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Looking Back (and Forth) to Odd and Often Exciting Occcurences

July 6, 2011

The past few, and the next few, years have been and are rife with general geekiness, some awesome, and some not so awesome. Here’s a list of a few of the awesome, and the awful, that we’ve been able took look forward, and that are still yet to come!

  1. AWESOME – Four words: Harry Potter theme park. Thanks to this addition, Universal Studio’s Islands of Adventure has seen a jump of over 30% in visitors in the past year! And personally, I am considering bribing anyone I know to bring back copious amounts of pumpkin Juice, should they visit the park without me.
  2. AWESOME – The last books in the Inheritance Cycle. Anyone else remember when this was just a trilogy? And I hope Paolini keeps writing! We need more authors like him!
  3. HORRENDOUS – The Twilight series’ increasing popularity, not just because I personally don’t like the series, but because the films were ungodly horrendous. You’ll remember my commenting on “The Great Stammering Scene” from what I believe was the second film.
  4. EVEN MORE AWFUL – Number 3 will continue to be true until the fourth film has run its course. I just hope S. Meyer keeps writing, but that she leaves sparkling vampires out of it.
  5. AWESOME/KINDA SAD FOR FANS – The ending of the Harry Potter series, both on the page and on the screen. I, personally, liked how the last book ended. I’m glad Rowling wasn’t afraid to kill a few characters here and ther. I am going to be sobbing copiously in the theater, and I love a series that can have that effect on me. And yes, I am going to wear my scarf to the theater again.
  6. EPIC- The re-release of “The Lord of the Rings: Extended Edition” in theaters. I saw all three films, in the theater. I must say, it is alternately funnier and more saddening to watch the film when you’re one of 50 or so people sharing the same gut reaction to parts of the film. I never realized how funny Gollum was.
  7. “I CAN DIE HAPPY NOW” – The Hobbit. As a film. In 2012. I am going. And by God, I am dressing up.
  8. PIRATEY- The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise is still going strong, and the most recent installment was no disappointment.
  9. GOD-AWFUL – Sorry, Chris, but, despite your God-given talent for writing,  “Eragon: The Film” was the single WORST page-to-screen adaptation every made. So bad, in fact, that “Eldest” was dropped halfway through production. Whomever it was told Paolini to sell the film rights… may all your bacon BURN.
  10. SIGH OF RELIEF- The newest Star Trek film, featuring Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, and the great Leonard Nimoy himself, was pretty darned good. If you haven’t seen it, take of the rubber Vulcan ears, put down the tricorder, and watch it. I grew up with ever Enterprise captain from Shatner to Janeway and back, and I survived.
  11. WIN FOR THE TEAM – A seemingly expanding market for fiction, despite various politicians’ biographies mucking up the shelves at Barnes&Nobles.
  12. BORDERLINE MIRACULOUS – The fact that, despite our concerns, it seems that young authors are still out there, plugging away.

See something that’s not on the list? Leave a comment!

-S.E.

Extended Edition Sheds New Light on the Story

July 6, 2011

CAUTION: SPOILER ALERT

You may or may not recall the post I wrote on the differences between the “Lord of the Rings” book and the “Lord of the Rings” film. Those of us who are devoted Tokien fans will agree that, while New Line did a fantastic job on bringing the story to life for old and new fans alike, there were a few things that didn’t make it into the final film that it would have been nice to see. So it was a real treat for me to get a chance to view the extended edition of the films. The extended edition features the deleted scenes as they would have appeared in the film, had they been included. This tacks on about an hour of additional film onto the already lengthy films, but it is well worth the watching.

There are a few sequences that were filmed that I still believe should have been in the final film. Eowyn and Faramir’s scenes in the Houses of Healing are scenes I felt to be pivotal parts of the story. I also feel that the massacre at the Fords of Isen (where Eomer discovers that King Theoden’s son is alive, but gravely injured) should have remained. The scene in which Faramir discovers his brother Boromir’s body are also important.

There are scenes that dragged the film out a bit, such as the scene between Eowyn and Aragorn where he reveals that he is 87 years old (he is a descendant of the Dunedain… read the books, people!). The scene at Isengard in which there is a lengthy coversation between Gandalf and Saruman (and Grima then stabs Saruman in the back and throws him off of the tower… oops, spoiler) is also a lengthy scene. Also, due to the fact that the scenes of Saruman in Hobbiton following the war were not only left out of the film, but were never written nor shot, this scene would have greatly confused those viewers who have not read the books. Another scene is the one between Sauron’s servant (known as the Mouth of Sauron) at the Black Gate, and Aragorn. This scene was, if nothing else, really wierd. While I believe it was in the book (can’t quite remember, shame on me!!!) it was really a wacky scene.  It was downright creepy. I rather liked it.

A few scenes that were not in the extended edition, due to the fact that they were never filmed, include all of Tom Bombadil’s scenes (*insert copious amounts of sobbing here*) and the scenes of Saruman in Hobbiton.

I would highly recommend looking up the trilogy on IMDB.com; there’s some very interesting behind-the-scenes stuff listed there!

Setting Sail With “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader”

January 10, 2011

CAUTION: SPOILER ALERT!!!

 At long last, Narnia fans are hitting the theaters to see C.S. Lewis’s “Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader”. Fans have been looking forward to this since the arrival of “Prince  Caspian” in theaters! In fact, many of the fans that I have spoken to have told me that “Voyage” is their favorite out of the series, and therefore, there are a few things that need to be said about this particular installment in the film series.

“The Voyage of the Dawn Treader” novel takes place a year following the events of “Prince Caspian” (exactly three years later in Narnian time). It follow the now-King Caspian’s voyage of exploration across the Eastern Sea aboard the Dawn Treader, accompanied by Edmund and Lucy Pevensie and their less-than-pleasant cousin, Eustace Clarence Scrubb. That’s all I’ll say about the book.

For those of you who haven’t heard, Disney has DROPPED the Narnia “franchise” and FOX Studios took over the “Voyage” project.  With the new studio’s takeover came a change in director (from Andrew Adamson to Michael Apted) AND score composer (Harry Gregson-Williams to David Arnold). Thankfully, costume designer Isis Mussenden remained with the project. For those of you hoping to hear more of Harry Gregson-Williams’ brilliant music, prepare for a change; the score’s style is VERY different from the scores for the first two films. Much of the score lost its “Narnian” feel; the dark, suspenseful undertones found in the scores of the first two films are somewhat lessened. This new score seems to have a far more “typical Disney” feel than the first two; the mood is more lighthearted, though at times the plot is darker, even, than the plot of “Prince Caspian”.

Viewers will be surprised to learn that parts of the film were shot in Mexico, around the time that a good deal of the drug war violence was taking place. (Disney was still in charge of the project at the time.) Taking this into account, it’s surprising that the film even made it out to sea, so to speak. The cinematography was fantastic, especially th aerial shots of the ship, although it was a bit patchy in places. It certainly didn’t have the same cinematography style as the previous films, but that’s not exactly a negative thing.

Perhaps the biggest issue I had personally was with the change in Caspian’s accent. Andrew Adamson (director of the first two films and, now, producer for this, the third film), and the cast and crew of “Prince Caspian” spent a great deal of time developing the Spanish feel of the Telmarine culture, right down to the Spanish accents of the Telmarine characters. With the change of studio and director, it appears that the Telmarine accents got lost in the move. Suddenly, Caspian (Ben Barnes) has an English accent! For a group of people to take such time to put such detail into a character and, even more so, a culture, it’s incredibly disappointing to see that development thrown out the window. On a more positive note, Will Poulter made an absolutely BRILLIANT Eustace! The casting department could not have made a better decision. Poulter portrays Eustace’s personal trials and changes very well. Also, for those who grew accustomed to British comedian Eddie Izzard’s rendition of Reepicheep, be aware that Simon Pegg has replaced him for this film, but Reepicheep’s personality was not lost in transition from one actor to another, so hats off to Mr. Pegg! Laura Brent played an excellent Liliandil (Ramandu’s daughter). Let it not be said that the casting department was off their game!

As compared to the book, I give the film a C-, but then again, most page-to-screen adaptations are the same. There was a fairly decent plot carryover, but the feeling of their trying to cram everything into a two hour time frame seems a bit more pronounced in this film. The trouble is, the old creed of “when in doubt, cut it out” seems to have failed here; significant plot pieces were cut out in favor of an original-to-the-screenplay version of events. Though this is also the case for the first two films, the effect was different in “Voyage”. the problem with this rewrite is that, suddenly, on doesn’t know what to focus on. What is the Dawn Treader’s crew’s purpose?  Add this to the fact that the several characters were rewritten, which, in the case of the first of the Telmarine lords (I believe it’s Lord Bern?), almost knocks him down a peg on the scale of plot significance. Now, these minor rewrites are not too great of a problem, but the addition of the green Mist threw me, and a few other Narnia fans, a major curveball.  In “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader” novel, the character’s goals are 1) to restore the seven Telmarine lords to their rightful places, 2) to see what lies beyond the edge of the map, and 3) (more toward the end of the book) to find Aslan’s country. The plot of the film, however, boils down to the goal of destroying the Mist, with all other goals being secondary.If it was not an element in the original story, then why cut out bits of the original plot to replace it with a more simplistic one? The subtle complexities and inner struggles of the characters that viewers enjoyed in the first two films seem to have all but vanished with this sequel.

On its own, this film gets a B+.From an older audience, or from one of Narnia “purists”, it may receive a lower grade on the scale. As compared to the rest of the film franchise, it gets a C+. This installment in the series seems slightly more “youngster-oriented” than the first two films. Some of the “Narnian” feeling that was established in the first two films was lost, but that’s only to be expected with the transition from  one studio and production company to another. Go, see it, and decide for yourself!

(Below is a segment of the interview with Apted and Barnes. You can see the rest on YouTube!)

The Wizarding World Comes to Life!

August 4, 2010

I did what I threatened! I went to Orlando! I went to “Universal Studio’s Islands of Adventure”! I wore my hand-made Gryffindor House scarf! I waited over an hour in line! And I got into “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter”.

First of all, let me just state that, whether you are a fan of the books, or the films, or both, or neither, you will enjoy this section of the park! And because I don’t want to spoil any of the fun for you, I will not post any pictures of it! But I will tell you a bit about it!

THINGS TO KNOW:

1. I’m not sure if this is coincidence or not, but, when I went to the park on a Friday, you had to stand in line for a good hour, or longer, just to be admitted to that section of the park. When I went there the following day, a Saturday, I had no problem getting in.

2. At this point, lines for the rides are MURDER. Especially for “Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey”. And due to the utterly RIDICULOUS heat wave we have down here in Florida at the moment, it is hot as you-know-where. So bring WATER. But the long lines are worth it. If you are buying water in the park, DO NOT BUY IT IN THE WIZARDING WORLD! Buy it from the street vendors you’ll see as you cross the bridge leading to the gates of “Islands of Adventure”. It’s less cost for more water.

3. Yes, I would recommend you try both the Pumpkin Juice and the Butterbeer. (IMHO, the Pumpkin Juice is a bit better, but that may be due to the fact that I am biased in favor of a drink that comes in a very cool-looking bottle. And tastes like pie.)

4.The Butterbeer Souvenir Glass is an additional $7-$8. It is plastic, but it is of good quality and is top-rack dishwasher safe! =) (Not that I’ll be using/washing mine again anytime soon!)

5. If you are buying a frothy beverage of the drunk-making variety (ha ha), they sell beer steins with the “The Hog’s Head” emblem inside “The Three Broomsticks”.

6. Looking to get a wand at “Ollivanders”? Be advised: this line is worse than the line for “Harry Potter and The Forbidden Journey”. This is due to the fact that they only allow groups of 30 people at a time in. I won’t say why; that’d ruin the surprise, but it is worth it. Wands run from $30 and up.

7. “The Three Broomsticks” is good eating at a reasonable price, albeit a bit of a crowded setting. But then, so it was in the book. It’s located right next door to “The Hog’s Head”, for those of us over the ripe old age of 21.

8. There is one set of Restrooms in this area of the park, known as the “Public Conveniences”. Almost as crowded as the shops.

9. Yes, “Dervish and Banges” is attached to “Ollivanders”, and yes, there is still a line to get in.

10. The first things they run out of? Anything under $10 with Gryffindor’s emblem on it (it took me two days just to find a keychain, and that was only because I was VERY lucky), Dumbledore’s wand, and the non-light-up version of Voldemort’s (alternately known as He-Who-Must-Not-Oh-Bother-It-His-Name’s-Voldemort-Don’t-Be-A-Sissy’s) wand.

11. Every shp, every ride, is WELL WORTH THE WAIT IN LINE!, however long that may be.

12. “Honeydukes” may be overly stimulating to the mind and sweet tooth of children under six (or anyone who’s ever eaten a Chocolate Frog).

13. For most of the rides, they require that you store your accoutrements in a locker. It’s free for the first hour. Then it’s $3 for each additional HALF-hour. So bring a couple bucks in your pocket when you go on a ride. You never know if a ride may shut down or if the wait will be extended. PLEASE do this!

14. If you can fit our camera SAFELY in your pocket for “The Forbidden Journey” and “Dragon Challenge”, do so! The designers included some VERY cool props for the visitors to view while they wait in line (or as they dash madly to catch up with the end of the line, as may be the case on the “Dragon Challenge”).

15. PACK LIGHT, especially if travelling with a group. Remember the aforementioned Lockers-From-Hell? The fewer lockers needed to cram everyone’s stuff into, the better.

16. The Frog Chorus can, in fact, carry a tune.

That’s all I can tell you. It is WORTH the trip, and WORTH all the wait time, for die-hard fans and newcomers alike to see and experience this park! DO NOT MISS IT! Read more…

Harry Hits Orlando!

April 1, 2010

 

 

Cinderella has her castle. The Hulk has his roller coaster. Pooh has his corner. Now, it seems, Harry Potter will have his Hogwarts!

Set to open on June 18th, 2010, the “Wizarding World of Harry Potter” offers a chance for fans to step inside Harry’s magical world, right inside Universal Studios in Orlando, FL.

Having recently gotten the chance to finish reading the books and viewing the first six films for the first time (yes, I know. Where have I been?), I can say that I am a wee bit excited for the opening of this park. The park encompasses the town of Hogsmeade as well as the Hogwarts castle, and will feature two coasters, including “Flight of the Hippogriff”. Hogsmeade itself will include all of the shops you daydreamed about visiting: Ollivander’s, Flourish and Blotts, and Honeydukes. The Three Broomsticks will be serving the infamous butterbeer that fans have always wanted to sample. (J.K. Rowling herself approved the recipe and the final product!). Visitors will be able to walk through the streets of the town and into Hogwarts castle itself.

The entire park utilizes state of the art technology to bring the world of Hogwarts to life. The original designers had a hand in creating everything, from the rides to facades of Hogsmeade’s interesting buildings. (I, personally, can’t wait to see what they’ve done with Ollivander’s.)

This here writer will most certainly be taking a trip to Orlando in late June. *wink, wink* Until then, I won’t say any more!

Here’s a link to a vacation package, if this sounds like a park you’d like to visit (read the fine print, please):

*CLICK HERE*

You should also check out “officialticketcenter.com”.

And I promise, if I see an elf wearing a tea cozy, I will restrain myself.

Merry Christmas!

December 24, 2009

Just wanted to wish all of you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! May your New Year be full of good friends, good food, and good reading! Happy Holidays!

Less than Spellbinding

December 24, 2009

You’ve probably seen at least one airing of the commercial for James Patterson’s newest book, “Witch and Wizard”. Therefore, in the interests of science, and the fact that I carpool to work and sit around on my brain for hours whilst waiting for my shift to begin, and I had writer’s block for the first time in months, I borrowed the book from my sister (who borrowed it from the neighbors) and sat down to read it.

So, what do I think?

Well, I gotta hand it to Jimmy; the man knows the value of teamwork. Take a stroll over to Wikipedia (yes, what a fountain of unquestionably factual knowledge!) and you’ll see that the list of Jimmy Patts’ co-authors stretches on into literary oblivion. Not to say that there is ANY harm in collaborating with someone on a book; in fact, tip of the hat to anyone with enough patience to share the reins with another writer. Not me; I won’t even tell people the title of my work without a fight. But really, Jimbo, can you write something on YOUR OWN for once? Granted the man cranks books out like clockwork, but come ON. For some writers, I think it might be fun to see their name on a cover with James Patterson, but he needs to take a step away from the writer’s collaborative round table and do some real writing on his own.

But enough of that. “Maximum Ride”, Patterson’s fiction series that centers around the lives of four mutant kids with wings (and their winged, talking dog), has become hugely popular, and has even been slotted to become a film. Patterson’s characters are witty, funny, emotional, and, at times, intimidating in their bravery. All lovely characteristics, yes. And the authorial voice in the stories is fantastic! So, when picking up “Witch and Wizard”, I was hoping for a similar style. And I got it. As in, I thought I was reading another installment in the MR series. Which is fine and dandy; I like the MR books. But I wasn’t reading an extension of the series; I was reading a completely different story.

Where “Maximum Ride” is as action-packed as its cover declares and its descriptions take your mind from dizzying heights to dark caves to conflicts with terrifying, murderous villains, “Witch and Wizard” contained an abysmally small amount of description. Sorry to burst your bubbles. For the majority of the time that I spent reading the story, I had to flip back to previous chapters to remind myself of where the characters were at the time, which, admittedly, wasn’t too bad, because hey!, the chapters were each less than five pages long. Which, when you have the two main characters taking turns at narrating the story, makes it very difficult to follow with limited description. Some (like my sister) would argue that the description is thin to give the reader freedom to “imagine”, but there’s a fine line between giving the reader imaginative reign and just plan leaving them in the dark. Frankly, I’d rather give my reader something to picture than leave them wondering what something as mundane as the bathroom looks like. I miss James Patterson’s old habit of explaining places, people, and his character’s emotional states in vivid detail.

His male and female protagonists seem a wee bit cookie-cuttered to me. Wisty, the witch, (that rolls off the tongue, actually!) is very much like the title character in Maximum Ride in her snide remarks and penchant for generally disturbing the peace, which is not a bad thing, honestly. Whit is the standard male, sporty hunk type (yes, the word “hunk” was actually used to describe the character in the story) who has lost “the love of his life” (the kid’s seventeen, FYI). It seems that a bit more thought was put into Wisty’s character.Yes, they can both, at times, be very amusing and quite entertaining characters, but their clichéd dialogue (including a laughable reference to the “Maximum Ride” series, which keeps popping up in this post, for some reason) is very dry and not very believable most of the time.

Patterson says, and I quote directly from the back cover of this book, “This is the story I was born to tell.” Well, while the concept behind the story and the bare-bones plot isn’t bad, I think Jimmy got a little too caught up in putting the story on paper and neglected to really WRITE it.  There’s a difference between “fast-paced” and “rushed”, as in, “too much action, not enough plot”. Mr. Patterson, you really should have someone seriously proofread your work for things that go beyond than spelling errors. If this is THE story, put some heart and soul into it!

Overall, this book gets a C from me. While the concept was great, I really don’t think he took enough time to develop the plot and the characters. I think James Patterson needs a little vacation from writing for now; he needs to take the time to sit down with his next manuscript and REALLY, REALLY plan it out, and get back to being the creative writer he is. He needs to either put his heart back into it, or just give it up. This is not to say that there was NOTHING interesting in the book, but it got lost in the slush pile of a convoluted plotline and overly scripted dialogue.

One saving grace, though; If you pick this book up at the bookstore, take a look at the “Excerpts of NEW ORDER PROPOGANDA” in the back. It really is hilarious! If you understand the references, that is.