Category Archives: movies

Party-Planning “Beauty and the Beast”

I am excited to see the live-action adaptation of Beauty and the Beast later this week, and have come up with the perfect cookies to celebrate the occasion.

cropped white plate

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The Best “Lord of the Rings” Quotes For Our Times

We’re still only a few weeks into the Trump Presidency, but it’s already been a very turbulent ride, and its not too soon to be able to tell that even darker times lie ahead. Here are the moments from The Lord of the Rings that I am comforting/inspiring/steeling myself with these days.

“When did Saruman the Wise abandon reason for madness?” This is what I say to the Congressional representatives who won’t stand up to Trump, even when he tweets complete nonsense. Or to any leaders who advocate for his malicious agenda. Their logic is exactly the same as Saruman’s–he is too powerful to resist! We must align with him to preserve our own positions of power! But as Gandalf later states, this is a fruitless effort. “There is only one Lord of the Rings, and he does not share power.” I’m not saying Trump is Sauron. But I think it is safe to say he is equally self-serving and that attempting to ride his coattails is indeed abandoning reason for madness. (P.S., I have another clip for the people in the White House communications office who keep making ridiculous defenses for the indefensible things their boss says.) Continue reading

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Things I Liked about Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

I love that it starts without the traditional scrolling text. This Star Wars story is more urgent, less epic–but not less significant!

I love that the first visual we get is disorienting, planet rings from below half-blocked by the planet’s shadow, and you’re not sure what you’re even looking at until it changes perspective and now we see, ah, there’s the planet, and now the rings and the shadow make sense. Because this film’s story is looking at a series we’re familiar with, but from a very different perspective than we’ve seen before. The other side of the rings!

I love K-2SO. A snarky droid after my own heart!

I love Captain Cassian Andor. He’s dreamy!!

rogue-one-a-star-wars-story-diego-luna-as-cassian-andor-1

my new crush

**spoilery things i loved below**

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Yarn Craft in Catching Fire

There’s really not much doubt in anyone’s mind at this point that Catching Fire is a fantastic film, (it was the highest grossing film of 2013), but did you notice the knitwear theme to Katniss’ wardrobe?  The first time I watched the movie I was sitting next to my friend and fellow yarn-enthusiast bowrene (check out her etsy shop) and she kept hitting me in the arm whenever a new bit of yarn-crafted clothing showed up on screen, whispering things like “look at that cowl!”, “that sweater is gorgeous!” and “this movie is ruining my life!”  Tumblr user feminerds posted a collection of pictures of the knitwear from Katniss’ wardrobe in Catching Fire and captioned it with the brilliant pun “Katknits,” a term I am intensely jealous not to have thought of first.

Readers of the book will know that fashion is a big part of the Capitol audience’s focus surrounding the Hunger Games, and stylists play an important role in the strategy behind a Tribute’s (or Victor’s) public image.  Continue reading

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The Hobbit: Less Desolate On Second Viewing

I was finally able to see The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug for a second time, and I have to admit it was better watching it again.  Whether that was because I knew what would happen so the disappointment/annoyance wasn’t fresh, or I was able to focus on the elements that I did enjoy since I’d already cataloged the things I didn’t like, I don’t know.  And I did notice a few new things that I didn’t like.  But I don’t want to let my first reaction to the movie be my last post about it, because I neglected to include any of the things that I did like about the film in that post, and there were some really great moments.

I still think the movie is way too long, and there are inclusions that I will never understand–like, do we really need so many lingering shots of the giant bumblebees at Beorn’s house?  And how are the orcs so fast they can keep up with and at times run ahead of the dwarves, who are traveling at the speed of the rushing river?  (And how is there a seemingly never-ending supply of orcs anyway?)

Thranduil is PERFECT, though.  He might be my favorite thing about this movie.  I know I already said that but it was just doubly reinforced watching his scenes a second time.  He’s majestic and petty and knowledgeable but sassy and selfish and beautiful.

perfection

perfection

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The Hobbit: The Desolation of Good Story-telling

When you read J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, did you think, “yeah this is a great story and all, but my favorite things are the character and place names! Everything else could be changed,”?  If so, then Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is the movie for you!

I suppose that summation may be a little overly harsh.  But for the last two weeks I’ve been feeling guilty about deciding I wasn’t going to be able to do a whole spectacular costume and line party like I did last year for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, and as I sat in the theater last night I kept thinking wow, I’m glad I didn’t go all out for this one, because it would have been an embarrassing waste of time and energy and made the film an even more bitter disappointment.  After the first Hobbit film came out I said I would reserve judgment on splitting the 300-page book into three extra-long films until I’d seen them all, but that’s no longer necessary.  I can definitively state that it was a bad decision, and no matter how glorious the final installment may end up being, this middle movie, in which no substantial plot progress is made and there are no character arcs, should never have been made.

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Biblo is terrified the movie will end before he gets substantial character development.

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Catching Fire Opening Night

cf outfitsSo I went to see Catching Fire on opening night with a group of friends.  I’m tagging this write-up as “midnight showing” even though it was technically an 8 pm showing; most movies don’t really wait to premiere at midnight anymore, and although part of me thinks that’s a little sad, another part of me is getting old and appreciates not having to stay up so late.  It was a good premiere; I wasn’t able to organize and prepare as much as I did for the first film, but we dressed up in Capitol fashion and the movie itself was, in my opinion, better than the first.

The thing about shows that start before midnight is there isn’t as much waiting-in-line time to fill, so I kinda over-prepared and we didn’t end up doing all the activities I had planned, but that’s alright since a lot of them didn’t take much effort.  (For example, if we needed to kill time I thought we could play a version of the “telephone” game were you start with a phrase and whisper it from one person to another to see if it ends up the same at the end, but call it “mockingjay,” and use phrases like “Peeta has hot cross buns.”)

We did play the game that I spent the most time preparing for, which was Arena Trivia.  Everyone playing was a Tribute in the Trivia Arena and started with a perfect 20 health.  When it was their turn, they spun a wheel to see how lethal of a “weapon” question they would be able to wield against an opponent; easy questions were a knife and would only take five health points away if the Tribute they selected to aim the question at got it wrong, but harder questions were a machete (minus 10 health if missed) or near-deadly trident (minus 15).  Tributes could form allies by helping someone else answer a question if they wished, but, in the end, there could only be one victor.  The wheel also had a small wedge labeled “a gift from your sponsor”; if Tributes landed on that section when it was their turn, they could draw a healing card instead of a question that would give them back a portion of the health they had lost.  (Most of the healing cards would only restore 5 health, but there were a couple 10s and 15s in there too).  It worked really well, (except maybe I should have made some of the questions easier), and I’m pretty dang proud of how well themed it was.  I think it’s totally marketable.

This Arena Trivia spin-wheel was made from a Twister game's.  The different levels of questions were printed on different colored paper and separated into pouches based on difficulty.

This Arena Trivia spin-wheel was made from a Twister game’s. The different levels of questions were printed on different colored paper and separated into pouches based on difficulty.

Each Tribute had one of these health bars to keep track of how close to "death" they were. They had to put a sticker on 5-point sections depending on how hard of a question they missed, but if they got a gift from a sponsor, they could cover a colored sticker with a white one to regain health.

Each Tribute had one of these health bars to keep track of how close to “death” they were. They had to put a sticker on 5-point sections depending on how hard of a question they missed, but if they got a gift from a sponsor, they could cover a colored sticker with a white one to regain health.

Sugar cube prize bags that I handed out at the Catching Fire premiere.  Other prizes included Catching Fire magnets and a grand prize of the soundtrack CD.

Sugar cube prize bags that I handed out at the Catching Fire premiere. Other prizes included Catching Fire magnets and a grand prize of the soundtrack CD.

I really have very few negative things to say about the movie itself at all, which is pretty amazing given my tendency to be very nit-picky and critical.  It stayed very close to the book with a surprising amount of dialogue coming verbatim from the pages Suzanne Collins wrote.  The things that were skipped or condensed didn’t really alter any of the action or character development, (like Katniss figuring out what the spile is right away, and realizing what Wiress meant by “tick tock” faster, leaving out the bread drop communications and the prolonged healing from the poison fog scars, leaving out Bonnie and Twill because it was established through the visualization of the Victory Tour that there was an uprising and that Katniss was an inspiration to people, etc.), and like the first movie the elements in the film that were not found in the book added wonderful insight and depth to the story, (like President Snow’s granddaughter idolizing Katniss–that was genius!  And I’m so glad we got to actually see the painting of Rue that Peeta did for the Gamemakers, to “hold them accountable, if only for a moment…for killing that little girl” as he says in the book, instead of just hearing about it.)

They even included a tiny visual reference to one of my favorite characters from the first film, Seneca Crane(‘s beard).  When Katniss hung the dummy labeled with his name for her evaluation, she painted his signature swirly beard on it’s chin!  I remember this being a common idea among the fandom after the first film, that oh, wouldn’t it be great if they really show her hang the Seneca dummy in the second film and they include the beard?  To see it actually transpire that way on screen felt almost like it was a bit of an inside joke for the die-hard fans, whether or not they intended it that way.  Speaking of amazing visuals, that mockingjay dress was spectacular.  Even though I had seen most of that scene already in the trailer, I was blown away by how incredible it looked.  Whereas Katniss’ flaming dress at the interview scene in the first film is a bit pathetic and too-obviously CGI, this time around I literally could not have imagined it better.

So far the only criticisms I can come up with are:

  • Prim’s “Katniss! Katniss! Katniss!” screaming at the Reaping is too shrill, but really, I thought that last movie too.  Maybe that’s just the actress’s voice.
  • The music in some scenes was too exactly similar (or exactly the same?) to the score in the first film.  It’s fine to reuse/recycle themes, but in a couple places it sounded 100% the same, like the Tribute Parade, (which is maybe understandable if they basically use the Panem national anthem for that every year), and the Victory Ball at the Capitol, (which really didn’t seem to match the music beat for dramatic beat effectively).
  • In the Arena, they establish that there is no fresh water source except for the trees, but then when Katniss, Peeta, and Finnick are leeching the poison from their bodies they are in what appears to be a freshwater pool, not the saltwater at the beach.  I understand the change since it allows for the monkey attack to happen sooner, but it’s an inconsistency.
  • This isn’t really a criticism, more of a funny observance–why does Peeta stand up in the middle of his living room to watch TV?  (When they are watching President Snow announce the Quarter Quell).  Is it one of the tricks they tried to make us think he’s taller than Josh Hutcherson really is?

But really, almost everything was perfect.  Effie was perfect, with her shallow growth and her gold hair! Finnick was lovely!  Mags broke my heart with her warmth and sacrifice!  Beetee melted my heart with his nerd-speak!  Prim impressed me with her calm taking-charge to tend Gale.  Plutarch Heavensbee, Haymitch, Cinna, (*sob* Cinna!) and Johanna were great.  The whole thing was just spot-on!  Peeta was still not as good as book-Peeta, but he was much improved over the last film’s bastardization of his character, and really all I can think about Peeta-wise right now is this.  (Warning: that last link is a spoiler if you haven’t read Mockingjay yet).

I’ll definitely be going to see Catching Fire again.  But now my movie-party-planning focus has to switch gears for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.  It’s only a few weeks away!

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Divergent Trailer Is Not Very Divergent

I have become so disillusioned with this series.  I was really into it at first, and I wanted it to become huge partly because I was so “in” from the beginning, but the sequel books didn’t really live up to the promise of the first installment, and although I didn’t hate the last book, (Allegiant), it wasn’t exactly as good as I had been hoping.

Meanwhile, I can’t get excited about this movie adaptation.  Everything about the way they’ve marketed it so far screams “conformity to stereotypical Hollywood tropes and generic YA action movie themes that are the SAME as so many other things!”, which is so ironic given that they’ve simplified the storyline into “Tris is the hero because she’s DIFFERENT!”  Like, look at this poster:

Really, guys, a butt shot?

Really, guys? Really?

This poster makes me absolutely rage.  WHAT IS THIS BUTT POSE AND CAN WE STOP MAKING IT A THING THAT WOMEN DO IN  ACTION MOVIE POSTERS PLEASE!???!!  And other than the birds and the Ferris wheel in the background, what about this poster is actually specific to this story as opposed to almost anything else?  (Hint: nothing).  Then there are the character posters that apparently you don’t get if your character is not in the Dauntless faction because they’re all about “guys, look tattooooos! Doesn’t this make our movie look badass (and one-dimensional?!) Never mind that the original story was partially about struggling with multiple virtues and which one if any should be most highly valued; TATTOOOOOOS!”

So now we have our first official trailer, and it has done nothing to lift my curmudgeonly spirits about this movie:

Theo James is definitely too old to be playing Four.  His American accent is not consistent.  Shailene Woodley as Abnegation Tris is wearing TOO MUCH MAKE-UP!  Yes I know it’s a movie but they didn’t have to go overboard obvious with the mascara and eyeliner before she’s even transferred to Dauntless.  I still don’t like the over-stylization of Four’s back tattoos.

OKAY FINE, I will not be a 100% Negative Nancy, there are some good moments in this trailer.   Like when the Dauntless jump joyously off the train at 0:28, and the fear landscape drowning scene from 0:46-0:55, (although in this cut it looks like it’s the aptitude test), Tris jumping off the roof at 1:15, Four’s intense stare in the knife-throwing scene at 1:39.

If anything, the disappointing path the Divergent movie marketing has taken just makes me more impressed with Catching Fire which has been consistently killing it.  Well, internet, am I the only Initiate not jazzed about this trailer?  What did you think of it?

 

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Trailer Music: X-Men: Days of Future Past vs. Star Trek Into Darkness

A new trailer was released today for X-Men: Days of Future Past.  The first thing I noticed was that the music sounded familiar, and it only took a minute to confirm my suspicions (and boost my music-recognizing-ego); it’s totally the same song that was used for the Star Trek Into Darkness trailer.  It’s a different arrangement and the music in the second halves of the trailers diverge after both have a moment where the music stops completely for a line of significant dialogue to land by itself (“Patience isn’t my strong suit” at 1:24 for X-Men:DoFP and “You think you’re safe…you are not” at 1:04 for STID), but it’s definitely the same song.  Compare:

I like the vocals the in the STID version, but I think I have to give the edge overall to the music in X-Men:DoFP, because the last part of STID‘s music is just “BWAAAAM! BWAAAAM! BWAAAAM!”, but X-Men:DoFP‘s is a lot more musical, if admittedly generic.  What do you think–which trailer uses the music better?

I am not aware of the origin of this song of who wrote it, and I haven’t been able to find any credible information on it yet, but this doesn’t strike me as such an egregious trailer music choice as when Man of Steel used the score from Gandalf’s death scene.  Maybe this is just one of those songs that gets featured in trailers a lot.

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I Suppose I Have To Blog About This Divergent Trailer Now

With every new piece of news, image, or interview related to the upcoming Divergent film adaptation of the book by Veronica Roth, I feel I’ve become more and more disillusioned with the whole thing.  I haven’t been blogging about it much, because it feels mean and unproductive to post public rants about all the things that annoy me about the lead actress, but I assure you I’ve paid attention to the set photos, tweets, tumbls, everything.  For a while I worried that maybe I was getting too old to appreciate the Young Adult genre anymore, but my excitement over the Catching Fire trailer and my enjoyment of the Mortal Instruments movie stilled those fears.  I don’t think it’s me; I think this adaptation is subpar.  Watch the trailer for yourself:

Well, first of all, even though I was originally excited about his casting, Theo James is too old to play Four.  And it’s totally apparent in this trailer.  In an interview at Comic-Con, Shailene Woodley reportedly said:

Theo James who plays the love interest in my film is 28, in the book his character is 18, but in the movie we’re making him about 24/25. He’s kind of ageless in a way. And even though in the book Tris is about 16, we never allude to the fact that she’s that young.

I am not okay with this.  I don’t see how it will be possible not to “allude” to Tris’s age when the choosing ceremony that starts off the plot happens when citizens are 16.  If they’re deciding Four is 24, he’s 8 years older than her and a creepy pervert for getting into a relationship with her, as opposed to book-Four who is only a year or two older than Tris.  I don’t want to watch a man with giant muscle-arms punch people and kiss a young girl.  I wanted to watch two teenagers, tougher than their bodies appeared, face difficult decisions and get butterflies when their hands touched.

Second, Tris is wearing way too much make-up.  I suppose they’re projecting Christina’s makeover to last for the entirety of Tris’s Dauntless days, but the scene at the end where she looks up with eyes rimmed in black irritated me because Abnegation-born Tris just wouldn’t smear that stuff on to go to a training session.  But I’ve seen nothing from this movie so far about Tris being Abnegation-born other than “she wears frumpy gray clothes and a bun at the beginning!”  It’s too intent on selling me Tris as a badass Dauntless to remember she has aptitude for multiple factions and that’s why she’s Divergent in the first place.

Thirdly, why did they feel the need to embellish Four’s back tattoos with these totally unnecessary and meaningless bands on the sides?  Is it because the costume designer wanted an extra outlet for their personal creativity?  Is it because movie makers insist on visualizing characters differently from how they’re described in the books so that no pre-existing fanart or cosplay will be legitimized and fans will be more inclined to just buy the official replica merchandise they’ll be sure to market soon?  (That’s what it feels like.) I just don’t see any reason for all that extra ink.  Each of Four and Tris’s tattoos in the book are chosen with significance; they’re not in it for the body art.  And what would have been so difficult about doing it like the book said, and like the fanart bellow illustrates?

Tris runs her fingers down Four's faction symbol back tattoos in the Divergent trailer.

Tris runs her fingers down Four’s faction symbol back tattoos in the Divergent trailer.

Four's tattoos, by tumblr user ice-ridden (source). She's got a lot of really great art

Four’s tattoos, by tumblr user chrysalisgrey (formerly ice-ridden).

I’m not making these grievances up out of thin air; I feel like they’re legitimate concerns. But the reason these flaws are so frustrating to me is that I really connected with the book.  I identified with Tris, as someone who grew up in a very conservatively-dressing, emphasis-on-serving-others household but never felt like I was naturally good at the selflessness I was supposed to be enacting.  When Tris self-consciously noted, taking off her jacket before her jump into the Dauntless hole, that it was the first time anyone had seen her in anything as revealing as her tight t-shirt, I vividly remembered the first times I wore a spaghetti strap shirt or a two piece swimsuit, in college after I had moved out and my parents couldn’t enforce their dress code anymore.

In the book, I loved the idea of asking what the value of virtues like honesty versus bravery or harmony is.  As I’ve written previously, I loved the straightforward way that Tris and Four’s relationship develops.  I loved the Dauntless manifesto’s assertions that “We believe in ordinary acts of bravery, in the courage that drives one person to stand up for another.” and “We do not believe that we should be allowed to stand idly by.”  I loved that Four embraced the value of all faction virtues.  I loved that Four said “I have a theory that selflessness and bravery aren’t all that different.”  I loved that sacrificing oneself for another was a repeated theme.  I loved that Tris chose to get a tattoo of not only her chosen Dauntless but also her family heritage Abengation symbol, to recognize the value in where she came from, to acknowledge that while it wasn’t her choice to live within that strict code, she didn’t reject it entirely.  I felt I could relate to that, too.

I don’t see any of what I liked about the book in this trailer. I see an attempt to market this as an ACTION MOVIE with FIGHTING and GUNS and DANGER OF BEING KILLED.  Yes, it’s true that in the book, Jeanine is attempting to eliminate all Divergents, that others exposed as Divergent have been killed, and that if Tris’s condition is revealed she would be targeted as well.  But that’s not what the story is about.  At least not to me.

The best thing about the trailer is Kate Winselt’s villain (Jeanine Matthews), and that role is clearly being fleshed out more than it exists in Tris’s narration.  But Four is too old.  Tris is too defiant.  (And ugh, this is nit-picking because I know this language use is common, so it’s fine, whatever, but it’s really irritating that she spits out “don’t try and define me!” instead of “don’t try to define me!”).

Ugh.  I don’t know.  Maybe I am really just an old curmudgeon these days.  What do you think?

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