Sunday, February 24, 2013

M: Week 7 (Beautiful Creatures)

I had only recently started noticing movie posters and previews for the movie Beautiful Creatures and felt oddly compelled by the advertisement for the movie.  However, the ads were not compelling enough for me to actually pay to watch the movie.  Instead I was not-so-secretly hoping that in the coming months, it would be one of the free movies I'd get to watch on an international plane flight; after all that is how I watch the majority of my movies these days. In any case, before that, since this movie is based on a teen lit series, obviously I needed to read the books first. Fortunately for me, my husband happened to catch the Kindle Deal of the Day over Presidents' Day weekend for the Beautiful Creatures series ($2.99 for each) and I snapped up the deal. I'm currently halfway through book two in the series and I've gotta say, I'm hooked!  Here are the reasons why I think this is one of the better teen fantasy series:
1. A 'ship to root for: I think that Ethan and Lena are just such a great couple.  But at the same time, when they're not together, I feel like there's something very real about the emotions taking them down that path and so it's okay. As a result, I'm not totally against other developing relationships either. There's a lot of gray area with the 'ships, but it's acceptable for a strong shipper like me.
2. Ethan > Bella: Bella was simply not that likable in the book, and only marginally more likable (for me) in the movie. Ethan is an extremely likable protagonist, which is helpful when the book is written primarily from his perspective!
3. A little less predictable: I'm in Book 2 (Beautiful Darkness) and I'm still not quite sure where it's going!
4. Southern culture: The mix of modern day "Southern" culture intermingled with post-Civil War (or War of Northern Aggression) society is pretty interesting and unique to this series. (Well, for a teen lit series, that is.)
5. It's well written. I'm not usually one to notice how well or poorly written a book is because I'm so engrossed in just the story.  But while reading this series, I've actually been impressed with how the story unfolds and the quality of the writing.
6. Bromance: Ethan's friendship with Link is a little bit more a side story but constant in Book 1 and comes into play much more in Book 2, but it's a great friendship.
7. Flashbacks: The book interweaves in the past really well with the flashbacks that the characters are pulled into throughout the stories.  The flashbacks show a glimpse of the town of Gatlin during the Civil War, but also clues as to what's coming in the rest of the book/series.  I really like how it plays into the storytelling and development of the characters, present and past.

Hopefully my enthusiasm for the series doesn't wane as I read the rest of the books. I really hope I like how this turns out and that the movie doesn't suck.

Monday, February 18, 2013

J: Week 6 (How I Took a Really Long Time to Meet Your Mother)

For various reasons, my TV-watching schedule has gotten increasingly spare over the past couple of years. I no longer have a problem dropping shows as soon as I lose interest -- even those that I was at one time completely engrossed in (I'm sad to say that I think I've pretty much given up on The Vampire Diaries) -- but for some reason I have not yet given up on How I Met Your Mother.

This topic has been pretty much been beaten to death, but it's pretty ridiculous how long they have been stretching this show out. Back in 2010, Mira wrote this post complaining that it had been five years without meeting the mother. Little did we know that it was actually going to take NINE years!

Thankfully, next season has been confirmed to be the last. But honestly, I'm almost setting myself up for disappointment. With so long of a buildup, there's going to be really a lot of pressure to cast the right actress with the right chemistry. I'm assuming that the writers already have to know this character, but they're going to have to be careful translating her to the screen. But part of me is still hoping that they'll reveal the mother at the end of this season and take next season to develop their relationship. I mean, Ted Mosby is definitely not the most interesting character on the show, but this is the point of the series! We've gotten to see so much of the Marshall/Lily and Robin/Barney relationships that I feel like even just one season of Ted and the Mother would be kind of unfair.

Last week's episode did tell the story of the last woman Ted dated before the Mother though, so there's hope? Maybe?

Anyway, the real question is, why have I stuck with this so long? Part of it is definitely that it's a half hour sitcom and a pretty small time commitment. I guess the other is that I do still like these characters. It's pretty impressive that the show has kept the core five this whole time (especially Neil Patrick Harris whose career has just blown up over the course of the series) and I have definitely enjoyed seeing Lily and Marshall go from dating to engaged to married to parents. That at least feels realistic. Barney will probably never not be funny, and actually I feel like Robin is the least annoying now that she and Barney are basically settled. The innovative storytelling that used to be a trademark of the show isn't so much there anymore, and there are a lot of episodes that are just plain stupid, but the tone of the show and characters have been pretty much been consistent over the years. There are some people who have all along claimed that they don't care about meeting the Mother and just enjoy the show for what it is so I guess I do kind of understand what they're saying.

But really, as Mira said like 3 years ago, C'MON, I WANT TO MEET THE FRIGGIN' MOTHER!

Monday, February 11, 2013

M: Week 5 (TV I'm Reading)

So in effort to trim down my TV schedule, there were quite a few shows I've dropped in the last year.  Some were dropped because I simply didn't like them enough (The Mindy Project, The New Girl, Beauty and the Beast), others because I didn't like the direction they were going in (Parenthood, Switched at Birth), and others because I simply fell behind and couldn't catch up (The Good Wife, Grey's Anatomy).  In any case, I don't care much what's happened on the shows in the first category, but I can't quite let go of the shows in the latter two categories.  I may not watch, but I was decently invested in the show and I cared about the storylines and characters! As a result, I've discovered that a less time intensive, less stressful, and less DVR demanding way of doing so is to follow the detailed recaps of the shows available online.  Here are a few shows I've been reading up on, and what I think about what's going on!

Private Practice
A few weeks ago, I happened to end up watch TV live (meaning while it was airing for the first time) and accidentally caught the last 40 minutes of the series finale of Private Practice.  Apparently I missed the memo about this season being its final season, so imagine my surprise when all of a sudden people were getting married left and right and then the show was just over! In any case, that started me on trying to close the gap between the last episode I had watched and the end of the show. In summary, the right couples ended up together: Charlotte & Cooper (+tons of kids! Apparently she gave birth to TRIPLETS.), Sam & Naomi (Sam & Addison just didn't work for me. At all.), and Addison & someone not involved in a messy love triangle. From dating her husband's best friend (Grey's Anatomy with McDreamy and McSteamy) to dating her best friend's ex-husband, Addison just found herself in icky relationships. So the fact that she ended up with a very attractive, very nice doctor was a relief. And the fact that Violet didn't have anymore relationship storylines to end the show was also a relief.

Grey's Anatomy
Seattle's Grace Hospital just had to deal with too many catastrophes for me to continue watching. From George being hit by a bus, to Izzy breaking laws to save her crazy love/lust at first sight fiancĂ© who ends up dying anyway, to a mass shooter coming into the hospital and almost killing Derek/Meredith and Meredith losing their unborn baby, to last season -- the doctors being in a plane crash that ends up killing Lexie AND Mark Sloane (McSteamy) AND causes Arizona to lose her leg AND Derek to lose full functionality of his hand (only super important for a neurosurgeon, right?)... Yeah, it was getting to be too much.  But apparently there is some happiness to be found in this season -- MerDer are finally preggerz again and they have their lovely adopted daughter and I believe they are finally in a happy place. Christina and Owen have defined their undying love for each other and are divorcing each other because they love each other so much, not because Christina isn't good at being married (complicated, of course). And Alex finally gets some non-douchey storylines, I think. Oh and there are a bunch of characters I do not know because they killed off a bunch of characters that I do know. BTW, has anyone else pointed out the fact that this show is set in Seattle with a main character named Grey? (50 Shades of Grey)

The Good Wife
Probably of all the shows I lost, this is the one I regret the most. With Grey's Anatomy and Private Practice, reading the show recaps made me feel somewhat relieved not to be watching along with their soapy emotional rollercoaster. With The Good Wife, I feel like I'm really missing out! In any case, I've missed TONS in the show and I've caught up by reading about the show online but I can't even begin to summarize all that I've missed.  Basically, tons of character depth added to EVERY character on the show, tons of highlighting the beauty of the many different relationships and dynamics that exist on the show, and tons of unique spins on legal cases and politics. Alicia and Will had a fling and it ended but it was okay. Alicia and Peter are somewhat back together and somehow that's okay. Kalinda and Alicia are back to being buds and that's building great. Alicia made a frenemy out of a former ER costar. The kids are still annoying, but appropriately so for their age, so somehow on this show it's okay.

Here's a show for which I have not seen a single episode. However, I have listed to most of 2 episodes because my husband watches it. Basically, I started reading the recaps for all the episodes because I had so many questions for my husband while he was watching it and he gets annoyed at me when I start pestering him with questions about shows he watches that I don't watch. Plus, I was super curious why it was such a thing for so many people. My thoughts on the show? It's a really good show to read about, so I'm sure it's an even better show to watch. However, the ambiguities on whether Nicholas Brody is working for or against the U.S. government really confuses and annoys me. And either the genius or gullibility of Carrie Mathison is hard for me to process. Maybe if I watched the show and really experienced the depth of their characters storylines, I'd appreciate both better. Probably won't watch, though.

The Bachelor
I watch The Bachelorette but I have a lot of issues watching The Bachelor. Seriously, 20+ women all vying for ONE guy is a recipe for drama, crazies, and annoyingness.  Instead I read about the crazies and pat myself on the back for not sitting through 2 hours of torture each week. In truth, I probably wouldn't bother reading about it but this season's bachelor, Sean, seems like such a nice guy (since I watched last season of The Bachelorette). Plus, what makes the season all the more readable is that Sean's blogs about each week's show are equally entertaining and enlightening. It gives me hope that he recognizes the crazy of some of the women on the show in retrospect, though he doesn't seem to recognize it at all on the show.

Monday, February 04, 2013

M: Super Bowl Ads

Thanks to the DVR, I rarely watch commercials.  In fact, I get downright annoyed when I have to sit through them.  However, as a sports fan, the one time I do have to sit through commercials is during games because it kind of sucks to watch a game after it's already happened.  In any case, this Super Bowl was kind of a big deal for me -- my Baltimore Ravens not only made it, they won it!  Since I had to endure sitting through all of those commercials, I thought I'd talk about my favorites and least favorites.

1. Oreo Whisper Fight: I love that they were fighting like crazy in a library, all the while doing it no louder than a whisper. 
2. Tide Miracle Stain: Punch line -- "Go Ravens!" 'nuf said. 
3. Taco Bell Esta Noche: I was amused by the fact that they had literally translated Fun.'s "Tonight" into Spanish, shoving all the words into the original song. Plus the old people doing all the stupid, crazy late night shenanigans of young people all tied to Taco Bell. Well done.
Honorable Mention: Budweiser Clydesdale commercial, simply because it was so cute.  
Oh, and the commercials with Amy Poehler (Best Buy) and Tracy Morgan (uh, some sports drink thing?) were amusing. 

1. Samsung's Next Big Thing: Not only was that a really slow, drawn out commercial, but it's kinda ridiculous how much it must have cost -- at least $6M for the 1 minute long commercial + Lebron James + Paul Rudd + Seth Rogan, seriously?! It was not funny -- AT ALL. 
2. GoDaddy Awkward Make Out: The chubby guy with white guy afro who shows up as an extra in every teen TV show or movie making out with the hot chick?  That was just gross.
3. Axe Lifeguard: Um, this was just stupid. Guy beats up shark, saves some hot chick who ditches her hot lifeguard savior for an astronaut? And somehow this is about deodorant?

That was a stressful 4.5 hours of football (seriously, 4.5 hours!!! thanks to a 45 minute half-time show and a 34 minute power outage at the stadium), but... GO RAVENS! :)

Sunday, February 03, 2013

J: Week 5 (I'm running)

I'm actually writing this post a bit early because I'll be out of town this weekend running my first marathon! So in honor of the occasion, I thought I'd write about a few running related things!

The Spirit of the Marathon - My friend Erin and I watched this documentary on the recommendation of a friend who also recently ran his first marathon. It follows 6 runners (2 elite and 4 amateurs) as they prepared for the 2005 Chicago Marathon. It also gives some history of the marathon and has interviews with famous marathoners. I especially got a kick out of seeing Hal Higdon, the guy whose training plan I followed! Erin and I have been training just on our own so it was funny to see how all runners (well, the recreational ones anyway) do go through the same things that we did.

Born to Run by Christopher McDougall. I read this last year and was pretty engrossed by it. It's about these incredible runners from the Tarahumara Indian tribe of Mexico and how various Americans (including the author) sought to learn their secrets. The author posits that humans are "born to run" -- but not with modern running shoes. His research and the example of the Tarahumaras are definitely convincing, but I'm still not so sure about the barefoot/minimal running trend. Plus, I really don't know what the deal is with these crazy ultramarathon people. (I know, some people would say that about a marathon too).

Bonus randomness: Bradley Cooper's character spends like half of Silver Linings Playbook running in a full sweatshirt and a garbage bag (apparently to sweat more). Jennifer Lawrence's character runs too, but in the cutest running outfits, hmph. I haven't decided how much running I'm going to be doing after the marathon but I now really want a cute running jacket...