Around the time that I discovered the internet as a place of leisure, and not just research, I discovered movie reviews. I found it hugely satisfying to read movie reviews in the major publications – the New York Times, the New Yorker, Rolling Stone. It was like sitting in on a cinematic round table with the leading lights of the film critics’ world. Some of their reviews were near works of art, literary pieces in their own right, offering insights into films that I couldn’t possibly dream of, and sometimes didn’t understand. I reacted to films and I could analyze my response, but not on the same level.
But there was one critic whom I read for his own sake, not the publication’s reputation, and that was Roger Ebert. I’d never seen his shows, either with Siskel or with Roeper, so I only know Ebert’s voice through his writing. And his reviews changed me. Continue reading
Before we had the tormented Carpathians, and the Black Dagger Brotherhood, not to mention Edward of the Twilight series, many people grew up watching Barnabas Collins on Dark Shadows. No doubt the show paved the way for the acceptance of romantic vampires today. Yet many of today’s tormented vampires can’t hold a candle to Barnabas. In fact, Barnabas was all about the candles. Candles, eerie music, cobwebs, fierce storms, crypts and graveyards. And unlike many vampires today, he was a true anti-hero.
Unlike many people from my generation, I didn’t grow up watching Dark Shadows all the time. I never seemed to get home at the right time, so I watched Captain Chesapeake instead. Still, although I was a scaredy-cat, I managed to sneak in a few episodes now and then.
When I heard that Tim Burton and Johnny Depp were working together on a Dark Shadows movie, my first reaction was “Perfect!” I couldn’t wait to see it. Then I realized that many fans were upset with the trailer because the movie comes across as a send-up. They are not amused. Or as my sister-in-law pointed out to be, fans took the show very seriously.
In an unspecified future a totalitarian government rises to rule a nation known as Panem. Born from the ashes of a United States devastated by war and the after effects of global warming, Panem is made up of twelve districts surrounding the heart of the government, known as The Capital. In lethal vengeance for a failed rebellion, The Capital forces each district to send them 2 tributes each year to fight to the death in an elaborate arena. These are “The Hunger Games” – fought by children between the ages of twelve and eighteen – where 24 enter but only one can survive.
Starring Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen and Josh Hutcherson as Peeta Mellark, this film follows the tributes of poverty-stricken District 12 on their journey into the arena. Our movie begins as TV Host Caeser Flickerman interviews Head Gamemaker Seneca Crane. They discuss the “excitement” of the coming games. Cut to District 12 where a young Primrose Everdeen awakens from a nightmare in which her name is chosen at the reaping, forcing her to participate in the games. Right away we get that juxtaposition between the wealthy and powerful people who view the games as entertainment and the horror they are met with by the districts from which the participants come. Enter older sister Katniss, who sings Prim back to sleep, then heads to the woods to do a little pre-reaping hunting. Then back home to get ready for the big event. And of course, Prim is chosen. And in an unprecedented move, Katniss volunteers to take her place. Peeta is also chosen – his name is met with silence, there are no volunteers to take his place – and the two are whisked aboard the train to The Capital. Let the Games begin!
Last night I went to a screening of the new Jane Eyre, due to open in many cities next Friday. As the Washington Post film critic told us at the movie’s conclusion, this is something like the 18th adaptation of Charlotte Bronte’s classic. I’ve seen about five or six and I’m willing to go out on a limb and say that Michael Fassbender is my favorite Rochester, but Mia Wasikowska, while quite good, remains a bit flat as Jane.
A week or two ago, while flipping channels, I delightedly discovered that I got the Lifetime Movie Network. I don’t usually watch Lifetime movies, but the particular film playing caught my attention: Nora Roberts’ Blue Smoke.
I’ve heard of the Nora Roberts Lifetime movies, but never had the opportunity to watch them. As my roommate and I — and her confused but game boyfriend — watched the movie, I got really into it. It wasn’t any cinematic masterpiece, but it was decently composed, the male lead was cute, and there were enough fires and explosions to keep us all — roommate’s boyfriend included — interested. (We’ll disregard the ill-advised shirtless carpentry on Bo’s part.)
Unlike romance novels, I feel almost no urgency to see movies when they come out (I make exceptions for Pixar, Kristen Scott Thomas, and Robert Downey Jr). This explains why last night I watched Garden State for the first time, despite hearing buzz and recommendations and positive reviews galore over the past, oh, six years. And I was absolutely delighted.
It wasn’t just Zach Braff (who was sympathetic and altogether lovely), or Natalie Portman (whom I found utterly charming and likable), or even the story (which concerns the aimless twenty-somethings and one young man’s journey to confront Who He Is). Actually, what charmed me the most was the romance.
After all, we know about the double standard. And no, not the gender one. I’m talking about the literary double standard that pigeonholes certain plots as belonging to certain genres, even if the lines are crossed all the time. And Garden State, for those of you who haven’t seen the movie, goes like this:
During my book club’s latest meeting, a friend who’d seen the play version of a novel most of us had read, showed around some leaflets of the production and asked whether the two actors who played the leads were in accordance with how we’d imagined them. This lead to a rather funny moment, because of the six women present, three instantly claimed they never visualize the main protagonists of any novel they read, whereas the other three said they visualized them without fail, and that watching a stage or movie production later with actors that didn’t fit with their expectations, could ruin the play or film for them.
I never ever fully visualize people in books. I do kind of register their attributes – what hair color, tall or tiny, a scar etc. – but I never give them a real face. As a result, while I am bothered by actors (or even cover images) not fitting the descriptions in the books, like Emma Watson’s hair being all wrong for Hermione, as long as the actors’ looks don’t contradict what is said about these people in the book, I’m fine with about any actor.
I love sports romances. Love, love, love them. The thrill of the game, the athletic prowess, the conflict, the romance, and the sex all make for a heady combination. Some of my all-time favorites include See Jane Score by Rachel Gibson, It Had to be You by Susan Elizabeth Phillips, The Man for Me by Gemma Bruce, and Body Check by Deirdre Martin.
If you’ve been reading Sports Romances for long enough, you’ve probably noticed that most fall into the same pattern: a hunky, wealthy pro-athlete is forced to contend with a determined woman. Conflict and true love ensues. I love this pattern, I really do, but sometimes I crave something a little different – something that isn’t usually found on the shelves of Romance.
Yesterday I checked out a library copy of the movie Twilight with Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson and found myself unexpectedly enthralled by the chemistry between Bella and Edward onscreen. Honestly, I cannot remember the last time I watched anything that had me pausing and rewinding so much so as to catch every expression and nuance.
Confession: I’m kind of out of the pop culture loop now and have been since I quit my job as a youth services librarian to stay home with my son and downscaled my life accordingly. But I did read Twilight when it came out and found it entertaining but hardly inspirational. I didn’t go mad for Edward Cullen, and I did not go on to read any of Twilight‘s sequels. It has not escaped my notice that Stephanie Meyer’s books have become a YA marketing sensation, but I never felt the need to immerse myself in her world again.
The Hulk was too green. Wolverine was just too brooding (and hairy). And Archie? Well, despite the fierce (and inexplicable) competition raging between Betty and rich uber-bitch Veronica, I thought he was a geek.
In my little girl world, it all began and ended with blonde god Thor, a classic Stan Lee angst-ridden hero. Thor was a Norse god turned by his father Odin into a human medical student in order to teach him humility. At first Thor has no memory of his life as a god and he becomes a gifted surgeon. Until he finds his mystical Thor superhero hammer and discovers his alter ego – thus beginning his dual life as super surgeon and avenging god hero.