Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Monday, June 30, 2014

Some small cinematic gems to check out this summer season

With the Fourth of July weekend fast approaching, we are at the height of the summer movie blockbuster season and while it's fine to have some fun by watching giant robots or superheroes or even comedy duos smack each other around, there is more out there in the multiplex than meets the eye.

After all, summer movies are also a fine excuse to beat the heat and the lines to get into the theaters may be shorter for some of these not-so-big feature films so you can cool down sooner,plus find some satisfying cinema surprises as a real summer treat.

First up on the small showcase list is Belle and no, I don't mean the heroine of that Disney movie either. The leading lady of this based on a true story has a far more compelling tale to tell. Gugu Mbatha-Raw stars as Dido Elizabeth Belle, the mixed race niece of  Lord Mansfield,an influential judge in the Georgian period of England.

Raised as somewhat of an equal with her cousin Elizabeth, she is caught between two worlds,one of which is rapidly changing due to certain legal rulings by her uncle who finds his influence affected by Dido's presence in his life.

Dido has other concerns of a romantic nature, as she is prosperous enough to marry well but finding a decent man who is both not after her fortune and able to see beyond her skin color is rather daunting at best.

 A good portion of the inspiration for this film comes from a 1779 painting done of Dido and her cousin that represents them as equals,as well as many Jane Austen readers finding a few possible connections to Jane Austen's third and most controversial novel Mansfield Park. Based on the word of mouth I've been hearing from critics and film goers alike, Belle is a beautiful portrait of an amazing woman brought to truly vivid life:



Next on the movie menu is Chef, which not only stars Jon Favreau but was written and directed by him as well. He plays Carl, a restaurant chef whose career quickly spirals down due to a negative review by a sneering critic/blogger and a huge fight with his boss that winds up on the internet.

As a way to bounce back, Carl buys an old taco truck and restores it in order to set up shop making Cuban sandwiches. Joined by a couple of former co-workers and his own enterprising young son, he rediscovers his joy of cooking and so much more.

Many film followers see this movie as a metaphor for Favreau's ups and downs in the movie industry and it probably is but so what? Personally, I enjoyed the hell out of Cowboys and Aliens(and the first two Iron Man flicks,too) and even if there are plenty of his famous friends on board the cast list such as Scarlett Johansson,Dustin Hoffman and John Leguizamo, those are some good pals to have for a little movie like this.  If you're in the mood for a taste of foodie film fare, here's your blue plate special,folks:



Last and leagues away from least here, the documentary Life Itself uses the memoir of the late great film critic Roger Ebert as a starting off point to go over his life and times.

His influence on how we think about the movies began with in 1967, with his reviews for the Chicago Sun-Times that eventually lead him to an unlikely partnership with fellow Chicago critic Gene Siskel for a series of TV "At the Movies" shows.

In addition to that,Ebert wrote numerous books about film and encouraged a wide range of up and coming artists both in front of and behind the camera, including Martin Scorsese who is an executive producer of this documentary.  His dedication to writing about film seemed to be the core of his being, as not even Ebert's health troubles kept him from spreading the good word about what's on the silver screen.

No matter whether or not you agreed with him about this film or that movie, you have to admit that as a promoter of film appreciation, Roger Ebert's life work was definitely worth two thumbs up:



If any of these movies are playing at a theater near you, try to check them out this holiday weekend. You may be glad that you did. In the meanwhile, it's a good rule of habit not to talk too loud during a movie,even if the conversation with your buddy in the seat next to you is more stimulating than what's being said on screen:


Friday, June 27, 2014

The latest in literary feuds with book shame on the meanness menu

You would think that with all of the great books out there that are being turned into decent movies lately that most of the book folk would be as pleased as punch,especially when those books are from the young adult section.

With all of the concern about kids taking an interest in reading despite the techno distractions all around them, having a book like The Fault in Our Stars,which is not a vampire/bleak future warrior type of novel, make a big splash at the box office be something to celebrate,right?

Well, sadly that's wrong because one of the writers over at Slate saw fit to denounce the fact that grown-ups also like the book and that too many "mature" people are reading YA literature,oh the horror! Look, too much of any genre at any age isn't good for your brain but insisting that it's wrong to enjoy a well written book just because you're not the intended target audience is ridiculous. It's a sign of good writing that a book can be appreciated by more than one section of the audience and since many educators encourage parents to read with their children, isn't it great that they both can enjoy the same book together?

"What about those people without children who read these things?" I hardly think that reading a young adult novel is the worst choice out there for entertainment and yes, it's okay to read for fun. The author of the Slate article says that adults only read YA for " escapism, instant gratification, and nostalgia", standards that you could apply to many genres,let alone "grown-up" ones.  Not to mention that these books are written by adults who work just as hard at their craft as their counterparts on the other side of the book shelves and it's insulting to try and shame any of their readers due to your own prejudices:


 I find it upsetting that someone sees fit to shame adults about YA books when teenagers are being harassed by censor happy citizens who don't want them to even read the books meant for them such as Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Adventures of a Part-Time Indian.

Even when a student was handing out free copies of the book(as part of World Book Night) in a location nowhere near her school, the local cops were called in to stop her! No one went to jail but with this kind of literary policing going on, should we be so worried if an adult reads a teen lit book?

Plus, there are a number of classic titles that can easily fall into the YA category such as To Kill a Mockingbird, Huck Finn and The Catcher in the Rye yet they are normally shelved with the adult fiction. Does that make those books and their readers more or less mature? Why is it that those books are given the benefit of the doubt as to whom they are suitable for and not others(and don't give me that "stands the test of time" argument because those standards can and will change as time goes on)?:



This type of bickering is also happening amongst the adult literati as well as Vanity Fair put out an article in a recent issue about how many "serious" critics are displeased with the acclaim being given towards Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch.

While backlash against a popular book is understandable,particularly if that book has won a huge literary prize such as the Pulitzer(which The Goldfinch did) and sales numbers are no guarantee of quality, there is a truly bitter note running through most of these negative reviews that makes such dissenting opinions questionable at best.

Between the New Yorker review that claims" Its tone, language, and story belong in children’s literature”and The Paris Review saying that “A book like The Goldfinch doesn’t undo any clich├ęs—it deals in them,” along with The New York Review of Books lamenting ‘Doesn’t anyone care how something is written anymore?', they all seem to be competing with each other to see who hates this book more. One of the constant slams against The Goldfinch is calling it "children's literature" as if they were attempting to insult the author's mother in a snobby version of the dozens.



Snobbery and envy appear to be at the heart of some of this discord, with the New Yorker reviewer saying upon the announcement of The Goldfinch winning the Pulitzer: “I think that the rapture with which this novel has been received is further proof of the infantilization of our literary culture: a world in which adults go around reading Harry Potter.

 Plus, the NYROB reviewer adding in when asked about her write-up of the book: “Everyone was saying this is such a great book and the language was so amazing. I felt I had to make quite a case against it,” Way to act professional and mature, folks.

Look,folks, I get the need to be taken seriously and for good books to be appreciated in their time but being petty and peevishly personal with your opinions like this does nothing to aid your argument. Granted, I just recently read Donna Tartt's The Secret History and plan to read The Goldfinch later this summer(along with Tartt's The Little Friend which is considered to be her sophomore slump) and yes, I think she's a good writer, the kind that I wish I had read sooner.

 The Goldfinch may not live up to the hype but do you really think that sneering about it's lack of literary merit in your far from humble opinions will change anyone's mind about it? True,misery loves company but if you really want readers to take you seriously about this, perhaps not acting like the stepsisters ripping apart Cinderella's dress before the ball would be a good idea:


*Sigh* well, I don't intend to let all of this fuss spoil my reading plans. Part of my Fourth of July celebrations for next week include reading both The Fault in Our Stars and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, not to mention that I'm more motivated to read the rest of Donna Tartt this season.

Book shaming is not cool,folks and while I may not like what other people read, it's not my place to act all high and mighty about my literary choices. Sometimes, you need to be a little immature in order to accept the big serious and doing so thru pop culture is not a bad thing. As for the you book shamers out there, just remember that you're not above a little scrutiny yourselves in this department and that the tables can be turned on you when you least expect it, so mellow out!:



Thursday, June 26, 2014

True Blood's opening act, Food Network Star goes viral and unpeeling Orange is the New Black

Well, we had one major death on the final season premiere of True Blood and I was not only sorry to see Tara go so soon, I was also disappointed that her departure was rather quickly dealt with.

Granted,she's been around a lot longer than most and considering the endless times that Tara was torn into the path of danger,quite the survivor there. Plus, there are other dire concerns in Bon Temps at the moment, with the Hep-V vamps carrying off Arlene and Holly(not to mention Sam's very pregnant lady friend) and vigilante groups sprouting up to battle the determined undead.

However, Tara was one of my favorite characters,for her forthright nature, and she will be missed sorely this season. She might make an afterlife appearance at some point but still, she deserved better than an off screen slaying. At least let her have one last moment with Lafayette!:



Anyway, there is plenty of misery to pass around and while Sookie is being tormented by guilt as well as the rapid fire negative thoughts of her fellow townsfolk, she is right on the money about being the resident expert on dealing with vampires.

This effort to take charge of the chaos will need to involve Bill,whether Sookie likes it or not, as things go on. Pam is still amongst the somewhat living but she's off on a Indiana Jones trek to find Eric(who I hope is not too fried from last year) and in the meanwhile, I hope it doesn't take anyone too long to figure out that the Hep-V vamps are holed up at Fangtasia(which should've occurred to Bill right away!). Oh,well, this wild ride is off and running, so let's hold on to the end at least:




It was a team challenge on Food Network Star this week, as the contenders broke up into three groups to make promo YouTube videos for  Hershey candy bars such as Almond Joy and Mounds.

The team that lost was the one that should have won,in my opinion. Lenny,Aryen and Christopher were given a mad scientist set and their "Pay-Day-Stein" skit was damn funny. While Christopher could have been more animated and Aryen speak a little clearer(she was not totally inarticulate,Giada!), Lenny's monster antics were awesome and frankly, the whole thing was a better example of a fully executed concept unlike the Reese peanut cup classroom bit that won:


I am glad that Aryen does get a chance to return to the show via Star Salvation because her dismissal here was unfair. As they say, there is no accounting for taste and that's true even for the judges sometimes. Here's hoping that next week's challenge will be more about the main course of the competition than the side dish stuff:



So I dived into Orange is the New Black this past weekend by watching the first four episodes of season one on DVD(my Netflix account is a one at a time disc deal). The basic story line,for those of you not familiar with the series, is how Piper, a young woman of privilege, spends a year in federal jail after taking a plea deal upon being named as a part of a drug ring.


 She carried drug money for her then girlfriend during her wild oats spree in her twenties and was two years shy of the statue of limitations on her brief life of crime when caught.

Piper's hopeless naivety at handling social situations in prison is a main feature but her sister prisoners are also given their spotlights such as Red, the surly yet overly sensitive cafeteria lady and Sophia, a transgender woman being denied her medication due to prejudice and budget cuts.

While Piper can be annoying in some circumstances, she is justifiably upset to discover that one of the inmates is her former lover Alex,who she believes sold her out for a better sentence. There is a good blend of humor and drama, not to mention a variety pack of interesting characters from the guards to the prisoners to invest your time in. I can see why the hype for this show is so huge and will be watching the rest of the season this summer, so stay tuned,folks:



RANDOM NOTES:

PENNY DREADFUL: The season one finale is this Sunday and I am so glad that a second season was greenlit already, as this show is rich in mystery as well as Eva Green goth antics. Worth catching up on if you haven't seen it yet,especially for old school horror fans who like a taste of the new:



Monday, June 23, 2014

Let your summer reading be ruled by The Queen of the Tearling

In Erika Johansen's debut fantasy novel,The Queen of the Tearling, we are introduced to Kelsea Raleigh, who at the age of nineteen must depart from her hidden childhood home in order to claim her throne in the city of New London. Her queendom is known as the Tear, set in a distant future of our world that has fallen back into medieval times.

She was raised in isolation by a pair of loyal family retainers due to the suspicious death of her mother Queen Elyssa, famed for her beauty and very little else in the way of intelligent leadership. Another key factor in keeping her location safe even from her uncle(who became the Regent) was the Red Queen of Mortmesne, the seemingly ageless ruler of a neighboring empire whose powers are feared far and wide;



 Kelsea is more at home in a library than out on the road or playing politics but she is determined to accept the responsibilities that have long been awaiting her.

 During her journey towards New London, she discovers some harsh details about how things have been for her people under the reign of her corrupt uncle, in part due to meeting The Fetch who runs a band of not-so-merry men that do their level best to undermine the severe poverty and lack of resources that would improve life for citizens of the Tear.

An even uglier surprise greets Kelsea as she reaches the city and heads for The Keep(where Tear monarchs hold their place of power) and that is the price of peace between the Tear and Mortmesne; monthly shipments of people to be sold as slaves. She may not be as sure and strong as she would like to be,yet when faced with such an evil, Kelsea knows initially how to act. Her first stance as a ruler is to stop the shipments and her queen's guard is not the only method of persuasion she has at hand:



Despite making such a bold stand that wins her instant acclaim with the people, Kelsea is still challenged as she goes forth to take her throne and has to literally fight for her life just to be crowned.

Cleaning up the messes that her foolish mother and weak willed uncle have made over the years is a difficult task but armed with the desire to use her book smarts(as well as a magic sapphire necklace bequeathed to her),Kelsea feels that she's up to the task.

One big problem is in getting her own men to trust in her judgment, particularly Lazarus a.k.a. The Mace, whose fierce warrior skills and loyalty make him a great asset but his persistence in believing that he knows more than she does in certain matters does give Kelsea more trouble at times than the plots and schemes of all of her enemies combined.

Mace means well but his overprotective nature(not to mention dislike of books) can get in the way of what Kelsea needs to do. It becomes more complicated when she gets wind of dire plans that threaten the Tear from supernatural sources and just when she needs complete trust, her men are strongly reluctant to follow her lead:

 

Faced with struggles from within and without, Kelsea must ultimately decide on her own what sort of queen she can and wants to be,provided she lives long enough to make a difference.

This novel is meant to be the first in a trilogy and the film rights have already been sold(with Emma Watson intended for the lead). I can see why this would make a great movie but I also can see why Queen of the Tearling will make for an engaging series of books.

The writing is smart and solid, allowing other character viewpoints to accent the central plot, and by making Kelsea a princess with "plain" features who has been taught to use her intelligence yet still wishes to be just a girl in love makes her very relatable to many readers. She's not simply a figurehead role model; Erika Johansen depicts her leading lady in a powerfully human light and her adventures are a rollicking read.

I don't know when the second book is due out but Queen of the Tearling will be released on July 8 and if you're a fantasy fan eager to meet another amazing literary heroine along the lines of Brienne of Tarth or Arya Stark, I think you will be pleased to meet Princess Kelsea of the Tear:


Friday, June 20, 2014

Cooling down with some sizzling July/August reads

The first day of summer begins tomorrow, with plenty of time still left to make your pop culture plans for the season.

With most of your favorite TV shows on hiatus and not every big blockbuster movie at the multiplex being to your taste, catching up on that ever growing pile of TBR titles is the perfect excuse to avoid the rising temperatures and curl up next to the AC.

 While you may have a tidy bundle of books to choose from, there's always room for more and here are a few soon to be hot off the presses picks for your literary delight:

FIERCELY FUTURISTIC:

Fans of M.D. Waters' debut sci-fi suspense novel Archetype will not have to wait much longer for it's follow-up adventure, which arrives in July.

 Prototype  finds our heroine Emma still on the run after learning the truth about her supposed husband Declan as well as twisted science being used against women in this Stepford Wife society. She takes refuge with the resistance movement, whose underground activities are more focused on than ever before due to the huge reward offered by Declan for her return.

 In addition to that, Emma's longing for family reconnection is being firmly rejected by Noah, who resents this new incarnation of his beloved and wants to move on with not only his life but that of their daughter's as well. Can Emma ever achieve a balance in her new life or must she change the game in order to survive?  I know that I enjoyed the emotional thrills of Archtype last winter and am happy to have this smartly written sci-fi  sequel sooner than usually expected(July 24):



Thanks to Stephen Colbert, Edan Lepucki's California has made a nice impact in the pre-sales arena but even without such great help, the plot of this post apocalyptic novel has a very attractive story telling allure.

Cal and Frida have left the shattered ruins of what was once Los Angeles to seek as peaceful a life together as they can. When Frida discovers that she's pregnant, they decide to find any form of civilization that's still out there in order to care properly for their upcoming child.

Upon joining "The Group", however, things are not as serene as they seem. With a number of secrets and lies surrounding them, Cal and Frida have kept the arrival of their expectant child to themselves but leaving this new community before the baby is born may be the safest bet of all. Yes, I do have this book on pre-order and am eager to explore it's frightening wonders for myself and highly doubt that I'll be disappointed(July):


HEROINES WITH HEART:

Another highly anticipated debut novel this summer is The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen, which has already been sold to the movies and said to have Harry Potter star Emma Watson cast as the lead.

That leading lady is Kelsea, the heir to a throne set in a world of the distant future that has been reset in a medieval times style. For nineteen years, she grew up in hiding not only to escape attempts on her life from her uncle, the corrupt Regent, but the Red Queen of Mortmesne, an enemy with dark and mysterious powers.

Armed with loyal guards, a sapphire necklace with strange abilities of it's own and bookworm skills, Kelsea seeks to undo the grim treaty her foolish mother made long ago that bears a heavy price upon her people as well as manage to stay alive long enough to claim her throne. I'm reading this book right now(and should have a full review by next week) and with this book being the first part of a trilogy to come, I have to say that I'm glad to be at the start of such a beautiful literary friendship(July):


Suspense author Chelsea Cain launches a new detective series with One Kick, introducing us to Kit "Kick" Lannigan, who was kidnapped at age six and rescued by the time she was eleven.

At twenty-one, Kick is determined to use her unique insights and special defense skills to help other abducted children and she's given a major assignment from John Bishop, a former arms dealer turned private security man, who needs her aid in locating two kids who were taken within weeks of each other.

Despite her suspicions regarding Bishop, Kick takes on the case but finds that there is one enemy standing in her way that she has trouble facing and it's within her own mind. Cain has proven to be an amazing writer in this realm and any new additions to the dark detective ranks by her are welcome indeed(August):



MAD ABOUT THE AUSTEN GIRL:

 The Lizzie Bennet Diaries webseries was very meta to begin with,doing a modern take on the Jane Austen classic Pride & Prejudice that earned it legions of fans as well as an Emmy award last year.

Now the circle is complete as the videos have become a book entitled The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet written by Bernie Su and Kate Rorick(who also created LBD online).  This companion piece offers a deeper look into the mind and heart of Lizzie as she struggles with the pangs of love between her sweet sister Jane and new neighbor Bing Lee, along with some romantic troubles of her own and not to mention her wildstyle sis Lydia.

Whether you want to introduce someone to a fresh look at an Austen novel or recapture the fun of the web series for yourself, The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet should offer plenty of delights and perhaps a surprise or two(July):


FAMILY DRAMA ABBEY:

In Sally Beauman's The Visitors, two young girls have their friendship tested by one family's connection to the search for King Tut during the 1920s.

 As Lucy goes to live in Egypt upon the untimely death of her mother, part of her healing is due to Frances, the daughter of an American archeologist who is involved in the excavation of the tomb that holds the treasures of the boy king.

Even on the fringes of the discovery, the girls find much to entertain them as the inside scoop on a local scandal sharpens their observations on the power clashes between the main men involved to claim the tomb. Other intrigues both home and abroad separate Lucy and Frances for a time but a reunion is soon hoped for but how certain is it?  Those seeking some engaging historical drama need look no further(July).


Thrity Umrigar showcases an unexpected friendship in The Story Hour, as therapist Maggie decides to go beyond her regular boundaries of doctor and patient with Lakshmi, a troubled young woman trapped in a loveless marriage with a man who limits what little contact she has with the outside world.

As Maggie and Lakshmi grow closer, even to the extent of having their sessions at Maggie's home office, they share confidences that change each other's lives but whether for better or worse, it becomes difficult to say.

Umrigar's novels may seem to be more seriously suited for fall reading but good writing is always in season and should not be missed(August).

Hopefully, the heat this summer will only serve to encourage people to stay cool by reading(and I don't mean using the pages to fan yourself with,either!) and that none of us fight over who has the better reading list.

While it is good to use what free time you have on hand to catch up on some classics or tackle those hefty bestsellers everyone else seems to have read and discussed at length already, you have to decide what's best for your mental menu this summer.

Sure, a book battle might be fun if done the right way but true readers know that when any book is opened up, we're all winners in the end:


Thursday, June 19, 2014

The game changing Game of Thrones finale,Food Network Star gets cutthroat and preparing for the last drop of True Blood

The season four finale of Game of Thrones certainly had people talking this week and while there is much to go over, my focus here is on Tyrion and Arya.

 Yes, it was sad to see Dany chain up her dragons but it had to be done. Also, Stannis joining forces with the Night's Watch was pretty awesome but those plot points will be more developed next season.

Tyrion's surprise escape plans took a detour as he went off to finish what business he had left with his father, who betrayed his son in more ways than one as it turns out. Finding Shae in Tywin's bed was another stab to Tyrion's already wounded heart and while it may be debatable about his killing her, there is no doubt that Tywin got what he deserved on the only throne he was ever entitled to in the first place:



The downfall of the Lannisters has been a long time coming and more is yet to come.  Tyrion's revenge was truly bittersweet and will haunt him for some time to come. You can feel bad for Jaime as well, who was the only other family member to give Tyrion any sort of respect and assistance, not to mention how badly Cersei will take all of this. Things in King's Landing are unraveling fast but where it will all end up is too soon tell.

Along with Tywin's takedown, the conclusion of Arya's time with the Hound is something that I've been waiting  to see on screen every since I finished A Storm of Swords.

I know that some of the book fans are annoyed at how some of these events were slightly altered from the book but come on, having Arya run into Brienne was a nice touch and sets up more than one story line for next season( Lady Stoneheart is coming sooner than winter,folks):


Not to mention that the fight between Brienne and The Hound was flat out amazing-yeah,yeah, it didn't happen that way in the book but wasn't that a nice surprise?

By now, my fellow book readers, you should know to accept certain changes from the source material and as long as the important elements are preserved(Arya leaving The Hound to die and then finding a ship to Braavos), let a few tweaks go. Just my opinion on the matter. I am thrilled that this season's end shot was of Arya heading off to find her Pai Mei and ultimately making her death wish list come true. This season totally went one-eighty for many of the characters and here's to hoping our wait for the next season won't feel too long:



On Food Network Star, mentor Alton Brown brought his Cutthroat Kitchen antics in to test the chefs, complete with bidding money for sabotages(the winner from each team got to keep what cash they had left, just like on CTK) and guest judge Jet Tila from the series.

I was worried about Lenny there, whose food didn't hold up under fire but fortunately, Kenny's uninspired offering was enough to send him home. It didn't help Kenny out that he had no sabotages and yet made such a bland dish. However, Lenny needs to step up his game, as charm will only get you so far in this competition:



As one HBO show ends, another rises and this time will be the last for True Blood as it enters it's seventh season. When we left off last time, Bon Temps was under attack by Hep-V vampires and only by teaming up with the unaffected undead could the townfolk hope to survive.

There's going to be a lot of questions that will need answering before all is said and done, such as will Sookie and Bill ever get back together, have Tara and her mom really mended their fences and is Eric still with us? That last one I'm not alone in wanting to get a response to, that's for sure!

Despite departing quite a long way from the original Charlaine Harris series of novels(she's also finished up with the Sookie Stackhouse saga), this show has a good number of book lovers as well as strictly show watchers who are fully invested in how this all wraps up. I have faith that True Blood will close their final chapter well and just remember, when it comes to vampire shows, seven is a lucky number(just ask Buffy):



RANDOM NOTES:

UNDER THE DOME: We're a week away from season two and yes, I am excited to see what happens next. Things were a tad uneven when the show began last summer yet it never lost my interest and with Stephen King himself on board for the first episode, this should be a great ride to go on again:





Monday, June 16, 2014

Some gruesomely good GOT giggles for the season finale afterparty

Well, we had quite a season finale on Game of Thrones last night and while I intend to go into it further during my TV Thursday post later this week, I do have a few stray observations.

Pardon the slight spoilage for the moment but while it would have been sinister sweet to have Lady Stoneheart take a bow here, they do need to hold back something for next season,so let us be patient.

 Also, there were some significant changes from the books yet the main points were made and how awesome was that fight between Brienne and The Hound? Maybe it's just me but I like a nice little surprise every now and then in my adaptations and that one was prime red meat, my friends. One thing that we can all agree upon here is that this was a very bad Father's Day for Tywin Lannister(and rightly so,in my opinion) indeed:



In honor of such an excellent and engaging finale, we should celebrate with some humorous looks at the wacky yet lethal hijinks in Westeros . First up is some sensible wedding advice about who to pick for your professional planner.

Theme weddings are very popular right now,especially fan based ones, and while it may sound like fun,  trust me when I say that you do not want a G.R.R. Martin wedding no matter what the color scheme:


Speaking of colorful weddings, this Disney princess version of the Red Wedding from last year has quite a few charms, despite what happens to Prince Charming and his Cinderella queen on their scary special day:


While we have Disney princesses on hand, have you ever wondered what Dany would  be like as one of those singing sweethearts?

This little clip answers your question and even gives Jorah a chance to musically proclaim his love for the Mother of Dragons but to no avail( talk about lost in love there!).

Even those of us who have read the books don't know what the fictional future will be for them but I'm sure plenty of people are still shipping Dany and Jorah both in and out of tune:



It will feel like forever until the new season of GOT starts(luckily for me, I have some distractions such as the final season of True Blood starting up next Sunday) as well as the next book in the series hitting the shelves but it will be all too soon when this whole wild Westeros ride begins again.

For now, it's best to reflect on what has passed and rejoice in what's to come, such as Arya heading off to Braavos(so happy that was the end scene!).  We should also mourn the loss of certain characters,along with some gloating over the ones who got what they deserved*cough*Tywin*cough.

 One of the hard things about being a fan of GOT is the hard cold fact that no one is safe from a visit from The Stranger or what ever you choose to call death around here. However that doesn't mean we can't look back fondly at characters we used to know and still root for the ones still with us on the page and screen:


Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Battle of Castle Black on GOT, Food Network Star amuses their judges and discovering why Orange is the New Black

This next to last episode of this season's Game of Thrones was certainly action packed as the Wildling army advanced to the Wall and laid siege to Castle Black. A number of good guys and bad ones met their maker, including Jon Snow's former love Ygritte.

 It was sad to see her go but at least Jon was with her(despite his "knowing nothing" of course) and she did die in battle, something that her people would consider an honor. The whole battle was well done but there did seem to be something missing(which on pain of spoiler peril I can't discuss) but perhaps that particular element will be addressed during the finale.

I know some people felt that this episode had an open ending but I think it was meant to be in a way. This is a continuing story, after all and this battle wasn't a total loss, as the approach of the Free Folk forces were pretty impressive:



I do expect a strong number of reaction videos by next week for this particular finale because quite a lot is going to happen and by that I do mean Tyrion's fate but not him alone.

From the trailer, it does appear that Bran's story line will hit a major arch along with one other Stark that I am most keenly invested in,Arya. Her mocking laugh of despair as she and the Hound reached the Eyrie at long last only to discover that Lyssa was dead(not to mention unknowingly getting this close to an encounter with one of her family members) the week before last was a indicator of how fast she's grown up since Season One.

 Her time with The Hound is coming to a close, I feel it's safe to say and for those of you who are wondering why Braavos has been showing up on the map in the opening credits quite regularly these last few episodes, you will get an answer for that very soon indeed, no more will I say about this!:



For the second round of Food Network Star, the culinary contenders had to display some on-camera skills as instructors.

Each of them were given a brief amount of time to film a cooking demo yet were unaware that watching along with the mentor panel was Iron Chef Alex Guarnaschelli, who was following their instructions in real time.

Most of them did well here, with Lenny being a breakout star for his charming cowboy ways. Kenny was lucky, however, that Luca's inability to make eye contact on screen was far worse that his rude attempts to justify his mistakes and failure to finish cooking. Confidence is fine, dude but not arrogance,just saying!:



Summer is a great time to catch up on things and one small screen phenomenon that I intend to finally see is the first season of Orange is the New Black. While I do have a Netflix subscription, it is DVD rental only( due to budget limits) and I have not even read the book upon which this women's prison drama is based.

I have heard enough good things about it to peak my interest and happy to have this opportunity to sit back and see it OITNB is worth all of the hype. No doubt that it is but I don't want to over or under estimate the value of this ground breaking show. My thoughts on Season One will pop up from time to time during my regular TV Thursday posts, so if you're all too familiar with this show already, please be patient with my newbie impressions:


RANDOM NOTES:

THE FLASH: I'm still catching up on the first season of Arrow but this upcoming spin-off/reboot that features the fleet footed Barry Allen looks like a first across the finish line winner:


Monday, June 09, 2014

Paging through a few fantasy stories in the Movie Trailer Park

Literary adaptation fever is running high at the box office these days, as the biggest surprise at the multiplex this weekend was how well The Fault in Our Stars did against the promotional might of Edge of Tomorrow.  TFIOS made more than double it's money back with a nice hefty take of nearly 50 million while EOT barely managed to reach the third place spot on the list.

The low key ad campaign for TFIOS(which consisted of a couple of trailers and a strong social media presence) seems to be a key factor, not to mention the intense fan love for the heartfelt yet not overly sentimental novel by John Green which has both adults and teens in the mix.

However, Hollywood has not given up on sci-fi/fantasy stories for the young and the young at heart, as these trailers will show. Granted, a couple of these films are aimed at a slightly older audience but all of them can trace their origins to the previously published written word.

First up is The Giver, based on Lois Lowry's iconic YA novel(which has been on a number of banned books lists as well over the years). 16 year old Jonas( played by Benton Twaites) has been selected to become the next Receiver of Memory in his seemingly perfect society run by a group of Elders(one of which is played by Meryl Streep). During his time with the appointed Giver(Jeff Bridges), Jonas learns the dark truth about the price paid for living in such a conflict free world and is encouraged to strike out on his own to bring back what was lost.

I've never read the book but have heard certain major changes were made to the film that greatly differ from the source material. No doubt fans of the novel will want to see it regardless and hopefully those switch-ups don't take away from the intended tone of the story. We shall see this August, I suppose:



Another teen novel based flick on the horizon is The Maze Runner,adapted from the first book in James Dashner's series about a group of young men in a post apocalyptic world who are left to fend for themselves in a wilderness  outside a mysterious maze.

A newcomer to their realm,Thomas (Dylan O'Brien) has no memory of his past or why he was sent to this place.  When the first and only female arrives to their enclave, tensions mount up even higher and Thomas becomes more motivated to rediscover his lost memories in order to survive.

There's a lot less star power in this film, which I consider a good thing since it will allow more focus on the story for new audiences and probably please a good number of the fans for this series as well. The Maze Runner is set for September, a big back to school month, so with any luck it's target audience will have a chance to catch this sci-fi suspense movie in between homework assignments and school supply shopping:



Fortunately for Marvel comic book readers, the next big adaptation coming their way is set for a sweet spot in August. 

Guardians of the Galaxy introduces a rag tag team of intergalactic misfits such as Peter "Star Lord" Quill (Chris Pratt), former hit woman Gamora( Zoe Saldana) and Rocket Raccoon( yes, a talking raccoon with the voice of Bradley Cooper and a tree like sidekick with a limited vocabulary supplied by Vin Diesel) who band together to save the universe from scheming bad guys.

The comic book has a bit of a cult following and this film will tie into the next Avengers movie(due to the main villain Thanos) and yeah, it's for somewhat older audiences but I can see parents and kids both enjoying this funky fantasy flick together:




Definitely meant for grown people is the long awaited follow-up to Sin City(also appearing this August), A Dame to Kill For. Director Robert Rodriguez and writer/artist Frank Miller team up again up to bring to cinematic life stories from Miller's gruesomely gritty graphic novel series.

The title story, plus the segment entitled "Just Another Saturday Night" are adapted from Miller's published work while the latter two tales were written directly for the film, one of which takes place after the Yellow Bastard section of the first movie with a more mature Nancy (Jessica Alba) seeking revenge.

We also get some prequel looks at characters who perished in the first film(Marv is back!) and a different actor playing a character from an earlier storyline(Josh Brolin takes over for Clive Owen's Dwight, the explanation being that Dwight had plastic surgery later on).  Since it's been awhile between Sin City films( the first one came out in 2005), I'm not sure if the vibe for returning and new audiences is strong for this one but let's keep a few non severed fingers crossed, shall we?:



 Don't get me wrong, I'm glad to see a solid teen story become a successful film that doesn't involve dire futuristic worlds for once and I do plan to read The Fault In Our Stars this summer.

However, I still like fantasy features, whether they're for kids or adults, and want good adaptations as well(and yes, comic books do count!). I'm just concerned about Hollywood's either/or attitudes when it comes to these things and while it is a business, the show part is just as important there.

Then again, if any genre has a strong shot at bucking the bandwagon mentality of the big studios, it is in the comic book adaptation section. No matter how many folks complain about the number of movies made from the ink and paint pages of comics and graphic novels, they still seem like a sure bet to producers. Plus, some of them are and can be pretty damn cool when done right:





Friday, June 06, 2014

A few literary highlights,including the Colbert Bump and Jane Austen gems!

One of the biggest book battles lately has been between Amazon and the publisher Hachette, who are negotiating a new deal regarding their e-book pricing.

 Basically, Amazon wants to call the shots and are not above using strong arm tactics to get their way such as not allowing any of the books released by Hachette (print and electronic) to be pre-ordered at their site and delaying the delivery time of other titles that are currently in stock.

Many authors find this abuse of their work unacceptable and are speaking out to encourage a boycott of Amazon. Stephen Colbert, one of the affected writers, had fellow author Sherman Alexie on his show this week to talk about this issue and to put a pointed protest in motion. They are encouraging folks to place their pre-order for a debut novel entitled California by Edan Lepucki at Powell's Books as well as print out stickers that say " I Didn't Buy This At Amazon".


 No doubt some of you reading this are saying to yourselves,"Oh, come on, Lady T! This is just another money fight between corporations here, no big deal!" Well, actually, it is a big deal because as Sherman Alexie pointed out, the ones to root for in this throw down are the authors(along with the readers) whose work is being used as playing pieces in a game that benefits no one in the long run.

Yes, cheaper books sound good but they come at the expense of the writers, who will ultimately have their income cut to the point of instability. Granted, my e-books are not on Amazon( although my publisher Smashwords has no problem with their authors making a separate deal to sell their work there) but this attempt to narrow the pricing in favor of the vendor first and foremost is not being done to help the reader. It's a form of manipulation designed to lull you in with while undercutting the other guy, a ruthless tactic meant to undermine both the competition and the consumer alike:



This whole On the Waterfront approach to business is not my style and I'm willing to bet that it's not the preferred one for many of you out there either. Yes, I did place a pre-order for California(which sounds like an interesting book and I'll talk more about it during my July/August book preview post later this month) through Powell's but there are dozens of other online and off book sellers that you can place an advance order with and not only for Hachette titles. It's a matter of choice and if you feel strongly about this issue, this is an option that you can take to show the power of your purse strings.

For a more pleasant side of the book world, let me share with you a couple of my Jane Austen related reads of late. Robert Rodi's look at the snarky side of our dear Jane has the eye brow raising title Bitch in a Bonnet but the subtitle  explains his true point of view "reclaiming Jane Austen from the Stiffs,Snobs, Saps..."etc.

Rodi feels that many people are mistaken about the true romantic nature of her work and offers a running chapter-by-chapter commentary on her novels, starting in Volume one with S&S, P&P and Mansfield Park. A second volume that encompasses Emma, NA and Persuasion is currently available as well.

Having Rodi discuss the plotting and amusing traits of such well known characters like Caroline Bingley or Marianne Dashwood in a fun, almost gossipy way is a real blast for an Austen fan with a modern sense of humor:




For the Austenesque reader, you might like this series by Mary Jane Hathaway called Jane Takes the South. The first book,Pride,Prejudice and Cheese Grits was a self published title that is now being reissued via Howard Books along with two other titles forthcoming very soon.

PP&CG takes place at a college, where two Civil War historians are waging a small war of their own, due to a negative book review, as well as fighting their own growing feelings towards each other. I've been reading the e-book edition so far and it's a charming retake on the classic story and have even gotten the e-book version of her next title Emma, Mr. Knightley and Chili Slaw Dogs on my Nook as well!

The one title that I'm really looking forward to is Persuasion,Captain Wentworth and Cracklin' Cornbread where the heroine is named Lucy Crawford( intriguing name combination there!) who is trying to save her family home by turning it into a free medical clinic where one of the doctors happens to be a former love of hers.

That one is due out in November and I may get the print edition, as the cover art for these books are hard to resist( I know you're not supposed to judge and all of that but a pretty cover doesn't hurt either).

In the meantime, I'll enjoy the sweet southern romance of Pride, Prejudice and Cheese Grits as part of my summer time literary vacation. Lizzie and Darcy in any form are worth the prolonged pleasure: