with online games and a virtual community, the book itself stands on its own as a well-written, engaging, and fun read. We were lucky enough to get a chance to ask Michael Grant some questions about "The Magnificent 12," and get "the story behind the story." 

IML: How did you come up with the idea for "The Magnificent 12"?
Michael: I wanted to write something funny. I had been writing all these dark, gloomy, creepy books -- the "Gone" series -- and I wanted to write something that was none of those things.  I liked the idea of an absolutely impossible hero: Mack has all sorts of phobias, which are irrational fears. So he would be the last guy you'd expect to step up and save the world. 

IML: How do you feel it's different from other books out there?

Michael: I think "The Magnificent 12" differs in its hero, Mack -- who is so normal he suffers from a serious case of mediumness. Mack isn't the biggest or strongest kid, he isn't secretly a wizard or the son of an ancient god. He just happens to have a bit of something called the enlightened puissance, a sort of ability that allows him to use the ancient Vargran language to fight evil forces. "The Magnificent 12" also differs in its villains, especially the beautiful, witty, and utterly evil Ereskigal. Whose friends (she has no friends) call her "Risky."

IML: The book seems to draw from the myths and legends of many different cultures. Were there any that had particular influence on you as you were developing the story?
Michael: I suppose the biggest influence came not so much from myth as from movies.  Especially "The Magnificent Seven," which was an American version of a Japanese classic called "The Seven Samurai." In both movies, one hero has to assemble a team to fight a powerful evil. That's what Mack has to do: travel the world assembling The Magnificent 12 -- twelve twelve-year-olds.

IML: "The Magnificent 12" is funny. Very funny! Yet it doesn't take away from the suspense or action. Do you think some fantasy books for young people take themselves too seriously?
Michael: I'm really glad people are finding it funny. I wanted to combine crazy, dangerous action with humor. Some people think those two don't go together but I think they absolutely do. After all, doesn't Spiderman make witty remarks and dumb jokes while he's fighting Doc Ock or Green Goblin?

IML: Mack has a lot of phobias. Do you have any yourself? Do you ever get scared or creeped out by your own writing?
MichaelGrantAuthorPhoto.JPGMichael: I have one big phobia: needles. I hate getting shots -- I have to look away. I hate when someone drop a needle or a pin on the floor. I have to find it right away. Actually, even writing about it makes me squirmy. I don't scare myself with my writing -- actually when I think I'm scaring the reader it makes me giggle. I kind of cackle away as I'm writing, thinking about making some kid nervous or maybe even giving him or her a nightmare. 

IML: Ooh, that is a little scary in and of itself! Other than being scared, what would you like readers to take away from reading this first book in the series, and from the series as a whole?
Michael: There is no deep moral in "The Magnificent 12."  I'm not out to teach or make you think. What I want is to make kids laugh and blow milk out of their noses when they're reading. That is my absolute highest goal. In a perfect world, I would scare the reader a little, give the reader some mild chuckles, some laughs, and the occasional big snork.

IML: When you were younger, you moved around a lot. What did you learn about life and general survival from always being The New Kid?
Michael: I was lucky in that I was never really picked on. For one thing, I was always pretty tall. For another thing, the bullies couldn't quite figure out what I was. Was I a nerd? A brain?  A weirdo? A crazy loner? Bullies want to understand who you are before they beat you up.  That's an idea I wrote into "The Magnificent 12," where the bullies at Mack's school are highly organized, with each bully having the responsibility for bullying a particular clique. The bully of nerds, for example, would not beat up Emo kids. That's the Emo bully's job.

IML: You've written a ton of books. Many of our readers are also writers, and I'm sure they'd like to know: What's your writing process like? Do you work on more than one book at a time, switching back and forth? Do you outline your stories before you start writing? How do you stay motivated to finish something?
Michael: I like to write outside whenever I can.  I often write with loud music on my headphones -- usually something punk or ska-punk or hard rock. Not much pop music. No Bieber. But Lady Gaga is on my iPhone playlist. I work for about 4 hours a day. Sticking with it is the hardest thing for me, or probably for most writers. Once you get started you start being tempted to work on some different project. Don't do that! Finish your work, don't get tempted away by something that seems easier. With regard to outlines: I do not outline. I like writing scared, not knowing what I'm doing next. Just like life:  what fun would it be if you knew what was coming?
IML: Not much fun at all! Good point! Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts and insights on the book.

Thanks for inviting me!

"The Magnificent 12: The Call" is available now and has a great "trailer" you can watch:

Celeb Scoop: Justin Long
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alpha_omega.jpgIn "Alpha and Omega," the new animated film from Lionsgate, we meet two wolves who live in a world that doesn't seem so different from a human middle school or high school: everyone's labeled according to their personality and where they are in the social pecking order. One of the main characters, Kate, is an "alpha" wolf, a strong and serious leader whose job is hunting to feed the pack; Humphrey is an "omega" wolf who's always cracking a joke and on a mission to keep things fun. The two are not allowed to mix...but when they're abducted and relocated to Idaho in order to mate and repopulate the area, they have to work together to find their way home. It's the kind of movie that has something for everyone to relate to.

IML recently spoke to Justin Long, the voice of Humphrey. You may know Justin as the "Mac" in the PC and Mac commercials, or from various comedies he's done, or as the voice of Alvin in "Alvin and the Chipmunks." We had fun chatting with Justin about "Alpha and Omega," animated movies and voice acting, and how he thinks of his middle school years as some of the best memories of his life!

IML: How would you describe Humphrey, your character in "Alpha and Omega"?

Justin: Humphrey is a very playful, a little socially unbalanced young wolf. He's got a sassy side. Actually, that's it: if I had to pick one word to sum him up, I'd say sassy.

IML: Did you base him on any real-life canines that you know?

Justin: I did, actually. I had a very sassy dog myself named Moose. Moose was very playful and a troublemaker...a general ne'er do well. He heavily inspired Humphrey's character. And of course, this particular canine that you're speaking to brought a lot of his own innate sassiness.

IML: So you had to tap into your inner canine?

Justin: It's funny, because you're not all that aware of what the character looks like when you're recording his voice, and I was never really that conscious of him being a canine. I always just thought of him as an extension of my own playful nature. He goes on a journey with this girl he's very fond of and pines over, and that's basically a human story. There are simple human elements I tried to draw from.

IML: What did you think when you finally saw the animated character, using your voice?

justinlong.jpgJustin: It was exciting! There's something very surreal about it. I grew up watching cartoons, as most people did, and to this day some of my favorite movies are animated. I've always just loved animation and it's a dream to be a part of it. In fact when I was younger, I thought I was going to be an illustrator or an animator. It was a thrill in that sense, and also to voice a character that looks completely different from myself. It's weird and cool.

IML: What are your own favorite animated films, and what makes them so memorable for you?

Justin: I would have to go back to the early Disney movies. My favorites were "Robin Hood" and "The Fox and the Hound." "Robin Hood" because I was really into knights as a kid and I thought Robin Hood was so cool and I wanted to be part of his gang. And I loved animals, so the combination of these great animals and the swashbuckling adventure story with swords was just overload. With "The Fox and the Hound," I just loved those characters and it's a great love story...although at the time if you'd asked me if I liked that, I would have said, "No!" Of the more recent films -- and this goes on my list of all time favorite movies -- I would say "UP." The animation was beautiful, but aside from that, it was just one of the most heartbreaking, romantic stories I've ever seen on film. And how you react to the first ten minutes of that movie -- that's like a litmus test for whether or not you have a soul!

IML: So as someone who once aspired to be an animator, what do you think of the visuals in "Alpha and Omega"?

Justin: The visuals are great. The movie is kind of a throwback to older styles of animation. It doesn't have that CGI dimension to it, which I actually really like. It reminded me a lot of the movies I grew up watching, which were all fluidly animated but not as hyper-detailed as you're seeing now. One isn't better than the other; they're just different styles.

IML: You've done a lot of voice work in the course of your career. What do you like about that kind of acting as opposed to acting on screen or on a stage?

Justin: Aside from my love of animation, as an actor I like the total lack of vanity in terms of not having to worry at all about your appearance. You don't have to deal with hair or makeup or wardrobe. There's something very easy and freeing about strolling in and setting down your water, and it's just you and your microphone. That's all you're left with to create this character. I tend to gesticulate and throw my hands around a lot because I'm Italian. And that's cool with animation. Also, I love the idea of playing with your own voice and using that as a tool. It's the reason I enjoy doing impressions and stretching the limits of your voice and creating a great character using only your voice. Sometimes you have to go a little bit bigger than you would in life. You have to be more animated with your voice in order to compensate for that disconnect between you and an animator who doesn't really know you. Sometimes it even feels silly, because as an actor you have this built-in fear of being false and big, and sometimes that kicks in and you have to ignore it. Especially when I do the voice of Alvin in "Alvin and the Chipmunks," I have to really ignore it because they speed up the voices, and you have to say everything slowly, which feels weird!

IML: Most IML'ers are in middle school, so we always love to ask people: what was middle school like for you?

Justin: It's such an important time. I trace so many things about myself directly to the experiences I had at that age. You're usually defined by how you look, your socioeconomic status -- all these things you have no control over. If I could go back and do it again, I would try to remember that you have to accept certain things about yourself and recognize your strengths, and what's really important. I think about the time I wasted worrying about not having enough money or the right clothes...just silly material things that at the time I wasn't proud of. We put so much stock in these things. And there's nothing wrong with being an underdog. You find when you get older that the underdog becomes the cool one! I had a hard time. Physically I was by far the shortest in my class. I was the runt, I was really tiny. I embraced comedy as a means to fit in and get laughs, and to be accepted. But now I think back to that time. Even family vacations. My dad was a teacher and we didn't have a ton of money to go on awesome trips the way a lot of kids in my hometown did. That was always something I was always a little embarrassed about. We would form vacations over when he would give papers at universities, and my dad would always try to find educational things to do, like Colonial Williamsburg. My dad once gave a paper at Gettysburg College and we toured the battlefield. I thank God for those trips because I don't think I would remember how cool a certain ride was at Six Flags or taking a picture with Mickey Mouse, but I remember sitting in the car for twelve hours with no air conditioning with my brothers, and we would just do things to amuse ourselves. I am so grateful that we had those opportunities because those are my favorite memories from that time. It's the stuff you think at the time is sort of a hassle, but I remember having a vacation in Hull, Ontario and we went to the Canadian Parliament. I was like "No fair!" but we had such a weirdly fun time just horsing around! It was fun because it was kind of lame and we'd laugh about how lame it was. I'm just really grateful that we had those limitations. So I would say, just embrace the moments of uncool!

IML: "Embrace the moments of uncool." Love that! It's totally excellent advice! Thanks, and good luck!

Thank you!

"Alpha and Omega" is currently playing in theatres; you can also catch it in 3D.

Celeb Scoop: Lucas Cruikshank (aka Fred Figglehorn)
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In 2008, Nebraska teenager Lucas Cruikshank was just doing what he loved to do: creating wacky characters, shooting funny videos, and playing around with special effects. When he started "blogging" as a hyperactive, anger-challenged, goofily upbeat kid named Fred Figglehorn, Lucas never expected anything to come of it except a few YouTube fans.

fred-the-movie-01-hr.jpgQuick-cut to two years later, and it's safe to say that Fred is one of the most popular Internet characters ever, with most of his videos racking up over 5 million views a piece. Starting Saturday night, September 18, Fred will jump from one screen to another with the premiere of Nickeodeon's "Fred: The Movie." Yes, it's more Fred doing his thing. But it's also a sweet story where we meet Fred's eternal crush Judy (played by British pop star Pixie Lott), his nemesis Kevin (Jake Weary), his mom (Siobhan Fallon), his dad (WWE star John Cena), and neighbor Bertha ("iCarly" star Jennette McCurdy). IML got to catch a sneak preview of the movie and whether you're a Fred fan or not, it's a fun time.

Yesterday, we spoke to Lucas about all things Fred and what this new stage of Fred-dom means to him!

IML: Hi Lucas! This is an exciting week for you. How do you feel?

Lucas: I feel anxious, but in a good way. I can't wait for all the fans to see the movie. I can't wait to see how they react.

IML: What would you like viewers to get out of the movie?

Lucas: Well, I definitely want them to like it. It's just a really fun story about this awkward teenager who's stuck in the mentality of a six-year-old. It has a lot for people who have always watched the videos, but also for people who've never seen a Fred video. I think they'll still like it because it's a story for everyone.

IML: It seems like you've been able to develop this character much more fully.

Lucas: You do get to see so much more of Fred than you see in the videos. In the videos, he's just video blogging by himself. He's always got an intense emotion, he's always ranting about something. In the movie, you get to see him when he's not video blogging - going to school, doing normal stuff. You get to see all the different layers of Fred rather than just the one note.

IML: Have you been developing Fred this way for a while, or did it unfold as you were working on the film?

Lucas: I've always known pretty much everything about Fred when I was doing the videos. He has this really specific story and he has all these traits. Since I'm the one who created him, I know his whole entire personality!

IML: Did you have any input on the movie's story, the other characters, and even the dialogue? It seemed so organic to the videos.

Lucas: I was very involved. We had this writer named David A. Goodman who did a bunch of "Family Guy" stuff and even worked on "The Golden Girls" so he definitely has a lot of experience. I was really excited when we got him to be involved in the project. He understood Fred and came into the meeting knowing everything about Fred. He really knew my vision of what I wanted to do with the character. Even after he'd write a draft of the script, he'd send it to me along with the other people on the project, and we'd all give notes. I'd tell him if something didn't sound right or if something needed to be changed. He was really open to my ideas. It could have gone really wrong but the stars were aligned or something, because it felt like the perfect team to do the movie!

IML: The tone of the movie is great, and it's really funny. What was your favorite part of the whole experience?

Lucas: It was amazing to see all these characters I'd created in my head come to life and be portrayed by such talented people.

fred-the-movie-06-lr.jpgIML: Were they close to what you had imagined?

Lucas: The casting for the whole movie was so dead-on. Especially Judy and Kevin and Fred's mom. Even the characters who aren't in there very much, like the pet store owners, were perfect. I was so happy with all the casting.

IML: Besides the voice and his mentality, how are you and Fred different, and how are you alike?

Lucas: I think we're different because I don't think I'd be able to be as fearless as Fred. He can just go to school and even though he's kind of an outcast, he still has this amazing confidence and he's always himself. He never really gives up. I wish I was more confident like Fred, but I'm not. I think we're kind of the same because we're both quirky, and we both live in our heads sometimes. We're big daydreamers.

fred-the-movie-08-hr.jpgIML: Why do you think he's struck such a chord with viewers, especially young people?

Lucas: I think people like watching an underdog go for it. That's what Fred is. He never gives up and he knows what he wants, and he tries every single day to keep at it.

IML: Plus, he's funny and makes people happy! We heard that you originally created him as a parody of all these kids out there who do video blogging, putting themselves online and opening up all the gory details of their lives. Then you hear news stories where that kind of thing goes very wrong. How do you create a balance between expressing yourself and having fun, and being smart when it comes to safety and privacy?

Lucas: We learned in school about privacy on Facebook, MySpace, and AIM, etc. so I've always been aware of that stuff. From the beginning of my "YouTube career," my parents have always been very involved in watching what I put on. They made sure I didn't say something that was inappropriate or revealed something about where we lived, and would ask me to cut something out if they felt it might be a problem.

IML: What's your advice for kids who would like to shoot and edit their own videos like you do, but don't really know where to start?

Lucas: If you're into writing and making people laugh, or just want to video blog something, you should get a simple digital video camera. And all computers now come with an easy video editing software program. Just mess around with that for a little bit, try to figure it out, then just put stuff online and have fun. Never give up! I think a lot of people have this idea that if you put something on YouTube you'll get famous overnight. It would be really great if that was possible, but that's not really how it works. I made these videos for fun and I never thought anything would happen from them, and for a year and a half nothing did happen. I had maybe 20 fans following the videos. But over time, it spread. You really just have to be having fun with it because otherwise, it's not worth it.

IML: Do you have role models when it comes to filmmaking?

Lucas: I've always loved John Hughes and his movies, like "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" and "The Breakfast Club." I think he's an amazing filmmaker. And more recently, Judd Apatow. I really like his movies.

IML: Who do you look up to when it comes to comic actors?

Lucas: I would say Steve Martin, first of all. I've always loved his movie "The Jerk" and I think that influenced "Fred" a little. I love Jim Carrey, Steve Carrell, and Ben Stiller, too.

IML: What's next for you?

Lucas: I have a deal with Nickelodeon for a sitcom, so I'm really excited about that. The cool thing for me is that I get to try something new. It's not going to be Fred, it's going to be a whole new character. It will be a chance for my fans to see me in a fresh way. I've met with a writer and right now they're working on the script, and we'll see what happens.

IML: We're sure people will like seeing you in a different role! That's probably good for your career, too. What would people be most surprised to know about you?

Lucas: "Fred" fans would be most surprised to know that when people meet me, they expect me to act like a crazy person, like Fred, but I'm really a normal guy and when I first meet you I'm sort of quiet. I'm not nearly as hyper as Fred. That always surprises people!

IML: It sounds like you have a lot of good things in store and we're sure people will like the movie. Congratulations! Thanks for taking the time to talk!

Lucas: Thank you!

You can get even more Fred-ified at


Get A Grip, Get Organized!
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messycloset.jpgWe love this time of year because it forces us to make some changes. For instance, our horribly messy IML bookcase. Gotta get it cleaned up so we can actually find the books we want to review for our blog! We'll get so much more work done that way. You may already be feeling like this about your locker, your backpack, your desk, and other areas where you keep important things. But life moves pretty fast, and sometimes it's hard to know how to set things up in a system that fits your needs and style.

We asked mom, blogger, and organizing expert Colleen Padilla for some tips for stowing stuff in your backpack, calendar, locker, desk at home, and closet. Here's her great advice, which will hopefully help you get this school year off to a great start!

Your Backpack
1. Compartments, compartments, compartments.
Go for a backpack with more than one compartment so you can easily have a general area for books, binders, and folders along with another area for the kids to remember to easily put in tasks that must be completed. This way, when the kids leave school, both parent and the student will know that compartment contains that evening's "To Do's." Homework assignments, permission forms that need to be signed, etc. Once the tasks are completed, you can return everything to this compartment so it's easy to find the next day when it's time to turn it in to the teacher.
2. Create the best Folder or Binder system that works for you
    •    Do you want to organize 2 large binders by Morning Classes and Afternoon Classes?
    •    Or would it be easier for you to create individual binders for each subject area with accompanying folders specific to each class?
Your Calendar/Planner
Lists lists lists. I'm a fan of the To Do List. Write it down. Even if you think you will certainly remember it. That saying your grandma told you about, "A short pencil is better than a long memory," couldn't be more true. You can never write too many things down when it comes to helping you remember what to do. Especially if you're hoping to rely on a nosy parent who likes to peek at your assignment book to remind you about potential due dates!
What to look for in an Assignment Book?  Buy a specific planning calendar that allows a page per day to write all your daily To Do details, but also gives you a monthly and weekly view so you can plot out and visualize what you schedule looks like long term too.
Your Locker
Clean it out once a week. You won't regret it. Don't let stuff pile up in there like old sweaty gym socks. Not only will your locker stink if you don't clean it out, but you'll be far more likely to be unable to find that important homework assignment someday when it randomly falls out of your backpack into a pile of scary clothes or old leftover lunches. Keep it neat and be sure to clean out the junk once a week!

Your Desk at Home
Create an inbox system to organize those important assignments, study guides, and more. Find out what works for you -- do you want bins for each subject or would you prefer to organize according to what must be completed on a regular basis throughout the school semester, such as General Homework, Test Review material, Creative Writing Assignments, Daily Math Homework?
But the most important thing about the desk is having a set work area that is for you to use regularly and at the same time each day. Make it a daily routine to sit down at your desk at the same time every evening or late afternoon after school. Whether it is for 30 minutes when you have hardly any homework, or for 4 hours on those tough days when you have more homework than you want to think about. This will force you to keep a routine to sit down daily in a quite place and get mentally organized. It will be far harder to forget to do your homework if you always sit down to do it in the same place every day!
Invest in a bulletin board too that you can place near your desk. They are great ways to organize and you can tack up important to do lists if you go for the Cork Board style board or if you go for a Dry Erase Style Board you can use that for your Weekly and Daily To Do's to keep your important assignments fresh on your mind while your in your bedroom so you don't forget priority tasks.

Your Closet
Bin it up! I'm a huge fan of the bin system for closets. Pretty up your closet with shoe organizers and baskets lined with funky bright materials where you can easily store your favorite work out clothes, jeans, and tee shirts that your wear weekly. You don't have to spend a fortune on a closet organizing system when you can stock up on affordable and fun baskets, bins, and storage containers at off-price stores like T.J .Maxx or Marshalls. I always find if I keep it looking pretty, I'm more apt to fold my clothes at the end of the day and hang things up. An organized closet and bedroom will help you stay organized and feel organized even when the rest of your mind is running in a million directions thinking about soccer practice, the latest gossip at the lunch table, worrying about a pop quiz in Spanish class and the math test your have tomorrow.

New Schools Can Rule
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To all of you who started school this week, we hope everything's going well! And if you start next week and fully plan on being stressed/depressed/excited/nervous over the weekend, we feel your pain. This is definitely a time when everyone's on a roller coaster of emotions. All you can really do is ride it out (and not scream too much). 

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If you're starting a new school, that roller coaster probably has some extra loops and dips. Remember that you're not on it alone, and others have gone before you. We've gathered together our best advice and tips in one place to help things go a little more smoothly:

Advice from the Mentors and experts on all sorts of new-school drama, from lockers to uniforms to getting organized.

A principal's Top Four helpful hints for surviving the leap to middle school.

Tips on dealing with older students at your new school.

And of course, you can read about other IML'ers' experiences on the "Going To A New School" You Said It page.

We'll send you off with our list of the Top Five Reasons Why Going To A New School Can Be Pretty Awesome:

5) You know that teacher you never quite got along with? Not there. You won't see him in the halls. You won't have to pass her classroom. Phew.

4) Most people weren't around for that horrifyingly embarrassing thing that happened last year. And if they were, they won't remember for much longer, because pretty soon somebody else will do something even more embarrassing, and you will quietly thank them for it.

3) There will be at least one thing that's much better than your old school. Maybe it'll be a bigger or better-located locker. Or a great new teacher. Or no more uniforms. Or a club or team you can't wait to join. Keep a lookout for that thing. Even when it seems like everything else kinda stinks, you'll find it. 

2) The new cafeteria's "Mystery Meat" will taste different than your old cafeteria's "Mystery Meat." 

And 1) Three words: Fresh. Crush. Material. (Yeah!)

Good luck to all of you!