Thursday, January 15, 2015

J: Catching up!

So, it's been over a year since I last posted! A lot has happened -- most notably, I got married and bought a house, which has kept me pretty busy and not terribly up on the pop culture, unfortunately...

I haven't had cable or even broadcast TV in a long time, so my TV sources are solely Amazon Prime and Hulu Plus. My husband and I watched the first seasons of Orphan Black (so awesome, will season 2 ever come to Amazon Prime??) and Defiance (fun, also waiting for season 2 to hit streaming), and are slowly starting to go through Fringe from the beginning. We also got hooked on MasterChef Junior and recently started Agent Carter which we're enjoying so far. On my own, I'm keeping up with Downton Abbey, of course, and Jane the Virgin, which is crazy but really funny and addictive. I'd like to go back and catch up with Parenthood and Parks and Recreation and The Mindy Project and such, but just haven't had time...

I really do wish I devoted more time to reading. Most of the time I borrow books from the library, renew them as many times as possible, and still have to return them unfinished. Some that I did manage to finish and liked were:

Every once in awhile I latch onto a new band, but I just don't listen to a lot of music anymore. I listen to All Songs Considered every week, and that's kind of it. I don't think I've been to a single live show either. Do podcasts belong in this category? I too was obsessively listening to Serial and still keep up with This American Life and Pop Culture Happy Hour.

My husband is a movie fan, so I think this is the one area I've actually picked up on! For 2014:
  • The last Hobbit movie - um, boring?
  • Interstellar - A little overwhelming in true IMAX, but I thought it was very well done.
  • The Hunger Games - Mockingjay Part 1 - Not much happened in the book, so not much happened in the movie...
  • If I Stay - Watched this on the plane. Adam was perfect, but I liked the book better.
  • Big Hero 6 -  Cute!
  • The Maze Runner - Surprisingly fun, I'm looking forward to the sequel.
  • Step Up: All In - Ha, of course I saw this.
  • Guardians of the Galaxy - Should probably watch this again since I dozed off in the middle, but it was fun. Really like Chris Pratt and Groot. And Baby Groot!
  • The Fault in Our Stars - I didn't cry like I thought I would, but it was cute. I'm not sure if I'm really a Shailene Woodley fan though.
  • X-Men: Days of Future Past - I thought this was very smart.
  • The Amazing Spider-Man 2 - Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone are growing on me. I guess it helps that they're dating in real life...
  • Veronica Mars - I streamed this day of release as a Kickstarter backer and didn't watch it in theaters. It was kind of just a long episode of the show, but it was satisfying. 
  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier - I think Captain America is my current favorite of the Marvel universe. Scarlett Johansson was surprisingly likable here.
  • Divergent - This was ridiculous, but pretty fun.
  • The Lego Movie. Ummm this might have been my favorite movie of the year...

Sunday, January 11, 2015

M: totally neglected... but i still like tv!

... and books and music and movies. :)

Though in truth, my TV watching has been sporadic at best in the past 1.5 years since I last posted.  The only currently airing TV shows I watch are The Amazing Race (though I haven't watched the finale of the most recent season which ended in December), Gotham (4 episodes behind), and MasterChef Junior.  I listen to the husband watch Chicago Fire, Chicago P.D., and Bones.  I recently obsessively watched all of season one of a Canadian TV show called The Next Step, I'll blog about that separately later, though.

I don't do much reading these days, or at least anything blog-worthy. I've discovered in the past couple of years that if I don't have the time to sit and read a book (or series) from start to finish in pretty much one sitting, chances are pretty high that I will never finish the book (or series). As a result I've been pretty bad about reading anything long and meaty, and instead tend to only read young adult or trashy books, which can be started and completed in one sitting.  However, last weekend I did binge-read two books that are blog-worthy -- Graceling and Fire, part of a 3 book series by Kristin Cashore.  I have the 3rd book in possession now to read, so I will blog about those 3 books soon, too!

I do listen to music and make my way to concerts when opportunity arises.  But truthfully, I have no idea what "new" music exists anymore and find myself listening very often to the same music I have always liked.  Notable concerts I have attended since I last blogged: Imagine Dragons on their Night Visions tour, OneRepublic at the Royal Albert Hall, Pentatonix, Download Fest in Derbyshire with headliner Linkin Park performing Hybrid Theory front to back, and Linkin Park on their Hunting Party tour.

I go to the movie theater for movies maybe once every other month?  Working backwards, I've seen: Into the Woods, Mockingjay, Part 1, The Maze Runner, The Fault in our Stars, and Captain America: Winter Soldier. I think I watch more movies on planes than in theaters... I could write about Into the Woods (which only just released in the UK and I watched yesterday), but I probably won't. :)

And so yes, that is the round up of how I still like tv and books and music and movies but never blog because I just don't watch/read/listen/watch much worth writing about.  That said, I of course have new year's resolutions that I'll probably forget about shortly, which includes writing more -- and so I will try to do so through blog.  I've started my own personal blog and the plan is to cross-post anything that is relevant to this long-standing blog on both sites in the coming year.  So stay tuned! (If anyone is still tuned in, that is, ha!)

Oh -- and I did totally kill the 2013 weeklies by moving overseas.  :(

Monday, August 05, 2013

M: 40 days of dating

Hello, blog.  You still here? :)

So Jenn and I got sidetracked from blogging for the past couple of months.  She's only planning a wedding or something and moved from MD to VA.  I moved across the pond to England or something boring like that, and somehow fell off the face of the blogging earth in the process. That being the case, I'm sure we have a negative number of readers now, since that means that even we aren't checking our own blog to read new posts.  And the handful of readers who may have done so while we were regularly updating (thank you for having existed as readers at one point) should have given up on us eons ago.

In any case, I found something I wanted to blog about! A while back I had introduced the Lizzie Bennett Diaries on this blog, which lead to Jenn reading and getting super caught up on it (while I never finished going through it and am now woefully behind). More recently I came across another web series thing (via Facebook), which is based on real life and so very engrossing.  So much so that I'm already caught up! 

It's two graphic designers in NYC who were already good friends and who decide to try this experiment of dating each other for 40 days and documenting the experience.  The girl is a serial relationshipper, while the guy is a serial dater.  She falls too fast; he never falls. They started the journey in March, and started sharing the story earlier this summer.  The story unfolds a day at a time (with the final reveal/Day 40 coming later this month on August 16), and is shared via an interview-style system with fun graphics (given their professions, makes sense) interspersed.  They are currently on Day 27 and I seriously want to know -- do they make it beyond Day 40 or not?!?!?  Are they in a true relationship or will they go back to a friendship or less?! 

C'mon, get hooked with me! :)

Friday, May 03, 2013

J: Week 16 (Randomness)

I know, I know, this week's post is very late. The truth is that I just haven't really known what to blog about. Five years ago I never thought I'd be saying this, but I honestly just don't watch that much TV anymore. And I don't have as much time to read as I'd like, few movies interest me, and music always has and always will kind of overwhelm me. But I wouldn't say that I've totally cut myself off from pop culture - here's just a random selection of things that I've been enjoying or that I'm looking forward to.
  • The Veronica Mars movie - Obviously, I contributed to the kickstarter!
  • Before Midnight - Third in the series after Before Sunrise and Before Sunset, which are some of my favorite movies of all time. SO excited for this.
  • Tegan and Sara's album Heartthrob and Frightened Rabbit's album Pedestrian Verse.
  • In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larsen. Almost finished with this book. It seems I've been on a non-fiction kick lately...
  • Next up on my audiobook queue: Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein and The Raven Boys by Maggie Steifvater
  • Top of the Lake - I started watching this Sundance Channel series and thought it was really interesting but fell behind. Would like to finish it up before I move since I'm not planning on having cable TV at my new place.
  • Mr. Selfridge  - Same story, started watching this latest Masterpiece Classic series but fell behind. At first I was like, Jeremy Piven in a period piece? But he's actually really quite good.
  • Pop Culture Happy Hour - Apparently I like listening to people talking about things I don't watch or read or listen to.
  • This American Life - Still try to catch this every week. Dr. Gilmer and Mr. Hyde was a really interesting recent one.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

M: Week 15 (No More Original Movies)

There seems to be quite a dearth of original movies being made and produced for theaters these days.  So many movies coming out this year appear to be either sequels or more. (Even the few original movies I've watched in the past year seem to have been based on novels or were remakes...) When looking at movie lists for upcoming movies, I'm either thinking, "Wait, they're making another movie in THAT series?" or "Wait, HOW many of those movies exist already?"  Of course, I'll admit there are also times when I'm excited to see the next movie.

Here are great examples:
Iron Man 3 (There is no end to these Avenger-related movies, huh?)
Star Trek into Darkness
Fast and Furious 6 (Six?!)
The Hangover: Part III (Part II was so bad I couldn't finish it... how did a Part III even get funded and made?)
Man of Steel (Figure anything in the Superman, Spider-Man series counts in this category. They're definitely not "original" material for movies at this point.)
Monsters University (12 years later... a prequel.)
Despicable Me 2 (I have to admit I'm a bit excited about this one. It was a surprise to me how much I enjoyed the original.)
Grown Ups 2
Red 2 (Enjoyed the original, but surprised that they even bothered with this.  Then again, this falls into the Expendables category and that series is working on its third, right?)
The Wolverine
The Smurfs 2 (really?)
300: Rise of an Empire
Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters (Given how long it took for this to come out, I had figured they weren't going to bother since the first one didn't do that well.  Silly me.)
Kick-Ass 2
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2
Sin City: A Dame to Kill for
Paranormal Activity 5 (I vaguely know of 2... I didn't realize 4 already existed.)
Anchorman 2 (9 years later... not as bad as Monsters, Inc.)
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (Can't wait! Also the Divergence book series will be made into a movie series to capitalize off of The Hunger Games market.)
The Hobbit 2 (This is the prime example of trying to milk a franchise for everything it's worth. NOT necessary. Sigh.)

That's only a list of movies coming out the rest of this year!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

J: Week 14 (Life of Pi)

I apologize for being late this week! I was out of town for the weekend and am still catching up. But -- taking a page out of Mira's book -- I did watch a movie on the plane! I was pleasantly surprised to see that they were showing Life of Pi already.

Confession: I tried to read the book, several times actually, but could never get through it. I think it had something to do with the writing style, but it just didn't retain my interest, even though conceptually I thought the story would have appealed to me So initially I wasn't too excited about the movie version, even though Ang Lee was directing it and he seemed like a pretty perfect choice. But after some good buzz and awards season success, my interest was piqued again. And I have to say that I really enjoyed it.

The movie was really visually gorgeous. It's left somewhat ambiguous whether the events of the story actually happened or if they were imagined by the main character, Pi, but there are definitely a number of fantastical elements that the movie takes full advantage of. I thought the night scenes especially were pretty breathtaking. And this was on the tiny airplane screens!

Suraj Sharma has a heavy load on his shoulders as the teenaged Pi - he's the only human onscreen for the bulk of the film - and is immediately likable. The equally likable Irfan Khan is the older Pi (I associate him first with The Namesake, in which his wife was played by the same actress who plays Pi's mother here) and there are a sprinkling of other actors who all acquit themselves well. And then of course, there's the tiger (named Richard Parker of all things), who is definitely a character on his own and not just a plot device.


Sunday, April 07, 2013

M: Week 13 (Much Ado About Nothing)

One of my favorite Shakespearean plays is "Much Ado About Nothing," and one of my favorite movies is also Much Ado About Nothing (starring Kenneth Branagh, Emma Thompson, Denzel Washington, Kate Beckinsale, the doctor from House MD, and lots of other familiar/famous faces). The play in itself is really fun with great characters and a perfectly messed up plotline that gets resolved rather perfectly.  The movie version took all of that and translated it perfectly to the screen (no surprise since Kenneth Branagh was involved). There's really very little that could be done to make what's already been perfected even better... Still, I'm really excited to share two upcoming projects related to "Much Ado About Nothing" that I've recently learned about!

Apparently Joss Whedon and friends have created a modern day interpretation of "Much Ado About Nothing," shot in black and white and filmed over 12 days. There will be many familiar faces, such as Agent Coulson from The Avengers, and actors from Firefly, Angel, and Buffy. I'm so glad to hear that it takes its own interpretation and doesn't try to remake something that's already been perfected. And truthfully, if there's anyone who is pretty reliable about taking something that has a devoted fan base (okay, so maybe "Much Ado" may have a devoted fan base of one -- me) and redoing it to different level of greatness, well I think Joss Whedon can do it. For more details:

Seriously, there's something going on here. I love me some musicals and I love me some "Much Ado," so whoever decided the two must be combined was obviously doing it for me.  Maybe there's something in the water/air, but here's yet another famous-name-attached project related to "Much Ado" -- a musical scored by Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong!  Hopefully this project takes off and makes it onto a larger production platform (currently only set to be performed at the Yale Repertory Theater in 2014) so I can see it.  But I find it fascinating that this is happening at all. For more details:

Maybe my personal love for "Much Ado" isn't so unique and there is quite a huge fan-base, who knows.  But regardless, I'm excited and hope I get a chance to watch both and add them to my "Much Ado" collection.  If not, I've still got the play and the Kenneth Branagh movie version.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

J: Week 12 (Into the Wild)

I borrowed this book, Into the Wild, from my brother years ago. I knew the basic story and found it fascinating -- especially since I had read one of Jon Krakauer's other books (Into Thin Air) and really liked it -- but for some reason I didn't get around to it until just recently.

I probably became re-interested in it because last September I somehow found myself on a 6-day backpacking trip through the Grand Canyon and started to really understand why people love getting away from civilization and just enjoying the outdoors. Growing up in the city/suburbs, I had never even been camping before last year! But I mean, this was a guided trip - we went with a company that provided all of our food and gear and even cooked every meal for us - and it was seriously tough. I don't think I'd want to do something that intense again. So the thought of just going out alone into the wilderness for weeks and months at a time with no one really knowing where you were? That I couldn't fathom.

Krakauer does a great job building the story. He starts with Chris McCandless' fate and then goes back to trace his journey and try to piece together his complex personality. He explains that a lot of people labeled McCandless as simply foolish and unprepared but I was actually pretty impressed by how long he did sustain his wandering lifestyle. I think in the end it was really his idealism that got him in trouble. It's ultimately a sad story but still an incredible one.

Right after I finished the book I was pleasantly surprised to find that the movie version was free for streaming from Amazon Prime. Emile Hirsch plays Chris McCandless and I thought he was pretty fantastic. Reading about what he went through physically is one thing but seeing it made it even more powerful. I remember one of the notable things about the movie was that Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam contributed original songs to the soundtrack and I thought his sound was actually extremely fitting.

I highly recommend both the book and the movie!

Monday, March 25, 2013

M: Week 11 (Dancing with the Stars)

So I have only watched one season of Dancing with the Stars -- the year Kristi Yamaguchi won, and she's the reason I watched that season.  As a whole, I just couldn't get into the show because the dancing is pretty atrocious compared to my favorite dancing show, So You Think You Can Dance.  That's obviously to be expected since one half of each dancing pair is not an actual dancer, but still, if I'm going to spend 2 hours watching a bunch of people dancing, I'd prefer it to be really good dancing.  Without any celebrities that I really cared about watching, I for the most part have ignored all but one of the past 15 seasons (I can't believe this show is on season 16!), but this season I'm watching again!

Who am I watching for?  Baltimore Ravens receiver Jacoby Jones!  He's been a blast to watch on the field this season; both for his explosive touchdown runs and his hilarious touchdown dances.  So when he was asked in interviews if he'd be interested in doing Dancing with the Stars and he answered "Do polar bears poo on ice?," it was exciting to learn that he was soon afterward offered a spot on the new season. He's a goofy guy and loves to ham it up for the camera, so as long as he's on the show -- I'm in! I'm watching this season!

A few more reasons I'll watch:

  • Two former Olympians that I like: Dorothy Hamill and Aly Raisman. 
  • Dancing genre expansion: Contemporary and Jazz (I'm not sure how I feel about those additions actually, since it seems like it'd be pretty tough without quality technical training, but surprisingly the few contemporary numbers on the first night were actually okay!)
  • A So You Think You Can Dance alumna: Lindsay Arnold (not actually my favorite from the show, but it's still great to see these additional opportunities open up for former SYTYCDers!)

Limitations to why I don't love the show:

  • The judges: I feel like I can only handle so much of Len and Bruno... 
  • I don't really understand the elimination process: judge scoring and audience votes? How do the two really factor into everything? I don't actually care enough to research either, but I do know that I haven't figured it out from the episodes I've watched.
  • The loss of So You Think You Can Dance alumna Chelsea Hightower (she is one of my favorite SYTYCDers)
  • The Bachelor Sean Lowe being on the show. Seriously, doesn't the guy want a break from reality TV? Seriously?!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

J: Week 10 (The Lizzie Bennet Diaries)

Mira tipped me off on this web series The Lizzie Bennet Diaries late last summer. It's a modern day adaptation of Pride & Prejudice told through video blogs and also other social media like twitter and tumblr and such. I'd been slowly working through the series from the beginning until yesterday -- when things got really REALLY good and I spent over 2 hours getting up to date! The story is not over yet, so now sadly I have to wait for new episodes biweekly!

Anyway, we all know how Pride & Prejudice goes and there have been countless adaptations over the years but somehow this retelling has still managed to be incredibly fresh & creative while also very faithful to the original story. The choices they've made bringing the characters and plot points into the modern era have just been so smart and often really funny.

For example, they decided to only have three Bennet sisters - Jane, Lizzie, and Lydia. Mary is a cousin instead - in the novel she's "plain," uninterested in parties and dancing and mostly just reads books, so in this world, of course she's an emo girl! And Kitty - well, she doesn't really do much except hang around Lydia so here...she's just an actual cat, ha! Mr. Collins is still a silly caricature but he's not going around proposing marriage -- he's offering jobs at his new media company! Lizzie feels that working for him would be compromising her integrity but her best friend Charlotte? She's not so idealistic and takes the job! It's amazing how well their "marriage of convenience" from the novel translates to a business relationship. Pemberley? Darcy's company! Lizzie falls in love with their swanky headquarters!

The main video blogs are Lizzie's, but they've also had Lydia, Maria (Charlotte's sister), and Gigi (Darcy's sister Georgiana) have their own videos. Lydia's especially have been really awesome - they've helped to really flesh out her character beyond just being a silly party girl. In the novel, Lydia annoyed me from the beginning - but here she's super likable and relatable. The way they translated the Lydia/Wickham plotline was what totally sucked me in yesterday - it floored me with how good it was!

Anyway, so I guess by this point you're wondering - what about Lizzie and Darcy?? Well, they definitely took their sweet time getting Darcy on camera. He didn't appear until episode 60, which is the  "first proposal" scene. Of course, he doesn't actually propose marriage, but he does confess his feelings.  I have to say, at first, I wasn't so sure about the actor they cast (he's no Colin Firth). But their chemistry immediately felt very authentic. And of course, once they introduce Gigi, he starts to soften up. I have to admit, usually P&P for me is all about Lizzie/Darcy, but I love that here it's not so front-and-center and we've gotten to spend more time with the other characters. Still, we are getting to the part of the story where Lizzie and Darcy finally get together, and I. Can't. Wait!!

Speaking of casting, overall it's been pretty darn amazing. They started with just the three sisters and Charlotte, but they've gradually brought in Bing (Bing Lee, ha - Asian!), Caroline, Wickham, Fitz (Colonel Fitzwilliam), Georgiana...all of whom have really grown into their roles. I liked how Caroline initially actually seems pretty cool -- it's more understandable how Jane initially considered her a friend.

So if you're at all a fan of Pride & Prejudice, you are going to LOVE this series. Be warned though, it can suck up hours of your time! Be sure to follow the story from here so you don't miss any of the side videos, Q&As, or twitter conversations. SO GOOD!