Archive for category Movie/TV

Castle TV Series

Bottom line: A murder mystery TV series with great characters, acting, and storylines.

Rating: Strongly Recommended

Castle is my favorite TV show. Maybe of all time, but definitely my favorite currently running show. It’s a murder mystery that features Detective Kate Beckett and her crew, who have been told to bring a writer, Richard Castle, along with them in the course of their investigations, so that he can gather information to write a series of books.

I only tried it because it stars Nathan Fillion, who was the male lead in the tragically short lived TV series Firefly. Castle is fantastically good. It’s one of those rare shows where everything comes together: the writing, characters, casting, acting, plots, etc. are all just incredibly well done. They even managed to handle the sexual tension (it’s TV, therefore there must be sexual tension) well. I stopped watching Bones because at the end of every season, there would be this huge “will they/won’t they” cliffhanger, and then when they started the next season they just pretended the last episode hadn’t happened. After 5-6 seasons like that, I just got fed up. I’m not a huge TV watcher in general, but any time the writers start to obviously manipulate the audience, I lose interest instantly (this annoys my husband – we’ll be invested maybe a couple of seasons deep and all of a sudden, I’m done.). I want to be thinking about the story and the characters, not be wondering about how the writers are going to yank my chain next. Anyways, in Castle the relationship between the male and female lead feels natural, and progresses and regresses (for the vast majority) according to believable events within the context of the show. As the characters are the main draw for me, this is even more important than usual. And ALL the characters are great, even the supporting cast – they feel realistic and interact well and are basically the kinds of people that you wish you could go hang out with.

The only downside for me is that sometimes you get an incredibly intense, edge-of-your-seat, gruesome show, and sometimes you get a fun, lighthearted show, and you never know which you’re going to get. Although I think in general that’s a good thing (keeps it fresh), it is the reason I stopped watching about a year ago when I was pregnant and tired and stressed out and couldn’t handle anything even remotely intense. I haven’t managed to get caught up yet, but I will.

Side Note: As an interesting promotional tactic, the powers that be have created the Nikki Heat books that are supposedly written by the character Richard Castle (the Amazon author page even shows Nathan Fillion). They’re actually not bad mysteries. The writing style is a little more sensationalized and occasionally cheesy than I would typically go for, but it’s a fun extension of the Castle world. This is one of the incredibly rare times when I’ll tell you to watch the TV show first, but there it is. I’ve read the first two Nikki Heat books and enjoyed them. I don’t know yet if I’ll read the others – my “to be read” list has become quite enormously high again – but not because I don’t think I wouldn’t like them. Do be aware, especially if you typically read cozies, that these are fairly intense and PG-13-y.

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Family Fridays – Avatar: The Last Airbender TV Series

TV Show: Avatar: The Last Airbender (this has nothing to do with the James Cameron Avatar movie)

Genre: Children’s Fantasy/Anime

Ages: 8-10 on up, depending on the child

Synopsis:

Water. Earth. Fire. Air. Only the Avatar was the master of all four elements. Only he could stop the ruthless Fire Nation from conquering the world. But when the world needed him most, he disappeared. Until now… On the South Pole, a lone Water Tribe village struggles to survive. It’s here that a young Waterbender named Katara and her warrior brother Sokka rescue a strange boy named Aang from a cavernous iceberg. Not only is Aang an Airbender–a race of people no one has seen in a century–but they soon discover that Aang is also the long lost Avatar. Now it’s up to Katara and Sokka to make sure Aang faces his destiny to save the tribe–and himself. Did we mention he’s only 12?

Review:

My husband and I have watched all three seasons of this more than once. It’s a fun show that has great world building, some beautiful art, and interesting characters. I’m going to call the style “anime-lite.” I am not an anime lover (though I am an animal lover) – I’ve tried a couple of different shows and could just never get into any of them. This show has some of the overly stylized elements of anime, some episodes more than others, but they didn’t annoy me as they often do.

This is a classic “good vs. evil” saga, and there are some darker episodes (this is, after all, about a world war), but if your child is used to watching superhero cartoons, this is pretty tame by those standards. It takes the traditional four elements, adds a touch of magic, and then makes them into martial art forms. There are some really great themes explored that go beyond the usual friendship, love, loyalty, etc. For example, Aang, the main character, really struggles with how to bring peace to the world but still remain true to his nonviolent beliefs. Also there is a flying bison.

It is aimed at the younger generation, but if you are a fantasy fan, it’s definitely worth checking out at any age. It’s available on Netflix as well as all the usual suspects online.

Side Note: There was a movie adaptation, which looked terrible, so I haven’t seen it. Reviewers have not been kind to it. There is also a continuation of the series called “The Legend of Korra” which takes place a couple of generations later than the original series. This is much darker and has a steampunk edge to it. I found it to be too much stress for very little emotional payoff. I’m told that it got better a couple of episodes in, but life is too short to watch shows you don’t like.

 

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Family Fridays – Star Wars Edition

Ok, so today is May the third, which means that tomorrow is May the fourth. As in, May the Fourth Be With You, also known as Star Wars Day. (See CollegeHumor’s take here.  Since this is a Family Fridays feature, I’ll warn you that there is a “b-” word in there.) So for today’s Family Friday I’m going to celebrate Star Wars. I will spare you all a rant detailing George Lucas’s many sins after first releasing the original three movies…except to say that of all the horrible things he did to the original movies, I think the worst one is inserting random flashes of light during fight sequences. For those of us who tend to be headache-prone, this was not only completely unnecessary and distracting, but also potentially painful.

Anyways, the original movies are really fun family movies. Apart from the dialog they’re just great. Some of the effects look a bit aged now, and the splicing in of later technology was not done very well, but this epic, “Good Shall Triumph” saga is well worth sitting through a few bumps in the road. All three are rated PG, and the most risqué thing in all three films is Carrie Fisher wearing a metal bikini. There is fighting and death, but also some great themes of friendship, loyalty, redemption, good vs. evil, family bonds and so on. The newer movies seemed much more graphic to me than the original trilogy. When I did some research online, I saw that people were letting their kids watch Star Wars as early as five years old (or younger!), and some were waiting until ten years old. I wish I remember how old I was when I first saw them, but I do remember being very afraid of Darth Vader. Then again, I’ve always been kind of a wuss. I don’t know what we’ll do with our son – he loves the soundtrack; sometimes the Imperial March (Vader theme) was the only thing that would calm him down and get him to sleep (should I be worried that he has a natural affinity towards evil?). I personally would probably lean more towards waiting until he’s closer to ten than five, but my husband may have other ideas.

I haven’t read any of the adult books set in the Star Wars universe, but for Christmas last year my brother gave me a book called Darth Vader and Son by Jeffrey Brown. It is absolutely genius. It’s a collection of one page cartoons (so it doesn’t follow a story line), exploring the theme of how Darth Vader would go about his business if he also was raising young Luke Skywalker. Many are laugh out loud funny, some are poignantly sweet, and if some make you tear up a little bit (hey, I was nine months pregnant!), just remember how the story ends. [As an aside, my other brother gave me “Goodnight, iPad”, which deserves its own post. It was an excellent Christmas.]

This weekend, treat yourself to a trip down memory lane and watch Star Wars. After you’ve done so, check out Darth Vader and Son. And whatever you do, remember: “May the Fourth be with you!” Force. I meant Force.

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Review of The Hobbit, An Unexpected Journey (or The Hobbit: Part 1/3)

Bottom line: A fun movie set in Tolkien’s world, though not a strict adaptation from the book.

Rating: Recommended

Review:

When The Hobbit came out, I never got around to seeing it in theaters, being 8 1/2 months pregnant at the time and then otherwise occupied. So I finally saw it when it became available for rent last week. I am a huge Lord of the Rings nerd and really liked Peter Jackson’s adaptation of them into the movies, so I had high hopes for The Hobbit trilogy. I knew they would have to change more of the Hobbit because it is definitely a children’s story, and doesn’t have a lot of actual action. Also, the hero, Bilbo, doesn’t have many heroic deeds.

The Hobbit is a good movie. I wouldn’t say it’s a great adaptation – I was able to enjoy it more once I started thinking of it as an homage to the characters, world and general idea of The Hobbit. They added a lot of material and gave Bilbo some more courageous feats, which you kind of have to do. One thing that I really liked about the movie was that they incorporated several of the songs that are in the book, and were able to do so without making it seem Disney-ish. The beginning dinner party scene with the dwarves was hilarious and very well done. It’s been several days since I’ve seen it, and I’m still not sure whether or not I liked Martin Freeman as Bilbo. On the one hand, I thought he was very well suited to the character, but on the other, there are several distinct mannerisms he has that made me feel like I was looking at Tim from the British The Office, or Arthur from Hitchiker’s, or even Watson from Sherlock, dressed up as a hobbit and dropped in to Middle Earth. I found that to be distracting and kept taking me outside the movie.

All in all, I enjoyed it. I’m going to have to rewatch it now that I know what to expect. I’ll definitely try to get to the other movies in theaters and am looking forward to those coming out.

Did you see it? What did you think? Did you like it more or less than the Lord of the Rings movies?

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My Exciting Saturday Evening (& a TV Rec)

While some 27 year olds might consider a night out on the town to be the epitome of a great Saturday evening, this is what I’ve got lined up: Agatha Christie’s Poirot, chocolate chip cookies, and a crochet project. I couldn’t be happier. And no, I was not more exciting before I got pregnant.

Agatha Christie’s Poirot is a tv adaptation of (naturally) Agatha Christie’s Poirot mysteries. Starring David Suchet, they are excellently done. There are several seasons, so it’ll be a long time before you run out. Obviously, some of them are more well done than others, and some of them follow the books more closely than others, but they’re just a fantastically fun watch. Most of them are “tv-hour” long episodes, but there are some movie length ones as well. Netflix now has the first parts of SIX seasons on instant view!

Bottom Line: If you enjoy Golden Age mysteries, period dramas, or just a good, clean tv show, give these a try.

Rating: Strongly Recommended

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Review of The Hunger Games Movie

Bottom line: One of the best book to movie adaptations I’ve seen. A great movie of a great book.

Rating: Strongly Recommended

Review:

I am normally one of those people – the ones who come out of a movie adaptation of a book moaning and whining about all the things they completely screwed up and how much better the book was and what is wrong with humanity anyways?

I had seen the trailer and was incredibly unimpressed. I didn’t like the casting choices for any of the main characters and was thinking the movie was going to be a complete disaster. Well, I finally broke down and went and saw it yesterday. I don’t know if it was because my expectations were so low, but I absolutely loved it. It might be one of the best book to movie adaptations I have ever seen (might have something to do with the fact that the author, Suzanne Collins, was a co-writer of the screen play – hard to do that with, say, Tolkein).

There were obviously things that they changed, but I felt like almost all of the changes were just to make it work better as a movie, while still staying true the spirit of the books, if not the letter. One of the main concerns I had going into it was how you deal with the fact that the books are written from Katniss’ point of view, and a lot of it is about what is going on in her head. I think this was handled amazingly well. Instead of using narration (which rarely works), they added in pieces that were not in the books, but still fit within the story. For example, the Head Gamemaker becomes a bigger character, and you see him interacting with President Snow, and the behind the scenes of how the games are done. There are cuts to the tv show host talking with his co-anchor to explain things to the audience (both in the Capitol, and the one in the movie theater with you) that you get from Katniss in the books. My favorite was the fortune-cookie type notes from Haymitch that came with the gifts from sponsors.

I was not expecting very much from the actors chosen to play Katniss, Peeta, Gale, Haymitch from what I saw in the trailer, but by the end of the movie everyone had won me over except Gale. They did a good job portraying District 12 as poor, dirty, and downtrodden, but Gale always looked like he’d walked out of a photo shoot for some teen magazine.

I was also impressed by how they handled the violence. Make no mistake, this is a story that centers around children slaughtering other children, often brutally, but they were able to portray the horror of the violence without being excessively graphic or gory.

The one thing that I really disliked was the shaky cameras. At the beginning of the movie and during parts of the actual Hunger Games they filmed in the jerky, fast moving style. I don’t find that it adds realism to the movie, I just find it annoying. Instead of thinking about the story, I’m thinking about how I wish they would stop yanking the cameras around.

All in all, however, I thoroughly enjoyed this movie and can’t wait for the next one to come out!

What did you think? Did you like the movie? Had you read the book before seeing it?

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