Friday, April 29, 2011

The Vampire Diaries: Team...Elena!

You know, sometimes it's easy to forget about Elena. She's one of the three central characters (along with Damon and Stefan) but despite her importance to the mythology of the show, she's so often just a pawn in all the machinations going on. Her circle of friends is increasingly supernatural -- vampires, witches, werewolves, but she remains relatively powerless. Still, early on, I began to realize that she wasn't like that other girl in love with a vampire, and last night's episode solidly confirmed it.

The thing that bothered me most about Bella in Twilight was how quickly and unhesitatingly she decided that she wanted to become a vampire so she could be with Edward forever. She didn't give a second thought about essentially giving up a normal life. But Elena, in an extremely well constructed reveal in last night's episode, emotionally admits to Stefan that she doesn't want--never wanted--to become a vampire. She loves Stefan but she wants to stay human, grow old, have choices. I'd been a little annoyed at Elena recently because of her insistence that she'd rather die than the people she loved but this revelation really brought her up a notch in my estimation.

And of course, Stefan, being the best vampire boyfriend ever, reacted so understandingly. He actually pushed her to tell him, even though he probably already knew that was how she felt. It was just a really tender and beautifully acted scene amidst all the general craziness of the episode.

I don't want to go into too many more details because I still think that everyone who reads this blog needs to go back and catch up with this show, but man, this show has NOT been running out of gas. I'm consistently amazed at how many different insane plot twists they throw in every single week but in a way that still makes sense. Only two episodes left!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Thursday Top Threes: And the Plot Thickens!

M: Top three most annoying plot twists!

1. Rambaldi. Every frickin' Rambaldi plot twist on Alias. I've blocked out most of the details because they were so awful.
2. Tony not being dead on season 7 of 24. Tony Almeida was one of my favorite characters on the first couple of seasons of the show and while I hated when he (and his wife Michelle) died, I was way more angry when they decided to bring him a bad guy! I was already tiring of the show by that point so that was kind of the last straw. I didn't finish season 7 and didn't bother with season 8.
3. Fred getting taken over by Illyria in season 5 of Angel. Like I've mentioned before, there are actually large chunks of Angel that I've never watched but I really did like Fred and I hated that they essentially killed her off. Amy Acker as Illyria was actually still a good performance but I missed Fred.

1. Breaking up perfectly perfect relationships for no good reason. Examples: Sydney waking up to discover 3 years had passed and Vaughn was married to the stupid annoying blonde girl in Alias. One more, breaking up Chuck and Blair on Gossip Girl over JENNY.
2. Gratuitous hookups because there is no one left for the characters to hook up with. Examples: On Gossip Girl, Nate has hooked up with Blair, Serena, Vanessa, Jenny, pretty much every female on the show. And now -- BLAIR AND DAN?!?! Or, one of the reasons I dropped Make It or Break It, Kaylie hooking up with every guy, including Damon!!
3. People who just can't seem to be killed off. Example: Dan Scott in One Tree Hill. Seriously, how many opportunities did the writers have to give the audience some relief and kill off his character? Arson attempted to kill him, getting hit by a car, needing a heart... Yeah, maybe it's not a good thing that I want characters to be killed off so badly, but it's especially frustrating when they easily kill off characters that are so great (Keith!).

Monday, April 25, 2011

M+J: Jane Eyre

M: Jenn and I went to see Jane Eyre last week after having talked about it for a few weeks. We thought it'd be a perfect opportunity to do a joint post! :)

Overall Assessment:
M: I really enjoyed it! I thought it captured the story really wonderfully and I was immersed in every second of it. There were a few scenes that worried/scared me, but I thought it was beautifully done without trying to make everything look so Hollywood beautiful, if that makes sense.
J: I appreciated the craft of this movie (acting, cinematography, music, etc) but I don't think I really loved it. I'm used to watching much longer BBC/Masterpiece Theatre miniseries productions of these kinds of classic novels and I felt like this was just too...short. The romance in Jane Eyre is the epitome of "slow burn" and there just wasn't enough time for that. I was a bit mixed on Mia Wasikowska as Jane. She was really good in scenes where Jane was allowing her "passion" to come through but the rest of the time I thought she was too bottled up and a bit too frail and delicate looking.

Book vs. Movie:
M: So I've read Jane Eyre at least twice, but both times were well over a decade ago. Given that I can barely remember anything in books I read 10 months ago, 10+ years ago = I remember nothing. I have a vague sense that there was a crazy lady in the attic and I knew the main characters were named Jane Eyre (no duh!) and Mr. Rochester, but that was about it. What I remember of reading the book was that I thought it was a bit boring. I thought the movie did a good job of staying interesting. :) I probably should re-read the book sometime soon...
J: I remember the book pretty well. The movie took some liberties and shortcuts in the story (which I think it had to) but I wasn't upset over any of that. The book does get a little boring at points...there's actually a lot of stuff about religion...

Favorite Thing About the Movie:
M: Uh, Mr. Rochester. Michael Fassbender was extremely good-looking, almost reminiscent of Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy in Pride & Prejudice (5 hour BBC version). I cannot wait to see him (the actor) in X-Men: First Class. Also, given that Jane is supposed to be plain, I did like the fact that Mia Wasikowska was not made to look beautiful all the time, just sometimes. Other times with her weird hair, she really did look plain.
J: Ditto on Michael Fassbender, although I'm pretty sure Mr. Rochester was described as not being very handsome in the book. I also liked the scenes with young Jane, and the landscapes and grand houses in these kinds of movies are always wonderful.

Least Favorite Thing:
M: The goatlike Mr. Rivers. I couldn't stop thinking about how he'd make a fantastic satyr/faun.
J: I thought the ending was rather abrupt. After all that I think a little bit more explanation or time with the reunited couple would have been nice. Also I thought Judi Dench was pretty much wasted as Mrs. Fairfax. I've never thought of that as being a particularly interesting or important role. Oh, and the hairstyles in this movie were all pretty unattractive, though I can't comment on whether they were historically accurate.

New Movie vs. Previous Adaptations:
M: Um, yeah, unlike Jenn, I have not seen any previous adaptations...
J: I'm a big fan of the 2006 BBC miniseries with Toby Stephens and Ruth Wilson. Like I said before, the four hours just gave it more time to develop. The performances are slightly different...Toby Stephens is a bit wilder and Ruth Wilson's Jane had more poise and actually smiled on occasion. In general I liked the miniseries better. Not that this was that bad...

M: Really glad I got to see it! Yet another movie for my 2011 resolutions!
J: I enjoyed it but when I'm in a Jane Eyre mood I'll reach for the miniseries or the book (both of which I own) instead.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Thursday Top Threes: Spinoffs

J: Your top three TV or movie spinoffs!

Haha, Wicked was a spinoff of a movie (Wizard of Oz), does that count?
1. Pinky and the Brain: Haha, loved Animaniacs and thought Pinky and Brain were two of the best characters on the show!
2. Saved by the Bell: Apparently a spinoff of Good Morning, Miss Bliss. Never watched the original, but *loved* Saved by the Bell!
3. Private Practice: I love soap opera-like hospital dramas and I liked Addison Montgomery in Grey's Anatomy. So yes, I like Private Practice, too.
Movie ones I'm looking forward to: X-Men: First Class, The Avengers.

1. Angel (spinoff from Buffy the Vampire Slayer): For some reason I actually haven't watched every episode (though I do have all 5 seasons on DVD) but in general I thought Joss Whedon did a great job taking quite a few existing Buffyverse characters into a new show with its own unique identity. I do want to go back and watch it all from the beginning...though who knows when I'll have time!
2. Degrassi the Next Generation: I didn't watch the original series but this spinoff has been crazily resilient. I haven't watched in a couple of seasons but they've managed to successfully turn over cast members as they got older and broach all sorts of timely and controversial subjects.
3. The Hills (spinoff from Laguna Beach): Back when I still watched trashy MTV reality shows, I was really into the Hills. Eventually Heidi and Spencer got way too annoying for me but for awhile there it was just as engrossing as scripted TV. It spawned its own spinoff too, The City, with Whitney, which somehow turned out to be more of a workplace drama than a soap like its predecessors...

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Thursday Top Threes: Blockbuster Season

M: Warm weather means the summer blockbusters are coming. These days, it also means the start of the summer TV shows. What are the top 3 things you are most looking forward to in the coming months (present month included)? (Not covered in this post!)

1) So You Think You Can Dance: yup it's *almost* that time of the year!
2) Water for Elephants: I was surprised to find out that it's actually releasing next week. I was so sure it was months away. I read the book and was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it. Now I'm looking forward to seeing the movie, especially since the actors chosen for the roles seem so well suited!
3) Switched at Birth: An ABC Family TV show starting in June. Premise is two teenage girls discover they were, duh, switched at birth. One girl is deaf and the other girl is uh, sarcastic and well-off? That's all I was able to gather from the preview but it looks like a really interesting teen show. :)

Jennifer: I kind of have no idea what specifically is coming up this summer and I don't watch a lot of "blockbuster" type movies anyway so these are kind of boring...
1) So You Think You Can Dance: Obviously.
2) Masterpiece Mystery: More Agatha Christie, a new series "Zen" with Rufus Sewell, and hopefully more Inspector Lewis!
3) May sweeps. Most shows are now back from hiatus as we move into season finale time.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

No Ordinary Family: Season Wrap Up

No Ordinary Family and I have had quite an interesting first season. Before the season started, I had high hopes for the show. It sounded like everything that made Heroes interesting, except with more heart being built around one family. But then the show started and it was just... okay. Not terrible but it definitely did not draw me in either. The cast was well chosen and all the characters were likable with Michael Chicklis as the father, Julie Benz (Darla from Buffy!) as the mom, Kay Panabaker (usually annoying) as the daughter, a well chosen son in Jimmy Bennett, Autumn Reeser (who I adore from her OC days!) as the mom's sidekick and Romany Malco as the dad's sidekick. Great cast!

But... it all still sort of fell flat. I recorded each episode on my DVR and waited weeks before watching the episode. The show felt lackluster and I could not, still cannot, quite put a finger on what it was missing. Maybe it needed added dimensionality to the characters, especially the villains. Maybe it just needed more interesting challenges. Maybe it needed not to have killed off so many potentially interesting good guys right in the beginning. I have NO idea. In any case, of the first 15 or so episodes, I do not think I could name any particularly memorable episode.

However! This somehow changed the final few episodes. I'm not sure what the exact change was, but Katie's fiance/boyfriend added so much to the show and I was sad when he left. Or maybe I liked that the family finally figured out how to better use the kids' powers (uh, hello Dr. Stephanie Powell, you're trying to figure out this complicated formula and you don't think to borrow the superbrain powers of your son?!). Ooh, or Daphne's annoying boyfriend came and left in a few storylines (THANK YOU). But somehow there was more to enjoy and be glad about in the show and less to be bored by. The Powells spent less time being stupid and more time trying to stop the bad guys and bad things from happening. The powers started to evolve in interesting ways, ie. super speed became time travel, pulling thoughts from others' heads became pushing thoughts into others' heads. Lastly, the season finale twist was interesting (both plane crash and Katie's super baby) and set up perfectly for an interesting season 2. Well, if there is a second season of No Ordinary Family gets renewed, which I now do hope gets renewed! One final note, it'll be nice not to have Reverend Camden come back in future episodes.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Thursday Top Threes: Sequels

J: Top three sequels you liked better than the original.

1. Before Sunset - sequel to Before Sunrise. I love the first, but the second is even better. Nine years pass between the films and the actors and characters have both grown up. Not a lot happens but really great dialogue.
2. Step Up 2: The Streets. I don't even remember the first one, but I LOVED this sequel. (I thought the third one was just ok but maybe that's because I saw it in 3D and it was like sensory overload.) The story's predictable and the script and acting are kinda bad but the dancing is fantastic.
3. Spider-Man 2 and the Dark Knight (tie): The villains in these sequels were what made them better than the originals. Doctor Octopus in Spider-Man 2 was actually complex and almost relatable and of course Heath Ledger was fantastic as the Joker in the Dark Knight.

1. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: I think this book is my favorite of the entire series. Yes, I know it's not the true sequel since it's number 3, but.... that's how I'm interpreting the question this week!
2. I have to agree with Jenn on Step Up 2 the Streets. I do remember the first one, and it's plain cheesy and cringeworthy throughout. The second one is far better than the first and the dancing is excellent. Though it does have its cringeworthy moments... Still, the second one was way, way, way better than the original.
3. I'm going with a video game here: Chrono Cross. There are not that many video games that I play, really, and this is the only RPG that I've ever played from start to end. In truth, I have not played much of Chrono Trigger, the first one, but the little I have played just didn't captivate me the way Chrono Cross did.
Haha, now I want to go and replay it!