Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Hobbit!!

Guys, guys guys, you have no idea how much I have missed writing for this blog! I'll be having quite a few adventures in the next few weeks, so you'll be seeing more exciting stuff here on le blog.

But now on to the task at hand. THE HOBBIT.
In short, oh my God, you guys it was so good I can't even.
But here's the long version.
So I've waited eight years for The Hobbit. I was six when I first watched Lord of the Rings ( I had an older brother), and now we're finally getting the rest of the story. And as the previews started rolling in the theater that fateful Saturday afternoon, I thought to myself "Was eight years worth it?"
Um. Yes. Yes. YESYESYESYESYES. Oh my gosh yeeeeeeeeees.
Mind the incorrect grammar, but yes, the film was amazing. I am happy to say that I enjoyed every single frame, even if they weren't being projected at a higher rate than normal.
Okay, let's see here.
1. I really enjoyed how much the film ties into Lord of the Rings, and still remains it's own separate thing. The continuity is incredible.  However, the tone is lighter than that of it's predecessors, which works, because the Hobbit is lighter than Lord of the Rings in book form as well.
2. If you've never seen Martin Freeman playing one of your favorite literary characters (and you do have a variety to choose from), you're missing out. Because I have yet to see a role he has played and I haven't genuinely liked his performance. Bilbo Baggins is no exception. He completely manages to carry of this giant of a film. And there are tons of other characters reprising their roles as well. There is no bad performance in this film.
3. Soundtrack is perfect, as is expected of the extremely talented Howard Shore. New themes are laid down, as well as some throwbacks to the also perfect Lord of the Rings soundtrack.
4. The pacing is absolutely perfect. I was never once bored through the three hours of the movie and that's saying quite a lot since I haven't taken medication in..........three years.
5. Even though this is only part 1 of the film, it feels like a cohesive thing by itself. My main problem with split adaptations is that part 1 feels like nothing but buildup and part 2 feels like a lengthy explosion. This feels like a movie, not a buildup. Points.
6. It's a faithful adaptation while adding in stuff from the appendices found at the back of Return of the King and some thing to make it a little more cinematic, but everything is straight from the book, including most of the dialog.
But maybe the best thing of The Hobbit is that it feels like coming home to somewhere you've forgotten about. There's no denying that it's been quite a long time since there have been Hobbits in the movie theater. But this feels like a welcome return back to Middle Earth, and I for one enjoyed it a lot.
And I definitely did not cry when the opening credits rolled, thank you very much.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Babel by Mumford and Sons

I try not to review albums too soon after I've first listened to them, which is the reason why this review took almost a month to get in order. Apologies for that.

Anyway, on to the album. I've loved Mumford and Sons ever since I first had "The Cave" recommended to me by a friend. Their sound is really unique while still being rooted in folk influences. Sigh No More was one of my favorite new British releases and I had been eagerly awaiting their second album from the get-go. I'm happy to report that Babel is a worthy follow up to the stroke of brilliance that is Sigh No More.

On this sophomore effort, Mumford and Sons expand upon the themes and sounds of their first album, making a more polished effort, but polished is not a bad thing. There is no denying that Sign No More is very raw, and Babel is definitely a maturing of lyrics and the sound of the band. There is euphoric joy, in songs like Babel and Lover of the Light, and quiet reverent introverted lyricism on Ghosts That We Knew and Not With Haste. However, the real highlight of the album surprisingly enough didn't even make it to the standard edition. There is a lovely cover of Simon and Garfunkel's "The Boxer", featuring the famed Jerry Douglas and Paul Simon, that I just can't get enough of. It's crazy beautiful. That's not slighting the originals on Babel at all, but this is one of the best covers I have heard in my long standing relationship with covers (And that's saying something, as I used to be a really big Joan Jett fan).

Anyway, the album is sweet and wonderful, but I can't help but think about the early reports that this album was going to have a lot more "doom and gloom" than the finished product. I mean, don't get me wrong please, I love this album and all it's joy, but the only song that could really be classified as "doom and gloom" could be Broken Crown, and maybe Hopeless Wanderer. I have this horrible theory that the record label might have tossed away the angst for some reason. For example, there was a lovely song called Home that was going to be on Babel, and the song was going to be re-named Holland Road. Now Holland Road is a track on the finished project, but it's not Home. There's a lack of the epic angst and fury of some previous  cuts. There's nothing like Dust Bowl Dance or I Gave You All, important contributions to their musical stylings.

All in all, a wonderful album that surprised me with all it's euphoria. Give it a listen.


Monday, October 8, 2012

10 Reasons Why Avengers Is The Best Marvel Movie

It's certainly no secret at this point how much I love the Avengers. It's on the verge of becoming a problem that will require therapy.  And since I'll be picking up the DVD after school today, here are ten reasons why Avengers simply cannot be beat in terms of Marvel. I'll leave you to argue about the Dark Knight by yourselves.
(Small Note: These are in no particular ranking, this is just the order I wrote them for no reason).

10. Black Widow. Questions? Understandable. She's not given the most screen time, nor is she "the most important" (that's debateably Iron Man, Cap, or the Hulk). And her story line is not particularly what I'm focusing on here. It's how Joss Whedon handled her character. In Iron Man 2, we cannot deny that Tasha is basically there for eye candy. Every shot focuses on how beautiful she is, how sexy she is, almost like that one chick from those Resident Evil movies. In Avengers, there's no denying she's gorgeous, but that's part of the trap. As exemplified by her opening scene, Tasha is actually quite dangerous. She lets her captors believe that she is really just a pretty face, very weak and whatnot, and then she tears them to pieces. It's quite remarkable. This is really what I liked about her in the Avengers, she was an actual female super hero, not some half naked chick who can shoot a gun like some other movies that have women as their central characters.

9. Equal screen time. Except for maybe the very underplayed Maria Hill, everyone gets their share of the limelight in the Avengers, something no easily done. Think about it: Six superheros, one villian, Coulson, Nick Fury, Selvig, and Maria Hill. That's eleven characters to take care of. It's amazing that Avengers even has a coherent plot point trying to give everybody some screen time, not even getting in to the amazing pay off and quality of the film.

8. Coulson. I know, I know, I do in fact have a lot of pheels. But the one thing that is always present in super hero movies is the lack of normalcy. There are no "normal" people, and if there are, they aren't central characters. Or they're always love interests.  Either way, Phil Coulson is a remarkable character in that he shows that you don't have to have a cape or powers or ridiculous hand to hand combat skills to be a hero.

7. The Bromance of Tony Stark and Bruce Banner. Okay, not really but kind of. I enjoy how Joss points out their similarities. Both incredibly smart, both a little angsty, let's not deny it. I aso thought that Tony trying to get Bruce to loosen up was hilarious and vaguely profound. Some people question how the Hulk was magically able to control his rage. I think Tony Stark has something to with it. Something about not trying to tip-toe around him or some other deep thought of that nature. Science Bros forever.

6. Speaking of Dr. Banner, WE FINALLY GOT AN AMAZING HULK! I mean seriously, I didn't particularly enjoy the two previous Hulk movies. I found the teenage angst and Godzilla-like destruction to be a bit cliche' and honestly boring. But Mark Ruffalo gets it right. Instead of going for the overplayed "We're going to try and humanize a monster", he is already human. We don't have to go through that again and again. It's more like accepting the monster this time around, and learning how to control it. Also, how adorable is Mark Ruffalo? Not that it matters, but he adds a real likeability to a character I was never very fond of.

5. You saw it coming. Tom Hiddleston's Loki. When I sat down to watch Thor a few days before The Avengers hit theaters, I wasn't expecting to end up sobbing on the floor of my living room. But I did. Mostly because of Loki. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely loved the rest of the movie and it's juxtaposition of modern day Earth with Asgard, and Chris Hemsworth is an awesome Thor, but Loki makes the movie. The complex pathos of his character and the wonderful acting put this movie over the top. But in Avengers, Loki's character goes even further. The story behind his transformation from jealous sibling to force to be reckoned with makes the writer in me fangirl all over the place. And again, Tom does a brilliant job playing Loki with the right subtlety. They never really explain what happened to Loki when he SPOILERS HERE DON'T READ IF YOU HAVEN'T SEEN IT fell out of Asgard, and the fan theories are all beautiful and moving, but it's implied that something very bad happened to Loki, and he is no longer the same man. Beautiful.

4.The cast and crew behind this movie are un-ironically enthusiastic about everything. The love this stuff, and that is apparent in everything. So many dull action movies have come and gone this year, and that's a shame. Dull action movie sounds like an oxymoron. But the fact of the matter is that there are now generic super hero movies, generic action movies, generic thrillers. Movies are more and more often becoming generic. Avengers is not generic, based on premise alone, and that is something rare in Hollywood. These film-makers care so much about what they're doing, something you don't see in a lot of movies released to the mainstream. They hit all the right notes, because it's what they'd want to watch to. They're not looking for a pay-check (although I'm sure most everyone involved here got a fairly large one). This crew wanted to make a good movie, and by God they did.

3. Your inner 9 year. Not only does Avengers have the character development and witty dialog to make fourteen year old girl me happy, your inner 9 year old self probably enjoyed this a lot too. I dare you to not giggle as Tony tries to get Bruce to hulk out by poking him with things. Or actually bust out laughing when Loki is, to coin a phrase, Hulk smashed Tom and Jerry style. There is a childlike sense of wonder when the Helicarrier lifts out of the ocean. That is so rare in films to have any sort of sense of wonder. We see giant CGI robots, airplanes, spaceships, battleships, and other large and dangerous things all the time at the movies now. I don't consider watching a Transformers movie wondrous, I consider it a head-ache. Avengers is like the opening scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark, when Indy's running from the giant boulder: your jaw can't help but drop, even if you've seen it a million times.

2. There's a hero for everyone. There is no way you can't find a character to relate to in this movie, something I find improbably fantastic. Because there is something about relating to a giant blonde Asgardian, or a genius billionaire playboy philanthropist, or the soldier out of time that makes these characters feel real. And it's a little bit of hope too. Captain America got frozen in ice for 70 years, only to wake up in the present with no fladoodling clue what's going on. So I can adjust to high school, even if it's hard. Cheesy as it sounds, it's amazing how much I related to almost every one of these characters.

1. It's just good. It has all the great elements of storytelling, acting, production design, and CGI that make a  really good blockbuster. It doesn't try to be anything more than the best summer action blockbuster ever. The Avengers is not pretentious, or boring, or "artsy",  or anything other than what it does best: fun.



Adele's New Bond Single!

So I was sitting around my house on Saturday morning, surfing Tumblr as I am wont to do when someone is fangirling all over about Adele's new James Bond single. I'd heard she was doing it, but definitely didn't expect it to be out yet. Naturally, I was listening to it within the next five minutes.
While I actually haven't seen a whole lot of James Bond anything, being knowledgeable in film I'm very well aware of Bond's existence. And if you know anything, you know that whomever does the next James Bond song has a lot on their hands.
Anyway, Adele hits the nail on the head yet again, even sampling the original Bond theme into the song. It's a wonderful dramatic throwback. I couldn't enjoy it more. Like seriously, everyone needs to go listen to it now, if only to run around their house and strike poses.


Thursday, September 27, 2012

Banned Books Week

It's that time of year again. The last week of September each year is dedicated to the awareness and discussion of banned books in schools, libraries, everywhere.
I can't remember if I've posted anything on the subject before, but I thought it wouldn't hurt to talk about it again.
So a few years ago, I was taking a small four week writing class at my little home school and one of the subjects we were given to write about was Banned Book Week. It was the first time I'd ever heard of the subject. And it fascinated me. That there were people out there who wanted to stop the circulation of some books I hold very dear to my heart, like Harry Potter and To Kill A Mockingbird. And the I met people who actually wanted to censor books. At my church, at my school, everywhere. I'm not talking about parents not letting their kid read a book; that's fine. But people who were for the censorship of books. I'd even  heard a story about someone who had to read a banned book for summer reading at school and failed all the work on it because their mom wouldn't let them read it!
I find stuff like this appalling. Not to sound like your grandpa, but book bannning doesn't hold up to American values, or even just the basics of being a good human being.

I'm one to talk though. If I'm reading or watching something that makes me uncomfortable, I stop, and because of that, my parents don't have to keep a very tight leash on what I do. Even if something does make me slightly uncomfortable, I'll talk to them about it. And my mom does read a lot of the books I do. We've both really enjoyed Markus Zusak's Book Theif, The Hunger Games, Veronica Roth's Divergent novels, so on so forth. Other kids don't work like that.

I'm not saying that we should put Fifty Shades of Grey in a seven year old's hands. I'm just calling for a bit of reason.

So here's what I, along with thousands of others, believe about book censorship: It depends on  your kid. One fourteen year old could handle The Hunger Games or Laurie Halse Anderson's much challenged Speak. Another may not. It all depends on the level of maturity your on. There are probably grown adults who couldn't handle Speak or something like The Perks of Being A Wallflower. But never under any condition would I listen to someone who told  me that Harry Potter is inappropriate, or that I shouldn't read Twlight (although I'm not doing that again). It's mine and my parent's choices, not yours.



Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Things Public Schools Could Learn From Hogwarts

This post was partially inspired by Hank Green's fantastic Harry Potter song "This Isn't Hogwarts'.
In the video where he posts the song, he notes that the public school system could learn a thing or two from Hogwarts. Well, since I'm currently sitting by myself in a public school classroom (don't worry, we're on break), I thought I'd take a moment and write some things I think that my school could use from our wizard friends.

1. Cafeteria food. Do I even need to say so much. I get hungry every time I read or watch a Potter book or movie, just because the stupid house elves cook up all the good stuff. I'm not saying that we need to have Halloween feasts and stuff, but the stuff that gets served here is not exactly edible.

2. Experience learning. What do Hogwarts kids do when they're learning about potions? Make them. What happens when they're learning about plants? They go outside to actually work with the plants. What do you do when you learn about chemicals in high school? Write down some formulas and forget about it the next day. What do we do when we learn about businesses and how to dress for success? (I should mention that I have to take a business tech class. It's required.) Arguably, experience learning is the best way to learn. We should do more of it.

3. Houses. While the Hogwarts houses determine mostly where you live, I think that adding a house-like system with names and colors based on student interests might make for an interesting social experiment.  I know for me at least that it's really hard to make friends, because  the cliques from middle school are still effective because they all got classes together (I don't know if I ever published that thought but my mom once said that all the cliques are going to break up 'cause they'll all have different classes. They outsmarted us on that one). If we were sorted into something like houses, we'd have an immediate something to talk about with a lot of people and similar interests. I hate to put people in a box, but this might work, seeing as most high schoolers are pretty socially awkward.

What do you think? I'm probably just insane.


A Thought on The Hunger Games and The Hipster Complex

As most you know by this point, two years ago, I read a fantastic little novel called The Hunger Games. And then the novel became wildly popular and was made into a great movie and now girls around the world are wearing Team Peeta shirts.
While I love that I get to discuss such an awesome book/movie with so many people, something just seems really weird and meta about The Hunger Games popularity.
I've talked to my family a lot (They've all seen the movie or read the book) about how I think it's funny that the whole point of these books is that we force these children to fight each other in an arena until there's only one left and then they make celebrities, and yet that latter bit is kind of what we're doing in real life. Every time I see Mockingjay earbuds, or Katniss and Peeta cardboard cut-outs, I can't help but think of some similar instance in the book and think 'NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!" Something just seems incredibly off about this.
And that's when I realized I had a hipster complex.
Hipster complex (n)- A complex one develops when they've been involved with a group or fandom for longer than most fans. A hipster complex leads one to believe they have more of a say in how a fandom orchestrates itself because they've been around longer, even though most of the time they have no creative control over anything to do with the production of the movie/group/show/book/.
And I have one of those with The Hunger Games.Even though I know nobody on the production team (well, my mom had a class with Woody Harrelson in college, but that's beside the point), I somehow believe that I know more about this and care more deeply about it than other people. Not okay, I know. I need to get into some Hipster Complex Anonymous sessions.
But anyway, I did find a little point in this mess that still bothers me. And I'd to hear some reader's thoughts on this as well.
Do you think the Hunger Games is over-merchandised?
I get that we don't live in Panem. I understand that Katniss and Prim and Peeta and Gale and Haymitch and Effie and Cinna aren't real. But the whole point of these books was that this future might not be that far away. And I'm not saying it's wrong to own a Mockingjay pin or a t-shirt either. But the pillow cases and cardboard cutouts and whatnot are still a little creepy when put in context with the book.
But I digress. This is the last I shall ever speak/write of the subject, something my family is probably celebrating.  So when Girl Scout Camp comes around and we do a Hunger Games theme, I'll just roll with it.


Monday, August 27, 2012

In Which I Review Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog

So it's been a while since I've written here on le blog. It's been pretty weird what with starting public school, trying desperately, and in vain. to catch a showing off the Dark Knight Rises (still haven't seen it).
Now that school has started, I'm hoping I can get into a routine and update this thing more often.
Anyway, onto the point: Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog.
If you're not already interested in this thing after hearing the name, you may need to be examined by a doctor.
Directed by Joss Whedon, Dr. Horrible's is on youtube in it's entirety and rumor has it that it's going to be developed into a TV show in the next year or so.
Basically, Dr. Horrible (Neil Patrick Harris) goes about singing songs, building a freeze ray, going to the laundromat, trying to get his dream Penny (Felicia Day), and avoiding his arch nemesis and Penny's new boyfriend, Captain Hammer (Okay, I completely blanked on his name, but he's the guy from Castle). He's trying to get accepted into the Evil League of Evil, and fails constantly. I won't give anything else away, but I loved it. It's forty-five minutes of awesomesauce with singing and super hero jokes. What's not to love?
Probably the coolest thing about Dr. Horrible is how even though he's unquestionably a villian, he's the equivalent of the hero in this story. It's quickly apparent after about fifteen minutes of the musical that Captain Hammer is, to put it lightly, a jerk.
The music is surprisingly catchy, and the actors do a great job with the vocals as well. I've had a few of the songs stuck in my head for a while now.
As is Joss Whedon's trademark, the dialog is quick and witty, and the story is classic. Boy likes girl, girl kind-of-sort-of-more-than-likely- likes guy, guy builds freeze ray, but it twists all that into something entirely new and fresh. And the actors handle the material wonderfully. Felicia Day is especially good here.
Another interesting fact: This was filmed during the strike in Hollywood a few years back. The cast and crew behind this did it not only because it's a fracking good story, but to show you didn't need a big studio and fancy geekery to make a good film. The whole thing was shot in six days. That's pretty amazing.
Seeing as I'm writing this on my super fancy (and super painful to use) school laptop, I cannot provide such an extra-curricular link at the moment, but as soon as I remember, I'll post it here.

Seriously just go watch it. It's great. Come back here and let's make inside jokes about it later.


Monday, July 23, 2012

A Word on the Shootings in Colorado

Thursday night was a big one in the movie industry. It was the much anticipated midnight premiere of The Dark Knight Rises.
As you all know, it didn't end well in Colorado.
I'm so sorry to hear about all of this. The guy behind this is nothing short of a terrorist and deserves to be imprisoned. My thoughts and prayers are with all of those affected. This should have been a night of good film and friends, not one of tragedy and horror. I cannot even begin to fathom what these families are going through. I've heard so many heart wrenching stories of what happened that night and it sounds like a nightmare. I can't imagine why anyone would ever even THINK of doing something like this.
And while my pain is nowhere near the level of those actually involved, I feel like this has had an impact on myself as well. The movie theater is a second home, a place where I have learnt, laughed, screamed, cried, and had so many adventures. This feels like a violation of my space.
I hope that comic book fans, film fans, and all decent people can come together and get through this situation together.
Again, my thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families.

Deus operatur per omnia.


Saturday, July 21, 2012

Electra Heart by Marina and the Diamonds

Welcome to the life of Electra Heart.

So states a song on Marina and the Diamond's newest effort, Electra Heart. If you're not familiar with Marina and the Diamonds, it's led my Marina Diamindis. Their first release was a cool fusion of new wave, pop, and small pieces of punk. Marina's vocals are awe inspring and operatic, and her lyrics range from the simple and ecstatic, to the strange and melancholy.

Electra is a definite departure from anything on the first record. Marina has chosen to introduce us to a character she has created named Electra Heart. She is the vehicle for the album's ideas. The ideas? Loss of identity in American Culture. Sound boring? Listen to the album first.

However, as much I love a lot of the concepts introduced on the record, sometimes they don't play out as well as they should in theory.

There are a few songs that I absolutely adore. Fear and Loathing is the best of the bunch. Lies, both acoustic and electrified are amazing and lyrically beautiful. Valley of the Dolls is a slow, mournful, tune that to me exemplifies all of the themes on the album when paired with Fear and Loathing. Power and Control is definitely one of the more fun tunes. Primadonna hits all the right notes.

Then there are the songs that sort of work, or that I'm just okay with, like State of Dreaming, which sounds a lot like a Katy Perry song.  How To Be A Heartbreaker just doesn't stand out. Teen Idle bores me. Hypocrates doesn't fit with the rest of these songs.

And then there are the cuts that are just not good at all. Homewrecker in particular is a train wreck. I like a little spoken word every now and then, but it definitely does not work for Marina.

The instrumentation might be the biggest difference between this and Marina's former release. It's very polished pop, produced by several people who worked with top of the charts artists. However, it still sounds unique and very fresh on most of the tracks.

The lyrics are up and down. Like I said, Homewrecker is easily the worst here. State of Dreaming's lyrics are more interesting than the song fully assembled. Fear and Loathing takes the cake again in lyrics though. It shows just how brilliantly Marina understood what she was doing during the initial writing and recording of Electra Heart.

Notice I said initial. Electra Heart seems to suffer from what happened to Lana Del Rey's debut. Marina seems to have gotten bored with writing the initial ideas she had. Electra was a long time in the making and it seemed that new ideas kept getting piled on and on and on until the concept was almost lost. There are moments when the album is not so sure of itself. One sign on this is all the different tracks being released or not released in different countries. It looks to me as though a lot of songs were optioned for Electra Heart after the initial eight or so, and they've been switching it up in different countries to see what works best. Marina, or the powers that be behind these things, can't decide what they want this album to be. That is the fatal flaw.

If you want to check out Electra Heart, it's definitely worth a listen. But past that? That's up to you.


Saturday, June 23, 2012

In Which I Review Brave

I'm not going to lie to you all: I'm a bit of a Pixar fangirl. Two of the first movies I can ever recall seeing in theaters are Finding Nemo and Monsters Inc. I shed tears in public when I watched Toy Story 3, and Up. I also aspire to have a house with lots of balloons attached to the roof whether it flies or not, because that's just cool.

However, I didn't know what to expect sitting in the theater waiting for Brave. There's something that's surprisingly different about it. I was a little disappointed with it, but it's still miles above some of the other junk in  theaters right now (sorry Avengers, I don't mean you, I love you, you're awesome, let's have dinner).

So I've split up my review into things I liked and disliked because if I don't, this post will probably dissolve into me talking more about other movies than anything else.

Things I Liked

-Pixar's first female protagonist is a welcome addition to their repertoire. She's a bit bratty in the beginning, and therefore a little annoying, but Merida has great character development. Also, awesome hair.

-I found the mother/daughter relationship in the movie really refreshing. To see something like that in a wide release film is more amazing than people give it credit for. Often in movies we see more of an emphasis on love interest where the mother figure gets tossed aside, or more often than not, the mom is a total butt trumpet. To center the movie around Merida's relationship with her mom was, well, brave.

-Brave parodies quiet a few little things here and there, well-known Celtic influenced movies like Braveheart and How To Train Your Dragon (I know, big difference between those two, but whatever). And as usual from Pixar, there are a few jokes that will go over kid's heads, but my mom and I were rolling on the floor laughing.

Things I Disliked

-Despite the label of unconventional princess, I still wish there was a little more unconventionality (is that even a word?) to Merida. I feel really hypocritical for saying that, because compared to Cinderella or Snow White, Merida looks like a total rebel. Don't get me wrong, I love the classic Disney princesses, but there is no denying that a lot of their actions were a fry cry from standing up for themselves or breaking rules. And yet, Merida still feels predictable and conventional in the non-conventional way.

-The middle section of the movie is a little slow. But maybe that's just me.

- Pixar is famed for putting the "family" back in "family movie". This one just felt directly aimed at nine and ten year old girls. Maybe it's just because I'm older now, but Brave feels firmly stuck in it's kid-ness.

I still really enjoyed the movie, but this one fell flat in a few places. Don't go in looking for Up or Toy Story, but it's still a fun little film.


Friday, June 15, 2012

The Fall of Grace Potter and the Nocturnals

About two years ago, I was watching a stupid VH1 music special. I don't really know why. I kind of hate VH1 music specials, but I end up finding bands I really like when I watch them. Anyway, this particular one featured a favorite band of mine, Heart, playing with a band I'd never heard of called Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. After wading through Katy Perry and Kerri Hilson, the band took the stage. I was pretty impressed, they had a hard rock edge, and excellent vocals by Ms. Potter.
I ended up buying their latest album at the time, self titled, and full of cool bluesy jam band like songs. It was pretty good.
Then I bought the previous one, This Is Somewhere, which easily beat out the former for their best album.

Fast forward, to now. Grace Potter and Co. have just released their newest album The Lion, The Beast, The Beat. I'm thoroughly disappointed.

I listened to most of the album on Spotify this morning, and my only thought the entire time is "What just happened?"

The Lion The Beqst The Beat is....it suffers from what I've titled The Lana Del Rey Dilemma. Every song has the same content, speed, sound, and style. But also like Del Rey's debut, Born To Die, there are a few good moments.

Whereas This Is Somewhere was alive and kicking and raw, and their self titled a little more polished, TLTBTB seems like the Nocturnals lost steam and fell asleep. It's one un-inspired moment after another. There is no kick or punchline or anything to keep you from mindlessly bobbing your head and waiting for something good.

On a slightly different note, it's exceptionally sad that the worst song of the bunch "Never Go Back" has been chosen as the lead first single. I've heard it on The Spectrum  a few times, and it sounds like a  song that a P!nk knock off record, or the ever failing Madonna. I can barely stand it.

It's a shame to see a band like this go in for the mainstream kill. I'm sure their success will be massive after this album. And I'm not saying that's a bad thing. Maybe the band wanted to move in this direction, but I personally will not be listening after this disaster.


Monday, June 4, 2012

In Which I Make Tea Blends

I'm not usually one for self promotion, but I started making tea blends, and I'm quite proud of some of the ideas I've had, so this is a master post of all sixteen teas I've made thus far. No witty reviews today :) But I'd be super grateful if you looked through these.

Oh, and I'm leaving the code for 5$ off at the bottom of the post. It's good for your first order.  Click on the links to be whisked off to the tea's page. All the ingredients are listed there too.

1. Fandom Recovery http://www.adagio.com/signature_blend/blend.html?blend=22057&SID=34ae0980ce1680ba243536065ac081e0
This is what I'd like to be drinking when I'm just too overcome with feels.

2. A Midsummer Night's Dream http://www.adagio.com/signature_blend/blend.html?blend=22094&SID=34ae0980ce1680ba243536065ac081e0

A light herbal blend based off the Shakespeare play of the same name.

3. Between Two Lungs http://www.adagio.com/signature_blend/blend.html?blend=22134&SID=34ae0980ce1680ba243536065ac081e0
Inspired for Florence + The Machine's debut album. Very fruity.

4. Captain Jack Sparrow http://www.adagio.com/signature_blend/blend.html?blend=22152&SID=34ae0980ce1680ba243536065ac081e0
Why not? I consider this one to be one of my best.

5.Corpse Bride http://www.adagio.com/signature_blend/blend.html?blend=22125&SID=34ae0980ce1680ba243536065ac081e0
A slightly romantic blend. This uses Adagio's Earl Grey Lavender blend, so it has a bit of calming effect as well.

6. Halloween At Hogwarts http://www.adagio.com/signature_blend/blend.html?blend=22062&SID=34ae0980ce1680ba243536065ac081e0
I've always loved how J.K. Rowling describes autumn at Hogwarts, and how the Halloween passages always have some  significance. So here's one for that. Basically a good pumpkin spice tea with a bit of chocolate.

7. Hex Hall http://www.adagio.com/signature_blend/blend.html?blend=22090&SID=34ae0980ce1680ba243536065ac081e0
This is named after one of my favorite YA book series. Very southern and sweet.

8. Luna Lovegood http://www.adagio.com/signature_blend/blend.html?blend=22200&SID=34ae0980ce1680ba243536065ac081e0
An odd but tasty blend for the incomparably awesome Luna Lovegood.

9. Mr. Pond http://www.adagio.com/signature_blend/blend.html?blend=22226&SID=34ae0980ce1680ba243536065ac081e0
I figured if Rory from Doctor Who keeps dying, he ought to have a tea in his memory. Strong and a bit fruity.

10. Not Your Housekeeper http://www.adagio.com/signature_blend/blend.html?blend=22158&SID=34ae0980ce1680ba243536065ac081e0
Something for Ms. Hudson. Good for the afternoon tea fix.

11 River Song. http://www.adagio.com/signature_blend/blend.html?blend=22105&SID=34ae0980ce1680ba243536065ac081e0
A dessert tea. This one was co-engineered by my little sister. Her favorite Doctor Who character is River Song.

12.  Shakespeare http://www.adagio.com/signature_blend/blend.html?blend=22066&SID=34ae0980ce1680ba243536065ac081e0
My personal favorite tea blend. I actually have tasted this one and it is ridiculously good.

13. The Consulting Criminal http://www.adagio.com/signature_blend/blend.html?blend=22157&SID=34ae0980ce1680ba243536065ac081e0
Jim Moriarty is one of my favorite Holmes characters, so therefore, this. It's got just a hint of citrus in with the Irish Breakfast and hazelnut.

14. The Consulting Detective http://www.adagio.com/signature_blend/blend.html?blend=22060&SID=34ae0980ce1680ba243536065ac081e0
What better to go with the Consulting Criminal? An excellent spiced chai blend.

15. The Graveyard Book http://www.adagio.com/signature_blend/blend.html?blend=22072&SID=34ae0980ce1680ba243536065ac081e0

Based on the fantastic Neil Gaiman novel, The Graveyard Book. A very autumn-y tea. I'd been dying to use Spiced Apple Chai, and this was the perfect oppurtunity.

16. The Raven http://www.adagio.com/signature_blend/blend.html?blend=22071&SID=34ae0980ce1680ba243536065ac081e0
An Edgar Allen Poe type deal. Very dark.

Making these has been really fun for me, and Adagio has tons of other amazing blend makers.

As promised, here's five bucks off a purchase if you decide to buy any. It's only good for 24 hours after this is posted. Here's the code: 7085495612. 


Friday, June 1, 2012

Hollywood and the Curse of Fairy Tale Remakes

I've been keeping a wary eye on the recent wave of fairy tale retellings and imaginings. This year alone we have had Mirror Mirror and Snow White and the Huntsman, the latter opening today. Last year we had Beastly and Red Riding Hood. Most of them have been written off as abysmal. I have not, in fact, seen any of these films, but some anonymous Tumblr user asked me what I thought of fairy tale remakes, so I figured it was worth a shot.

Honestly, none of the recent makes have looked particularly appealing. If I was forced to see any of them, it would be probably be Snow White and the Huntsman, based on a few aspects, like Chris Hemsworth, Charlize Thereon, and Florence + The Machine on the soundtrack. It looks visually interesting, and I'm up for that. What I think to be the greatest problem with Snow White is that it has an epic miscast in the form of Kristen Stewart as Snow White. We are supposedly lead to believe that Kristen Stewart is the very picture of life and Charlize Thereon is the very picture of death. Backwards thinking.

Anyway, most of these films, aimed at the Twlight-ed, teenaged set, feature doe-eyed "empowered" women, sexy men for whom they fall for, and some variation of an evil witch/queen. They're apparently full of angst and vague symbolism. What I don't understand is this: Why are they so popular? We've literally seen this at least five times before. I mean, look at all the Alice in Wonderland imaginings? Tim Burton's was easily the best of the re-making batch, thanks to a kind of spunk present in almost all of Burton's films, but Alice has been overworked in particular.

And in the years to come we're going to see more double re-tellings, with at least two Little Mermaids, Peter Pans, Sleeping Beauties, and maybe even more Alice coming soon.

I'm simply asking this question to you: Why are they so popular? Is it sexy men? Is it the Twilight factor?

Oh, the Twilight factor. Here's the theory: Twilight's central heroine main person type thing, Bella Swann, is such a cardboard character, that girls of any age can insert their own personality traits or interests into the character and live vicariously through her fictional escapades.

Therein I think lies the appeal of these types of films. The fairy tale themes are just a very marketable way of wrapping up the Twilight factor.

I love fairy tales as much as the next teenage blogger, but these angst-y remakes need to stop before I A) finally give in and see  them or B) I go insane.



Monday, May 28, 2012

Sherlock Season 2

Two things.
1. Spoilers. Don't read unless you've watched the show.
2. Haven't seen the show? All the episodes are streaming in good quality for free on the PBS website. Here's a link to the first episode. I trust you can navigate a website well enough to find the rest. http://video.pbs.org/video/2229864759/

Before I got caught up in all The Avengers excitement (or maybe during, my sense of time is a little wibbly right now), I commenced watching Sherlock season 2 on PBS. My dad also started watching with me, which is awesome. There's nothing better than a family that can enjoy British television together.
Anyway, season 2 really blew me away. I'll go episode by episode. Warning: This is going to be a very very long post. Episode by episode, this is what I thought.

A Scandal In Belgravia- Season 2 starts with an episode based off of the original Holmes story A Scandal in Bohemia, a personal favorite of me. However, this one takes quite the turn with it. The focus is on Irene Adler, an opera singer in the books, and here in the show, she's an, erm, dominatrix if you will. I definitely was not expecting half of the things that happened in the episode. Lara Pulver does an excellent job of keeping Irene interesting. Benedict and Martin are completely awesome as usual, and let's not forget Andrew Scott's memorable ten minutes tying up the cliffhanger from last season (which by the way, hit me out of nowhere).

The plot is intricate and intriguing, as is every episode, but this one takes on an entirely new subject: Sherlock's lack of emotion. In fact, the reoccurring theme of season 2 is Sherlock gradually finding some emotion and sentiment. Not too much of course. I mean, he is Sherlock Holmes, but it's progress, I will say. Will we ever see a fully emotionally functioning Holmes? I doubt it. But it's interesting to see him confronted with not only a very sexual woman, but also an intellectual equal.

I laughed a lot in this episode too. There's always room for a few moments of comedy in these episodes, and that's something I really enjoy. Cinematography is top notch as well.

The Hound of Baskervilles- Wow. Oh my gosh. One of the most famous Holmes stories adapted for the small screen by the brilliant crew, and believe me, it doesn't disappoint. This is one of the most thirlling episodes of anything I have ever watched. It creeps up on you like the fog in the scenery. Everything ties together so amazingly that my jaw dropped a couple times.
Baskerville is no easy task. It's one of the most mindbending Holmes stories ever written, and from what I heard Steven Moffatt and Mark Gatiss (the writes, and Gattis plays Mycroft in the show) spent weeks puzzling over how to get it just right and make it work in the modern setting. It was no easy feat, but it's done so beautifully.
I enjoyed the twists and turns and was legitimately  very scared at times. The new characters were very involving (I'll let you guess who they are :) ), and there's a certain depth to one episode characters that you simply can't find anywhere else on television. The conclusion really sets up for the last episode while still giving you some satisfaction from the episode's plot. Five bajillion stars.

The Reichenbach Fall- Being a fan of the original Holmes books, I vaguely knew what we were in for when I started Reichenbach that Sunday night. However, I didn't expect how far everything would go, and how brilliant this episode would prove itself to be. This might be my favorite episode out of the six that have aired.  From the minute that Reichenbach starts, there's an inevitable and appropriate feeling of doom. Things just continue to spiral downward for the characters, but the quality of the show just keeps going up.
I won't give anything anyway, because even though I said spoilers, I know some of you have probably not watched Reichenach and are foolish enough to still be reading. But I was outright sobbing. Usually, when I get worked up over a film or TV show, tears well up, but I'm quiet. No. I was crying my wittle fangirl heart out. My family had to tell me to shut up.
First of all, Martin fladoodling Freeman. He breaks my heart in this episode. He won a BAFTA for his performance as John Watson for last season, rightfully so, but he's even better here. John is one of those characters that really grows on you the more you watch him. I'm very emotionally attached to him.
Benedict is also Martin's equal in the episode. The facade' of Sherlock Holmes falls a bit in this episode, and every line, every gesture, is there for a reason. Well done Mr. Cumberbatch.
Also, Andrew Scott, who is a mainplayer in this episode for once. We've literally seen Moriarty all of 20 minutes until Reichenbach, but here he is in almost every scene. Andrew plays a very mesmerizing Jim Moriarty. It's a little reminiscent of Heath Ledger's famed portrayal of the Joker in The Dark Knight, but very unique and different at the same time. You never quite know what he's going to do next. All the awards (which is kind of true, because Andrew won a BAFTA for this performance a few days ago).

I literally cannot express everything I feel about this show, and I love that about Sherlock. It's so big and intricate, but it also retains that dark sense of humor and fun that is what made Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's original Holmes such a classic.

Rating: All the awards. Watch this show.


Friday, May 25, 2012

The Avengers Reviewed! (SPOILERS)

After a failed first attempt, I finally saw Marvel's Avengers today.


If you don't want to read what is sure to be a long rant about character development, tasteful explosions, and Bruce Banner/Mark Ruffalo, here's the short answer: It was totally amazing and I loved ever minute of it.

Here's the long version.
Oh my gosh. The Avengers is everything you could possible want in a summer block buster... AND MORE. I'm not even kidding, I was in  nerd heaven the entire time. I'm still trying really hard to form complete sentences about it. If I were a lesser blogger, the review would be something like this:

asdfioasjgklangwbetjiaoejgoHOHMYGODTHOR'SHAIRISLUSCIOUS.aagihawdgnakldgnadAnd BRUCE BANNERrouguiagdhgopkasodhusgdfhhsdogjasiodhhgdojgposjuiGHOCOULSONarhiohgdnglangkjweeiejtihhitheiehndnndnLOKIMYBABY

You get the picture.

So anyway, let's go by categories or I'm going to get off track reeeeally quick.

1. Character building
It should also be noted that I've seen all of the prequels, so I might refer to things not in The Avengers that happened.

I love how the cast approaches the Avengers almost like a comedy ensemble. Everyone really plays off their characters personality. There's an exchange between Thor, Iron Man, and Captain America in a forest that cracked me up.  There's a lot of humor that you wouldn't expect. Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man is funny as ever. The scenes with Tony Stark and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) are especially awesome.

2. Tastefully done explosions and action sequences.
I love  a well choreographed chase scene. The opening sequence is Loki breaking into S.H.I.E.L.D. and the chaos that follows. That's when you know you're in for a great ride. The last half hour of battling in Manhattan is also done just so. There's lots of action and explosions,  but not in obnoxious way a la Transformers.

3. I especially enjoyed the time given to characters that didn't have prequels. Jeremy Renner and Scarlett Johanson (not sure if I spelled that right) play Hawkeye and Black Widow respectively. They get great fight scenes and as much backstory as is possible. But the real star here is Mark Ruffalo playing Bruce Banner/The Hulk. I never liked the Hulk all that much, but after seeing The Avengers, my mind was definitely changed. Joss packs an emotional punch in the character of Bruce Banner (and Captain America for that matter). Kudos. And Mark Ruffalo is adorable.

4 TOM FLADOODLING HIDDLESTON! Never could there ever be a more perfect Loki. You can see he's totally evil, but you still feel for him, especially if you've seen the Thor prequel. Also, I don't think I've seen someone who is so grateful to their fans than Tom. Seriously, follow him on twitter, he is so sweet to everyone.

5. Everyone hanging out at S.H.I.E.L.D. is pretty cool too. You've got Nick Fury, Maria Hill, Phil Coulson. They really lay down the canvas for the characters to paint on, adding some color of their own too.

I just love how everything in The Avengers just really comes together and feel cohesive. Despite the two Iron Man sequels, Thor, Captain America, and the one Hulk movie (the one from 2008 does not count),  it all becomes whole and works really well together in the film. That's no walk in the park, and I'm so thankful to Joss and the cast for working so hard on something so great. Don't miss it.



Sunday, May 20, 2012

In Which I Discuss Middle School, The Avengers, and the End of Some Things

Hey guys!
Sorry for the long post gap, stuff has been happening like crazy.
Anyways, this post is probably going to descend into crazy ranting so you can't say I didn't warn you.

I end my last days of middle schooler/ home schooler this week. Wow. Wow. Um, wow.
It's hard for me to fathom not being in middle school or home schooled. The though of going back to public school this fall is so....well, it seems like some kind of weird dream that seemed much farther away a few months ago.
But I'm glad middle school is over. It's been one...erm, how do I even try to phrase this nicely............interesting.

But off the sentimental stuff now.

I was in Sunday School this morning, sitting quietly and staring at everyone talking because I rarely get to take part in the conversation, when they started talking about The Avengers.
If you don't know yet, I went to go see the flim on opening day, but got sick about three quarters of the way through and had to leave. It was depressing, and I still haven't finished the movie, but oh my Gandalf, I loved every bit of this movie. And the prequels. Excellent stuff.
But back on subject. They were talking about the movie. Just not the plot. No, like most girls around the world, the focus was on Captain America's butt.
Look, I'm not going to lie, the cast of the Avengers is really attractive. But that's not what the story is about! The Avengers is a fantastic piece of cinema with great character development and plot and tastefully huge action sequences. Not to mention the absolutely HILARIOUS script.
I related the incident to my mom after church this afternoon and she was like "Relax, they're middle school girls." And I'm not? I think I'm  just some kind of abnormal film snob I think.
Oh, and I'll write  a review for the Avengers when I've finally finished the movie, but you can expect a lot of Loki feels and gifs.

Well, I promise I'll have some type of actual structured post up soon. Until then, here is a gif of Tom Hiddleston talking about Loki. Don't ask, I have a lot of feelings


Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Descendants

To be honest, the hype surrounding The Descendants is really confusing. It's alright, I guess, but nothing special.

The film has two hours to deal with a lot of harsh subjects that can't even be addressed in one film and have a satisfying conclusion. If there had been another half-hour, I might've at least felt satisfied with an ending. But in truth, I was quite ready for the film to be done with by about the half way point.

When George Clooney lets that little convincing tear roll down his cheek, I was about ready to hit stop. The melodrama was a little too much for me to enjoy.  It was just getting too big.

The only thing I thought was fresh and new was the setting. Hawaii has probably never been featured in such a tragic drama. The cinematography and location were fantastic, so props to those guys. But I couldn't really get into the rest of it. I just felt very meh by the end of the movie. It was a by-the-numbers drama that definitely didn't deserve the hype it got in my opinion.

In fact, if you took out George Clooney and Shailene Woodley (who by the way is actually excellent) and replace them with more mediocre actors, you'd probably have some kind of crazy Lifetime movie.

Proceed with caution.


Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Tree of Life (Or, The Movie That Could Have Been Great)

I'm not really sure what I just watched, but it was kind of pretty.
The Tree of Life is an overly ambitious venture into uncharted territory. Director Terrence Mallick tries to tackle the big subjects of death, life, beginnings, ends, nature, and grace with subtlety and beauty, but ends up feeling pretentious and becomes too abstract to make any sense.
I turned the movie off about half way through, simply because nothing was making any sense. I was bored and honestly, watching had become a chore.
The cinematography is stunning, and the score is quite stirring, and the acting is adequate (Jessica Chastain is particularly good here). But there is literally no narrative in the tree of life. None. I tried to be open to the movie, but The Tree of Life definitely would've benefitted from some actual story telling. It's very stream of consciousness story telling, but it doesn't work in this instance. I really needed some sense of direction in such an abstract movie.
I respect what The Tree of Life was trying to do, but it falls short of it's huge goals. There's a reason this movie hasn't been made before,  and that is because all of the things the film tries to cover are just too big for 2 and a half hours. It was a valiant effort though.
In conclusion:


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Iron Lady Review

Oscar season came and went too fast for me. I still haven't seen a couple of the movies I vowed to see before the ceremony (although I did see everything that won. Just flaunting my hipster status). The only movie I had yet to watch that won anything important was The Iron Lady, for which Meryl Streep won Best Actress for portraying Margaret Thatcher.
I finally got a chance to check out the movie with my mom today, and I really enjoyed it. It's an interesting portrait of a little talked about political figure (well, on this side of the pond at least).
The story is told mostly in flashbacks. A very aged Margaret Thatcher keeps hallucinating that her husband, a very hilarious Jim Broadbent,  is talking to her as she sorts through his old things, giving way to flashbacks from her political career from beginning to end.
The acting is excellent, and the content is made interesting through good screenplay and excellent source material.
The film makers use real footage with the movie as well, giving it a really real feel. The Iron Lady is not an extremely dramatic biopic. It feels realistic in my opinion.
Something interesting that I noticed was that the colors in the flashbacks are more vivid than in the present-day scenes. There is a lot of blue in the Iron Lady, navy in the past and pale in the present. It was just a  cool way of making everything work together to tell a story.
I did get a little bored a few times. The story is interesting, but the movie wears out it's welcome.
But it's definitely an excellent British drama. I'd recommend it to those who liked films like The King's Speech.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Born To Die by Lana Del Rey Reviewed!

Occasionally, Amazon will run these really great sales on MP3 albums, which I usually don't get, but sometimes it's just too tempting to pass up.

So I was checking my updates from them tonight and I had five bucks left from a bookstore trip, and Lana Del Rey's "Born To Die" pops up under the lovely price of three dollars, so I gave it a go.

Out of the 12 tracks on the album, only about five of them are worth even listening to. And most of those were on the short EP that was released before the album.
The fact of the matter is that the lyrical tone, pace, and instrumentation of the album is consistently the same except for two songs. It's slow, sad, swirling, lush music put to the syrupy, 60's inspired "vocals' of Miss Del Rey.  If that description makes you a bit sleepy, the actual album will be more effective than a sleep pill for you.
I'm not saying that it's all horrible and awful and nobody should be allowed to listen, it's just very blah and boring. Lana tries for scandalous beats and an old fashioned sense of sensuality, but hits the "I'm trying really hard to be hipster" level. It's almost sad really, because there are some genuine moments on the album.
For example, the song that launched her fame, Video Games is easily the best song on the album. It sounds like what everything on this album wants to be, but isn't. There is a sense of sweet sadness and the slow, moving, instrumentation is all really soothing.
One of the other highlights is Diet Mountain Dew. Whereas the early demo was slow and dreamy, this one is the only track on Born To Die where the speed of the song actually speeds up and feels alive.
I also liked Blue Jeans, Summertime Sadness, and the title Track, because while Lana's sound is distinct and easily recognizable, it's also very boring after 12 tracks. These 5 tracks are the best taste of the album you will get.

The other 7 tracks are disappointing to say in the least. Off To The Races and Carmen are especially abysmal. Something happened during the writing of Born To Die, and it seems like all the creative power that may or may not have been Lana Del Rey lost steam and really really wanted to write about something else instead of the melancholy love story that is all Born To Die seems to talk about. Literally three quarters of the lyrical content can be summed up in a bit of the chorus from Blue Jeans: "I will love you 'til the end of time/I would wait a million years/Promise you'll remember that you're mine/Baby, can you sit through the tears?
I myself could not sit through said tears. While I will admit that my life is not sunshine and rainbows, this album is so slow and depressing towards the end that it's hard to keep from falling asleep or doing laundry while listening.
It feels like Miss Del Rey was trying to create a portrait of a corrupted world where hot guys with tattoos always leave like you expected them to stay, trips to The Hamptons aren't that expensive, and maybe material success isn't all you'd hoped it would be. ALL of the album tone can be summed up in more lyrics, this time from the aptly titled National Anthem: "Money is the anthem of success/Now before we go out, kiss kiss/....or /God, you're so handsome/take me to the Hamptons.

I can honestly say that if this album had been more varied in it's lyrical content and instrumentaion, I would've liked it better. Lana's voice is smooth and her image is interesting, but it becomes so old and stale and boring after the first five songs that it's easy to give up on.

Say what you will about Born To Die, but there are some shining moments. They're just outdone by all the bland tracks that follow.


Friday, March 23, 2012

(Actual) Hunger Games Review!! (This Will Contain Spoilers)

Sorry for the little prank-y thing I pulled there. I'll review the movie now.

Well, the deed is done. The Hunger Games has been unleashed upon the world.
And I am so happy that the movie has come out the way it has.
As a  movie critic, and as a fan of the books, this movie truly satisfies both mindsets. I'm incredibly impressed.

Let's divide this  up into categories so I can get it all in my head.

-Jennifer Lawrence delivers a powerful performance as Katniss Everdeen, a role I was sure would take a miracle to pull off. She does it effortlessly and accurately, portraying Katniss exactly as she was in the books. I am so happy that we have her as our leading lady for the movies.

-WOODY HARRELSON IS THE BEST! Haymitch is my favorite character and I am so glad he has been done justice here, used for full comedy effect, but also serious when he needs to be. If you loved Haymitch in the books, you're gonna love him even more here. Oh my Gandalf, he was amazing. I'm really looking forward to his scenes in the coming movies.

-The leading men, Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth, do well also. I liked Hemsworth more than I thought I would. And Josh carries Peeta's sweetness and shy humor with ease and really embodies the character. I was initially really hesitant about these guys, but they passed my expectations.

-Elizabeth Banks and Lenny Kravitz as Effie Trinket and Cinna respectively also shine for the screen. Elizabeth plays Effie just so, striking the balance between crass and naive. Cinna is a hard character to mess up, but the calm assured aspects of Kravitz's take on him are perfect. Spot on.

-One of the aspects I loved most about the film as a whole was that not everything was handed to you on a plate. They never say that Haymitch is smarter than everyone; you already know from the way they portray him. Katniss never says anything about Rue reminding her of Prim; you just know it from the way she acts around her. It's really nice to be treated as an intelligent audience member.

-I liked how they expanded everything from Katniss' perspective. The movie almost makes Seneca Crane a main character, as well as President Snow. You see a lot of the Game Maker's quarters, The Everdeen's watching their Katniss, Gale watching Peeta and Katniss kiss for the cameras, Haymitch keeping a watchful eye on the T.V., ect. It was a book fan's dream.

-The score was really effective. It was futuristic, but at the same time very Appalachian.

-The violence is toned down, but not in   a way you expect. Gary Ross pulls an Alfred Hitchcock and lets a lot of the violence happen off screen. For example, Rue's death is shows, and Katniss ings to her and covers her in flowers, but the spear wound is small and doesn't bleed  much. And Cato's death is over in a matter of seconds (Thank God). It definitely stays within the confines of it's PG-13 rating.

-The Arcade Fire song at the end "Abraham's Daughter" is so great. I'm glad that the companion album wasn't used in the film, but this song fits the movie so well.

-The only thing that put me off a bit was all the shaky camera work. Most of the combat scenes are filmed with a handheld camera so it disorients you a bit, which I think is the point of the technique, but it still gets you a bit dizzy.

One more thing before I go.  A lot of people were complaining that the political stuff was cut, and I do agree, but here's how I see it:

1. Character relationships
2. Political Intrigue.
3. Good action sequences.
4. Slower bits.
5. Good acting.

Pick three. Gary Ross definitely went with what younger fans would want. I hope he gets to more of the political intrigue in Catching Fire though.

I'm so happy with The Hunger Games. Recommended for fans of the books and newcomers as well. Not to be missed.


Hunger Games Review!


Thursday, March 22, 2012

Happy Hunger Games!

The day has come! Tonight is the midnight permiere of The Hunger Games, a dystopian book trilogy that's taken the world by storm. Girl will wear I HEART PEETA shirts, parents will be in aghast at what their children have been reading, tears and blood will be shed in equal (in the movie and real life probably), popcorn will be popped, and I will be there.
I've been waiting for a Games movies since I finished the first book in 2010. It's been really amazing to watch the movie be cast, the trailers released, the fan girls arise, etc. So here are some things I have to say about the movie.

Jennifer Lawrence is poised to be a really big star.  I can't wait to see her delve into being Katniss. She really seems to understand the character from what I've heard from her in interviews.
Josh Hutcherson also seems to understand Peeta well, and he also has the added plus of being pretty adorable as well. Liam Hemsworth is the only one I'm concerned about really. I just don't know about him.

I'm also really really really really want to see Woody Harrelson playing the drunken yet intelligent Haymitch Abernanthy. We've seen very little of him in the trailers which was disappointing, because Haymitch is one of my favorite characters.  It's the same situation with Rue as well, played by Amndla Steinberg.

What are y'all excited about? May the odds be ever in your favor (when you try to get good seats in the theater).

I'll write a review for the movie tomorrow.


Thursday, March 15, 2012

Divergent by Veronica Roth Review

Divergent is a strange little book. It was hyped up for sure, but it wasn't abysmal like many hyped up books are. But I'm not saying it's the best either. 
I'm going to divide this into a Good and Bad list for my sanity. 

The Good 

-The world building is cool, but half-baked (I'll get to that in the bad section). The factions are interesting, and being a super nerd, the names fit perfectly. 
-Beatrice's evolution as a character is thoughtful and interesting (but also with it's problems). 
-All the plot twists actually MEANT something. 
-The initiation was interesting in the way that the Hunger Games was interesting (very twisted and wrong but undeniably interesting). 
-The tension builds up very nicely. 
-The plot twist at the end and the epic battle were super cool. I don't remember the last time I got an actual showdown in a book. I honestly just can't think of one in the last two years. 

The Bad 

-The world building has no scope. It makes it seem like the factions are really really small and close together, but also very far apart. It was really disorienting. 
-Disappearing and/or confusing Side Character Syndrome runs rampant in Divergent. There are hosts of random characters whom I could never keep track of and it became incredibly confusing towards the end of the book. Not good. 
-The whole "OHMYGOD FOUR IS SO FRIKKIN HOT I LIKE HIM A LOT" thing just kind of doesn't do anything for me at the start of the book. I like it better as it goes on, but in the beginning it's more than a little weird, considering Four may or may not be a brutal killer. 
-The pacing is SO LONG. I know a lot of stuff is bulit up to and the Initiation does have it's good bits but it goes on forever. I wish we had more time for the epic (view spoiler)
-Beatrice is really annoying sometimes. There are moments, however short they may be, but every so often, where she talks about how selfish she is. While everything she does might seem a little selfish after living in Abnegation, I still don't understand why you couldn't save whoever it was or stand up for whoever while you're moping. It's downright ridiculous. 
NOTE: I still enjoyed this book for what it was worth. 

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Fault In Our Stars

As many of you are aware, I'm a part of the nerdfighter community. If you don't know what the nerdfighter community is, then I'll tell you.
There are these two brothers, John and Hank Green. They decided to do this thing on youtube called Brotherhood 2.0 where they communicated via youtube videos for a year or so. A whole community sprang up around it, calling themselves nerdfighters, not because they fight nerds, but because they are nerds fighting to reduce world suck. If you're confused, watch this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FyQi79aYfxU

Anyway, the videos continue on and Hank makes nerdy music, and John writes great books.
Recently John released his....fourth solo novel (he's done some collaborations) The Fault In Our Stars. It's  now in it's seventh week on the New York Times Best Seller List.
The Fault in Our Stars sound hopelessly cliche'. It's subject matter has been dealt with on documentaries, Lifetime movies, and most importantly real life: Cancer.
I was very hesitant going into TFIOS despite loving pretty much every other John Green book (I'm a little iffy on Katherines, but yet I still totally love it).
However, John deals with the subject with grace and humor. There are so many laugh out loud moments in the book. But at the same time, I was an ugly crying mess by the end. I told myself not to get attached to these  characters in case something bad happens, but the protagonists in the novel, Hazel and Augustus, are incredibly likeable despite seeming so crazily different from the average reader.
One thing I've noted from other reader's reviews is the speaking style between Hazel an Augustus. Some people think it's not how average teenagers really talk. While I can't deny that, you also have to take into account that Hazel and Augustus aren't normal teenagers; they're teenagers who have gone through extraordinary circumstances that are hard on everyone around them. Also, the literary phenomenon known as Willing Suspension of Disbelief is at work here despite the books' realistic fiction pigeonhole.  So before you start the comparisons to Juno (where the characters speak in a similar manner as in TFIOS), keep that in mind.
This book is scary in a way, just in it's subject matter. I found myself becoming very scared of cancer while I was reading. Just the emotional impact of it all is sometimes too much. Take breaks when you read it, and it'll probably sit better, but because I insisted on finishing it in a day, I almost didn't like it at first. I just was so scared of it. It took me a re-read to realize that.
If you've read a John Green book before, you'll probably feel at home in TFIOS. Our narrator is a girl, but she is still a pretty typical Green narrator. While Green's books contain a lot of the same elements, the story is so good that most of the time I don't really mind.
If you read it, keep tissues close at hand and hug your family once in a while. But I do recommend it fully.

P.S. Sorry if this doesn't make any sense, it's really late and I need to go to bed and my thoughts tend to get jumbled when I do things like this.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

In Which I Discuss The Best Picture Nominees

If you're like me, you look forward to the Oscars with hesitance and a little bit of excitement. The big ceremony is tomorrow night on ABC and by some off stroke of luck I've watched some of the nominees, so I'll be giving my opinions here :) When I hit a film I haven't seen, I'll.... improvise I guess.

AND THE NOMINEES ARE.....................

The Help- The Help holds a special place in my heart simply for the connections it had with my life at the time I was reading it. It's such a great piece of literature. However, I felt a lot of the harsher aspects from the book were candy coated for the film adaptation. The film borders on chick flick because of that, and that's kind of disappointing. Best Picture? Probably not. I won't be surprised if it picks up a few acting awards though.

The Descendants- I haven't seen this one, but it's been picked over in all the film forums I follow. It sounds like a decent film, but possibly a little too emotionally manipulative. I honestly don't think I'll watch this one.

The Tree of Life- Again, haven't seen this one, but according to friends who have, it's a giant mess. Art for the sake of art? I'll be watching it sooner or later. It's in my Netflix queue anyway.

Moneyball- Believe it or not, I really liked this movie. It was like a non-sports sports movie. Jonah Hill is fantastic, Aaron Sorkin's' script is totally awesome (as are his co-writers) and Brad Pitt gives a solid performance (Hill was better in my opinion). It's a neat little movie. But again, I don't think it'll win, and that's ok with me.

Midnight in Paris- An artsy chick flick in my opinion. Owen Wilson is playing that one version of himself he always plays. However, I did like all of the characters from the 1920's. Alison Pill's take on Zelda Fitzgerald lights up the screen in particular. But alas, there is nothing too impressive here.

War Horse- I swear to God, I was so ready to see this movie. I was looking forward to it. And then I got wrapped up in something else and totally forgot about it, and before I knew it it was gone. But either way, here's what I have to say: America, meet Benedict Cumberbatch.

Hugo- Please refer to "Why 3-D Bothers Me" post.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close- I don't even know what to say here. I literally have nothing.

The Artist- This is the only nominee out of all of these that I 1. Thought was a winner. 2. Loved to death (I loved the Help to death to, but it had it's problems) and 3. Geniuinely wanted to see again (The help could go here too, but moving on). My money is on this one.

What do you think about the nominees?


Thursday, February 16, 2012

Best of 2011 Reviews: 21 by Adele

I decided to let y'all know what I'd been listening to during 2011, so why not start with newly minted album of the year?
Adele's sophomore knock-out 21 is a curious record. It certainly isn't curious in themes, but just how fresh it is.
In the hands of Katy Perry, Rhianna, ect. this album just would've been solid in terms of lyrics. The lyrics are great, don't get me wrong. But we've heard this story millions of times over. Love is not unusual in the music business at all.
What makes 21  extraordinarily amazing is the class of the instrumentation and amazing abilities of Adele's voice. That is what really drives the album.
Whereas 19 was very jazz influenced, 21 turns to the blues and Motown of the sixties and seventies to give it a distinct sound in the dance/electronic driven pop music biz. If you were to hear an Adele song on the radio (and I'm sure you have) you could immediately distinguish it from any of the artists I mentioned earlier, or a rap group, or something like that. It doesn't sound like anything that's been so popular in a long time, and that is a very very good thing.
While a lot of people are probably rolling their eyes every time Rolling in the Deep comes on the radio (pun intended), the whole album doesn't feel like that. It gets better with every listen and you realize something
different with every spin.
The standout track without a doubt is Someone Like You, although it's effect is getting weaker with all of it's radio airplay. There's something magic in the song. It's just Adele and a piano. And that's where she works best in my opinion. The lyrics are raw yet polished and classy, the sparse-ness of it all making it perfect.
An entirely under-rated track on the album has to be the Carole King flavored One And Only. Backed by a choir, strings, and guitar, the love song almost sounds like a gospel song. There's soul enough for Adele and two of her radio airplay peers here.
Many of today's music critics and fans have been wondering "Who is going to be the Zeppelin of  this decade?" Who are future generations going to remember? Surely not Nicki Minaj and Rhianna? I think we're going to remember Adele.


Monday, February 13, 2012

In Which I Review The Grammys

Three award ceremonies took place yesterday: The BAFTAS, The Tumblr Movie Awards, and The Grammys.
If you want to know about the Tumblr Movie awards, Harry Potter won everything.
If you want something from the BAFTAS, you want this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3s2D6gs1Ui0
Now, onto the Grammys. I've conveniently  split the post into two sections, one for the stuff I liked, and one for the stuff I didn't.

-Adele. First of all SIX Grammys well earned and a soaring performance of Rolling in the Deep that made me actually love the song again (it had a little too much radio airplay). It really goes to show how much talent this girl has, and how amazing 21 is. Truly one of the best records of last year. Second, how classy is she? Third, really amazed at how good Adele sounded after vocal surgery.
-Lady Gaga being classy. Mad props for Gaga. Going into the awards tonight, pretty much everybody knew that Adele was going to win everything. While some people tried to steal the show and failed *coughcoughKatyPerryandNickiMinajcoughcough*, Mother Monster kept it classy in a crazy but well played outfit. She didn't perform, and didn't cry when she didn't win anything. For the record, I loved some of the songs from Born This Way and The Fame Monster, but I loved Adele more. Thanks for keeping it cool Gaga.
-LL Cool J, praying before the show for Whitney Houston. I gained so much more respect for him at that moment. The cloud of Whitney's death hung over the show, but they carried on in a respectable manner about it. Very cool J indeed.
-The Civil Wars. These guys are so cool. I love the song, and I love the harmonies. It was a welcome addition to the show.
-Amy Winehouse's parents accepting her Duets awards with Tony Bennett. It was a sad reminder of the loss of a brilliantly talented woman.
- Paul McCartney, being awesome.
-Bruce Springsteen, being awesome.
-The Beach Boys, being awesome with Foster the People and Maroon 5 (although Mark Foster looked so nervous. Poor boy! I'm sure he'll become more comfortable on stage soon).
-Remember last year when everyone said Taylor Swift was pitchy at the Grammys? Remember when she wrote a retort in the form of song about sounding pitchy? Well last night she gave a pitchy rendition of her retort on being pitchy. Although, again, not a big fan, I thought that took some courage, so that's pretty cool.
-Let's get this out of the way shall we? Nicki Minaj and her blatant attempt to be Lady Gaga. I remember thinking after the performance "I want my three minutes back." 1. The song sucked. 2. It make my stomach turn. 3. It was such an example of how far music has fallen, and making it more ironic was that it was at the Grammys. Seriously?
-Katy Perry. I don't get the hype. Her songs are all bubblegum and she's more known for ever changing hair colors than musicianship. Wasn't a fan of the jumpsuit, and wasn't a fan of the performance.
-Chris Brown. First of all, why are awarding this guy? I believe in forgiveness, but it's too soon. Domestic abuse is horrible, and Chris beat Rhianna until the staff at the hospital couldn't recognize her. THEY COULDN'T RECOGNIZE A WORLD FAMOUS POP STAR. That sends a pretty clear message. And he thinks all is forgiven because he thanked God in his acceptance speech? Not so. Not happy about his win.
-One of the trending topics on Twitter today was "Who is Paul McCartney?" I have very little hope in humanity.

What did you think? Let me know in the comments!


Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Artist Reviewed!

(By the way, listen to this while you're reading the review. It sets the tone. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=onnJjEc4jWQ&feature=related)

Je suis trop branche' pour commencer un poste en anglais, donc je suis en train de commencer en francais.

If you've been keeping up with film lately, The Artist has been making big waves. For one thing, it's a silent black and white film in 2012. Two, it's actually amazing. I was initially hesitant about the film, simply because it seemed like a gimmick for movie-goers. But in all reality, The Artist is a beautiful moving film that is so vintage that it's a breath of fresh air.
Director Michel Hazanavicius (yes I did look up how to spell it)  presents a beautifully rendered piece of film that takes you back in time instantly. The cinematography is swoon worthy, the acting is amazing, and I'm fangirling so hard I'm running out of adjectives.
The only thing I could think to complain about is that the film drags in the middle. You might stare at your watch once or twice. But it picks back up pretty quick.
As a soundtrack geek, this thing is certified awesome. Honestly, this might be my favorite soundtrack of the year (along with Hanna and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2). The score carries most of the movie, and it does so quite well. It's a bit Chaplin-esque, very swing, and very in-step with the movies tone and time period.
If you're worried that the story is unintelligible because it is silent, the actors take care of that. Every movement  means something and once you learn to register everything, the movie becomes   a breeze. They make sure you're getting it, and they do a wonderful job of it.
Altogether, go see this now.


Thursday, February 9, 2012

In Which I Make Playlists

I talk all the time about how much I love music, but I feel like I rarely make it  a focus on the blog. Granted, the last post was on the problematic Lana Del Rey, but I'm talking just songs and artists and albums and everything.

So I'm going to be making playlists for different moods, days, feelings, etc. because that's what I often do in my down time.
Tonight's is going to be feeling confident.
I feel like I have a lot of problems with confidence. I've had adults tell my mom that they seem to think I look more confident than girls my age, but that's called a facade, and it's a story for another time.

But here's a playlist I use when I feel like crap

Bulletproof by La Roux
The Devil Is In The Beats by The  Chemical Brothers (it's from the soundtrack to Hanna)
Best For Last by Adele
Rehab by Amy Winehouse
Spectrum by Florence + The Machine
Call It What You Want by Foster the  People
Marry The Night by Lady Gaga (don't laugh you guys, some of her songs are actually amazing and this is definitely one of them)
Teenage Rebel by Chameleon Circuit (They write music about Doctor Who, but this song is super awesome and relevant and stuff)
I Believe In Nargles by The Whomping Willows (wizard rock time!)
Houdini by Foster The People
Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up) by Florence + The Machine

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Lana Del Rey Dilemma

"What are you watching?" My brother walks into the room, glancing at the TV warily.
"Saturday Night Live." I answer sheepishly.
"Daniel Radcliffe."
"Oh." he walks away without question.
So while you do have to be kind of drunk to enjoy Saturday Night Live, I really just wanted to check in with the lovely Dan Rad, who was actually pretty fun. But I don't think hardly anyone remembers Dan was hosting that night. They remember Lana.

A few months earlier, I'd heard an early version of one of Del Rey's songs (Diet Mountain Dew) on my favorite XM radio station. I kind of liked it. It was kind of dreamy, a little bit sixties, a little hip hop, ect.
And then came that legendarily horrid SNL performance.

This isn't a defense of Lana Del Rey. This is a dilemma for me.
I watched both of the performances on the show. I had been flipping channels during the commercial breaks and landed on SNL again just as they started playing Video Games. I thought it was a skit at first.

So of course the next day I went and looked up the studio versions of Video Games and Blue Jeans and a few others. The only one I really fell for was Video Games, and to be honest, I still like it.

I didn't know the whole SNL thing was gonna blow up like it did though. I just thought it was a weird flop. I still think a lot of people are over-reacting to it.

The thing is, it finally made me realize something: The indie community can be fooled by the big guys.

Seriously, when the original Lana Del Rey EP came on the scene, everyone was digging it. I thought it was just ok. She really was a gangster Nancy Sinatra. And then she finally sang live. She has become the Rebecca Black of the hipster community.
But Lana Del Rey still has some charm in my mind. She's got a really mellow melancholy sound, and sad as it is to say, I did enjoy her stuff for a while.

However, I tried to listen to all of Born To Die on Spotify, and her voice became annoying after the first few tracks.

So lets move on already. Let the fans be fans, and the rest of just move on. Who knows? I might hear something I like from Del Rey in a year or two, but I'm done for now.


P.S. Sorry if this doesn't make any sense.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

In Which I Win Something!

Once upon a time, on a horribly bleak afternoon, I checked my blog and lo and behold I'd won something!

My always excellent friend Shel has awarded me the Liebster Award!
From what I gather, the Liebster Award goes to an awesome blog with under 200 followers. I'm quite honored! And to my one or two new followers, hi guys!

On a side note, sorry I haven't been so active. School gets in the way sometimes.

On yet another side note, here is Shel's blog! http://tangentshell.blogspot.com/2012/01/thank-you-to-melissa-sugar-at-have-you.html?showComment=1328136815293#c9183284396083444791

Thanks again, and I swear I'll get some new material up on here soon!


Saturday, January 28, 2012

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray (Review)

You probably know Libba Bray from A Great and Terrible Beauty or Going Bovine.
When her latest offering, Beauty Queens, came out, I was more than a little  hesitant. The last book in the Gemma Doyle trilogy wasn't very good, and was a little bit too into it's message. However, the audio book was in the library, and I figured I had nothing to lose.
While the first few chapters are hilarious and a little heartbreaking, and the audio (Read by Libba Bray herself) was entertaining, it went a bit off after that.
For instance, Beauty Queens became less of a satirical play on the exaggerated behavior of the Miss Teen Dreamers, as a perky, gun-toting, Texan, named Taylor calls them and more of a sermon on why it's ok to be everything you want to be, unless it's a Christian. Or a Republican.
For instance, Petra, Miss Rhode Island, is actually J.T. Woodland from Boyz Will B Boyz, Bray's fictional take on everyone's childhood boy band. He/She has decided to get a sex change and is in the middle of taking hormones and was going to use the pageant money to get the surgery done.
Look, I don't care if you're character is LGBTQ  (Example: I loved John Green's/David Leviathan's Will Grayson, Will Grayson). I don't agree but if it's a good book, I'm not going to put it down.  But it's when the characters get preachy that it starts to make me uncomfortable. Libba Bray isn't so much writing a satire on brainless beauty queens as pushing her political agenda. And again, you've got your own political views, that's your view, not mine. But it's when you start shoving it down my throat that I'm not going to deal with it. And while I do agree with some of the points Libba makes in the book (Girl shouldn't be sorry about having an opinion, beauty pageants are demeaning in a lot ways, pageants parents are even more demeaning), but it felt so hypocritical and  in your face that I couldn't deal with it.
Also, even the feminist-to-a-fault Adeena throws that to the wind when TV show pirates show up on the Island. Then everyone starts having explosive sex or whatever. Honestly, I didn't finish the book and looked up reviews to gather what happens.
Altogether, this one is a mess in a pageant dress.


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Why 3-D Bothers Me

Let me tell you a lovely little story of a girl who likes movies. A lot.
This girl also gets sick in 3-D movies because it makes her dizzy.
The girl's family took her to see Hugo with her younger sister. She wanted to see the movie more than she wanted to see the next episode of Doctor Who, which is saying something, I can assure you.
Unluckily, the girl's family forgot about her getting sick in 3-D movies and bought very very expensive tickets to the 3-D version.
The girl had to sit there in the theater and listen to the movie, because she couldn't look at the screen for fear of vomiting all over her boots.
And of course, this all happened to me.
And I was very upset.
But here's the thing: Why is everything in 3-D? People ask me this question a lot when they hear me go on about the brilliance of Aaron Sorkin and stuff like that.
And here's the answer:
Do you all remember Avatar? Not the airbenders, the blue people. The movie sucked. But anyway, do you remember when the 3-D trend started? Well, if you don't, the whole reason we're in this mess is because of Avatar.
I think the main reason why 3-D is so popular is not because it "enhances the movie" (I've seen more than a fair share of movies in 2-D that I could tell had no effects that would pop off the screen. I'm looking at you Pirates 4 and Dawn Treader).  It's a money thing. Like I said, I saw the grand total on the  Hugo tickets, and it was about fifty bucks for four people to go see a 3-D movie.
So Hollywood, can we end this? Please? For my sake and many others?