Sunday, September 29, 2013

Once Upon a Time . . . I Had a Blog

CAUTION: This post contains spoilers about ABC's Once Upon a Time

Well, hello there. Yes. I know. I haven't blogged in months. But I had a birthday . . . I got a new job . . . life happens.

Anyway, I thought I'd start up my blog again with a post about yet another fandom of mine. As you may remember I am a huge fan of most things British, but I do have an occasional American obsession as well. Tonight was the season premiere of my ultimate guilty pleasure: ABC's Once Upon a Time. This was the start of the 3rd season which picked up with Emma, Snow White, Prince Charming, Regina (aka the Evil Queen), Captain Hook (aka Captain Attractive), and--my personal favorite--Rumpelstiltskin sailing off to Neverland to save Henry. I gotta be honest, I didn't have the highest of hopes for this season after last season.

The second season was either a hit or miss for me. There were great additions like Hook, and exciting plot twists with the return of Baelfire/Neal and Cora. And then there were the ridiculous misfires, such as Dr. Whale being revealed as Dr. Frankenstein and August transforming back into a 10-year-old boy after being illogically tasered by Tamara. I mean seriously, could a wooden man conduct an electric current? I don't think so. And don't even get me started on Lacey. *Cringe* Then there was evil Tamara and her annoying boyfriend, Greg, who randomly show up to fight their "cause" to rid the world of magic. And there I was sitting there like, "Who are these muggles?" Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know. Greg turns out to be Owen, the young boy Regina tried to trick into staying with her after capturing--and eventually killing--his father. But still.

I think the main issue I had with season 2 was that there was just too much going on. The main characters were usually separated, dealing with their own individual problems while new characters were added (like Aurora, Mulan, and Tiny) that ended up taking time away from the characters we were most interested in. What gave me hope in the season finale was that the main characters now had to work together in order to go after Henry.

All I can say about the 3rd season premiere is WOA. It was just non-stop awesomeness, wrapped in adrenaline, filled with "Did-that-just-happen?" moments. I also loved the sassy one-liners from Regina and Hook. This probably sounds terrible, but the most satisfying moment for me would have to be the fate of Greg and Tamara. Right before the show started, I vocally wished that the Lost Boys, or Rumpelstiltskin, or someone would take care of them. And, what do you know? Greg's shadow is torn from his body and cast into oblivion, while Tamara is shot, then healed, then has her heart ripped out and crushed by Rumpelstiltskin. Did I mention that Rumpelstiltskin is my favorite?
My reaction when Rumpelstiltskin killed Tamara.

Also, I think the evil take on Peter Pan will make for an interesting villain. Initially, I didn't like the idea of a bad Pan, but then again I never really liked the original Pan either. He was a bit of an arrogant, sexist, and obnoxious little punk when you think about it.

Of course, like always, this episode raised some new questions and left us wondering what's going to happen next. For instance, why does Pan need Henry's heart? Does the heart of the "truest believer" contain the most powerful magic? And what was the deal with that doll that the lost boy gave to Rumpelstiltskin? Was it Bae's or was it something entirely different? I'm thinking the latter since the lost boy mentioned it was something Rumpelstiltskin hadn't thought about in years. *Sigh* Just when we thought Rumpelstiltskin's plot line couldn't get anymore complicated. Also, based on the promo for next week's episode, I'm interested to see Belle's involvement in Neverland. I assumed she would only be in Storybrooke, but let's hope for some Rumbelle action.

Overall, I am EXTREMELY pleased with season 3 so far. It's only the first episode, but it is definitely off to a better start than it was last season. Let's hope Once Upon a Time will live up to its beginnings and have some happily ever afters already.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

The Music of Harry Potter

"Ah music . . . A magic beyond all we do here!" --Albus Dumbledore 

As of today, I am approximately halfway through reading the Harry Potter series. Woo hoo! Really, I have jury duty to thank for that. I didn't bring anyone to justice during my time as a potential juror. Instead, I added yet another Harry-Potter-freak-out-session to my life. Not that I minded at all.

But the fangirling didn't stop there.

Whenever I reread the series, my intake of Harry Potter related material increases exponentially. In the past week I have watched a multitude of Harry Potter fan videos on youtube, searched minor characters' back stories, and pinned even more Potter pins on Pinterest. Last night, however, I found another aspect of Harry Potter to geek out over.

It began as innocent as ever, believe me. My sister was playing snippets from famous scores that I was supposed to guess the movies to. This eventually led us to revisit the complete works of John Williams, which, inevitably, led us astray--astray to awesomeness. It's hard to pick my favorite John Williams score--but, then again, being a biased Harry Potter fan, it's not so hard. John Williams always seems to compose a score that fits the film perfectly, and Harry Potter is no exception. Did you know that Williams wrote "Hedwig's Theme" for the trailer, not necessarily planning on using it in the films? Talk about skill. If you want to learn  more, here's a link to a great article on the Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone soundtrack:

My sister and I ended up geeking out over the various Harry Potter soundtracks--the 3rd being our favorite. I feel like I must mention that my sister and I are so invested in Harry Potter that we can recite the lines from the movies AND sing the music playing in the background as well. So that's what I did last night: listened to Harry Potter soundtracks and recited the lines that correspond to the music in the film. It was a great time.

While John Williams' score best captured the magical world of Harry Potter, Patrick Doyle, Nicholas Hooper, and Alexander Desplat also composed Harry-Potter-worthy scores. In fact, I would say Desplat's The Deathly Hallows Part II is one of my favorite Harry Potter soundtracks. Ahem--"Statues" . . . just putting that out there. The last movie was also great because it incorporated John Williams' original themes, such as "Harry's Wondrous World," and also themes from Nicholas Hooper ("Dumbledore's Farewell"). No matter which score you prefer, I think we can all agree that the music is just another aspect of the films that brings the magic of Harry Potter to life.

Speaking of Harry Potter--when am I not, right--I realize I'm a bit behind on my 30 day challenge. I'll just include 3 days in one post and keep the explanations brief--well, brief-ish.

Least Favorite Character:

Dolores Umbridge

Why? Because she's evil. And wears pink.

Least Favorite Book:

This was hard since I like all the books, but the 5th book has always been the hardest for me to get through. Harry spends the whole book in an angst-ridden, Voldemort-possessed rage and everything seems to be working against him. Plus, Umbridge is in it. And we already know how I feel about her.

Favorite Film: 

I just like the first movie. Everything just works. Also, the first movie is probably closest to the book, which is a major factor for me.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

I Wear Doctor Who Shirts Now . . . Doctor Who Shirts are Cool

As I mentioned in my post from yesterday, I have jury duty this week. So far it's been a lot of waiting. And waiting. Then eating. Eating while waiting. And more waiting. It also consists of a lot of awkward silences  between fifty-something strangers. Now, I don't pride myself on much, but avoiding eye contact and conversing with others is a gift of mine. But sometimes I just can't evade human interaction. Sometimes it's painful. Most times it's uncomfortable. And sometimes . . .  it's awesome.

This is how excited I was to find a fellow Whovian.
While I waited for my ride to pick me up at the courthouse, a lady and fellow jury-duty-victim sat down next to me. Naturally, I was reading Harry Potter, shutting myself completely off from the rest of the world--as I do--when I noticed the woman to my left kept glancing at me. Of course, I just pretended that I didn't notice. Eventually, she plucked up enough courage to ask me, "Is that a TARDIS on your shirt?" Timidly, I said "yes," but internally I resounded with a triumphant "YES!" and fist pump.

Yesterday, my very first Doctor Who t-shirt arrived in the mail and, let me tell you, I was excited. Not only does it have the TARDIS on it, but it also has the complete "wibbly, wobbly, timey, wimey stuff" line. My sister pointed out that the shirt was a bit text-heavy. She may be right, but I figured a true Whovian wouldn't have to read the whole thing to get it. And those who don't get it can just walk away. Ha. Kidding. But I didn't realize how quickly my shirt would single out another Whovian.

I ended up geeking out with this woman until my ride pulled up. Even though I was looking forward to going home, I was a little sad to leave. As much as I think I like keeping to myself at all times--well, some times--randomly rhapsodizing about Doctor Who with someone I met on jury duty is cool.

 Like fezzes. And bow ties.

And I conclude with my Day 2 entry of the Harry Potter challenge:

Favorite book . . . 

After 870 pages worth of all caps, teenage wizard angst, the 6th Harry Potter brings back the delight and humor of the previous books, along with the suspense of Voldemort's rise to power and mystery of Snape's true loyalties. Plus, Harry and Ginny happens. Need I say more? This was a hard decision for me to single out my favorite of the series, but I think I can safely say that the Half-Blood Prince would approve of my choice.

Monday, July 8, 2013

"To Harry Potter--the Boy Who Lived!"

Well, it's that time of year again! Potter time, that is. For the past four summers I have made a habit of rereading Harry Potter, my all-time favorite series. I mostly did this with the beginning of college because I wouldn't dare risk reading them during the school year. If I had, I would have been forced to choose between my schoolwork and Harry, and I think we all know who would win:
"Avada Kedavra, homework, focus, and academic success!!!"

Since then, Harry Potter has become a sort of summer tradition for me. More reason to love summer, right?  Anyway, I finished The Sorcerer's Stone last night and got a good start on The Chamber of Secrets this morning during jury duty. (Yes, I'm on jury duty. What joy is mine.) No matter how many times I read this series, I still find myself laughing out loud (mostly at Harry and Ron), getting chills at my favorite lines (usually provided by Dumbledore), and just freaking out at its overall awesomeness.

In rereading the 1st book, specifically, I am always amazed at just how nice of a boy Harry is: he appeals to Ron's financial woes by pointing out Dudley's hand-me-downs; instead of freaking out over Neville's sudden appearance before his midnight duel (like Ron and Hermione), he asks how his broken wrist is; and who could forget the moment he gives Neville a chocolate frog and tells him, "You're worth twelve of Malfoy"? The amazing part is that Harry has no reason to be nice. He lost his parents before he could remember them, then he's forced to live with Dursley's who give a bad name to Muggles everywhere. This time around it really got me when Harry goes to the zoo for Dudley's birthday--his first time at the zoo, mind you--and he spends the day avoiding Piers and Dudley's bullying, eating cheap lemon pops and Dudley's rejected ice cream, and being ignored by his aunt and uncle--when they aren't demeaning him. And this is "the best morning he'd had in a while" . . . Excuse me while I find a dark corner to cry in.

So, to honor Harry Potter even more, I thought I'd try that whole 30 day challenge thing . . but the Potter edition. Today I begin with my favorite character. And he is . . . 

Yes, I know. A little generic, but Harry is number one--or should I say "the chosen one?" Ha ha. He's brave,yes, but I think Harry's greatest quality is his goodness. This is best seen in the final showdown between him and Voldemort: 

"Think, and try for some remorse, Riddle…."
"What is this?"
Of all the things that Harry had said to him, beyond any revelation or taunt, nothing had shocked Voldemort like this.  Harry saw his pupils contract to thin slits, saw the skin around his eyes whiten.
"It’s your one last chance," said Harry. “it’s all you’ve got left….I’ve seen what you’ll be otherwise….Be a man….try….Try for some remorse…."
Woa. Just . . . woa. I mean, he gave Voldemort--the loser who killed his parents, his friends, and made him a horcrux--a second chance. Who does that? 

Harry Potter. That's who.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Fanny Price is Dead . . . and I'm Okay with That

"Nobody, I believe, has ever found it possible to like the heroine of Mansfield Park." --Lionel Trilling

I finally started plowing through my summer reading this past week and boy, did I start with a crazy one! Murder at Mansfield Park by Lynn Shepherd retells Jane Austen's original work, casting the witty and clever Mary Crawford as the new heroine and Fanny Price as the wealthy, conceited heiress that everyone hates. Through a series of rivalries, jealousy, love affairs, and unrequited love, Fanny is found murdered on the grounds of Mansfield. Following the lead of thief-taker Charles Maddox, Mary helps piece together the details of Fanny's murder while fighting her feelings for Fanny's fiance, Edmund.

I have to tell you, I thoroughly enjoyed this book from the start. I've read Mansfield Park a couple of times and I actually did my senior project on it this past year. Long story short, I liked the book. It was Fanny I couldn't stand: she's too timid to act . . . like, at all, she's so weak that she's falls ill after picking roses, and she's just so . . . so . . . serious. *Insert Joker reference here*
"Why so serious, Fanny? Why?"
Fanny is also so morally sound that you feel guilty for disliking her . . .which just makes you dislike her even more.

Suffice to say, I found a twisted sense of pleasure in Fanny's imminent death. I know, I know. I'm a horrible person. But hey--she's fictional, so it's okay. Also, Shepherd explores Mary's character further, providing a more sympathetic back story. I really enjoyed the way Shepherd used the same events and--at some points--wording from Austen's original text. Although, I will say that I thought the murderer's reveal to be a bit obvious, but I'm usually wrong when it comes to mysteries so I got a kick out of being right for once.

For Jane Austen fans, particularly those who liked Mansfield Park, I recommend reading this book. As for those who hate Mansfield Park or share my utter abhorrence for Miss Price, I recommend reading this book. I mean, who doesn't love a good mystery and Jane Austen? The answer is no one. No one, people.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Into the Woods and Out of the Movie Theater

Random delight of the day: Into the Woods is being made into a film and set to premiere around Christmas 2014! Not sure how I didn't hear about this sooner, but I found out about the adaptation through the casting of Anna Kendrick as Cinderella. You can read more about this here:

 I grew up watching the original Broadway cast version and it quickly became one of my favorite musicals. Fairy tale crossovers, Stephen Sondheim, and Bernadette Peters? I mean, how could you NOT like it? So naturally my first thought upon hearing about the movie was filled with excitement: Into the Woods? One of my favorite musicals of all time? A movie? Yay! But then a millisecond passed and I realized--one of my favorite musicals of all time is being made into a movie? Crud. As you can tell, I'm pretty conflicted at the moment.

Let's start with the positives:

  • Johnny Depp as The Wolf: Depp is awesome in any role, particularly the unusual ones. I'm looking forward to seeing him as a villain. Plus, Depp can sing and has sung Sondheim in Sweeney Todd.
  • Emily Blunt as The Baker's Wife: whether she's a snobby fashion assistant, Queen of England, or just trying to bring salmon to the Yemen, Blunt fills the role she's playing perfectly. She also has a pretty voice.  However, Blunt has some serious shoes to fill after Joanna Gleason, who won a Tony for her performance.
  • Meryl Streep as The Witch: Bernadette Peters owned this role, but I keep telling myself it's Meryl Streep. 'Nuff said.
As for the rest of the cast, I'm a little wary. Jake Gyllenhaal and Chris Pine are attractive enough for the Princes, but I can't see them--or hear them, I guess--matching the chops of Robert Westenberg and Chuck Wagner. Furthermore, their rendition of "Agony" is unbeatable. Anna Kendrick I'm on the fence about. I like her as an actress and her voice is good, but I'm not sure if she has the range for Cinderella. Also, Disney is behind this. And that can either be great or very, very bad.

I'm guessing this will be similar to Tom Hooper's Les Miserables: great acting, okay singing. 

I suppose it's too early to get too apprehensive. Just don't mess this up Disney or we'll offer you to the giants. 
"Some of us don't like the way you've been telling it."

Friday, June 21, 2013

The Summer of Gatsby

"Do you always watch for the longest day of the year and then miss it? I always watch for the longest day of the year and then miss it."

Well, today is technically the first day of summer and the first day of my blog. Woo hoo! Yeah, let's see if I'm still cheering at the end of this post. I wasn't sure what to start my blog with, but, being the longest day of the year, this quote from F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby came to mind. And then I thought "hey--I can write about that!" Yay transitions!

Anyhoo, so I'm sure you've all heard about or seen Baz Luhrmann's new adaptation of The Great Gatsby. It came out over a month ago, but I think it's still worth talking about. I saw it the day it premiered, but not early enough to escape an outpouring of reviews, mostly of the negative nature. I was foolish and read a few before seeing the film for myself. Most praised Leonardo DiCaprio's performance as Gatsby, but seemed to dislike everything else. It was too lavish, too much, and the characters were too shallow. My first reaction to this was did they even read the book?

Too be honest, I wasn't too thrilled when I first heard about the movie. The Great Gatsby has been one of my favorite novels since high school, so naturally I would be nervous about any film adaptation. The casting of DiCaprio is what really threw me off. Not that I don't think he is a good actor, DiCaprio just didn't look like Gatsby to me. Now Toby Stephens from the A&E adaptation fits the role of Gatsby visually: dark hair, ridiculously perfect teeth, and an almost Ken-Doll-like appearance that reflects the artificiality of Gatsby's facade. DiCaprio on the other hand was too blonde, too boyish, yet old if that makes any sense. 

However, the critics' mutual praise of DiCaprio's performance is the one thing I turned out agreeing with them on. Appearances aside, DiCaprio's performance as Jay Gatsby is unlike any other I have seen. He gives Gatsby a larger emotional range, showing more of a struggle to maintain his false identity. While not in the book, Gatsby's blowup with Tom demonstrates the breakdown of his act more clearly and makes his ultimate defeat more tragic. However, one could say that DiCaprio made Gatsby too likeable. Part of the novel's conflict is Nick's view of Gatsby. Like Nick, you're never quite sure if you like Gatsby or not until the end when he is proven to be slightly less annoying and shallow than other characters--and yes, I'm looking at you, Daisy Buchanan. I always found myself on Gatsby's side in the film while that wasn't the case in the novel. 

Turning briefly to Nick, I was surprised at the general dislike towards Tobey Maguire. Now here's a casting I was excited about from the start. Like DiCaprio, Maguire has a boyish quality to him that works for the role of Nick. While not exactly innocent, Nick does mature in a sense throughout the story and I think Maguire's younger portrayal works. Also, I enjoyed the emphasis on Nick's relationship with Gatsby. Nick ultimately becomes Gatsby's only friend and the development of this relationship is presented more accurately in this version. Also, the fact that DiCaprio and Maguire are childhood friends in real life only makes their interactions on screen that much more enjoyable.

In response to the idea that Luhrmann's adaptation is over the top, all I can say is "yes-yes it is." In my opinion, Luhrmann's use of colors, special effects, and cinematography add to the excess of the 1920's. Everything about this era--especially where Gatsby is concerned--is about being bold, bright, obnoxious, and over the top. Luhrmann's style reflects the attitude of this time.

However, there were a few things I didn't like. The soundtrack completely threw me off. While I appreciated the parallels between the 1920's party lifestyle to today's, the modern music of Jay-Z, Fergie, and so on became a distraction for me and took a long time to get used to. Also, Nick being committed to an asylum was unnecessary. I get that they were trying to create a reason for Nick's narration, but other adaptations used Nick's narrative without making him crazy. Plus, the post-Gatsby-alcoholic-troubled Nick was too reminiscent of emo Peter Parker from the the third Spider-man movie which no one really should mention again. 

In the end, I liked the movie. After re-reading the novel, I see just how faithful Luhrmann's adaptation is to Fitzgerald's text. While some reviews criticize the flatness or shallowness of the characters, they are completely missing the point of the novel. The Great Gatsby isn't supposed to leave the audience satisfied. If anything, it leaves us unsettled and disgusted at the world. Nick's realization of Tom and Daisy's carelessness is the same for the readers/viewers. Tom, Daisy, Jordan, and even Gatsby end up being shallow, fragmented, and artificial people. If you are set on a satisfying, jolly conclusion don't see this movie. But if you want a viewing experience as sad and loud and colorful as one of Gatsby's parties, then head on over, old sport!