Monday, December 31, 2012
Monday, December 24, 2012
When handsome and elusive Stefan Salvatore arrives in the small town of Fell's Church, everyone takes notice--even blonde Queen Bee Elena Gilbert. Elena can't help but be drawn to the quiet stranger in her European History class. Fortunately for Elena, the attraction is mutual. Unfortunately for Stefan, he isn't the only Salvatore brother fascinated by the beautiful Elena and the town's initial fascination has quickly turned to suspicion after a string of people are attacked soon after his arrival.
A quick warning to the devoted fans of the TV show: the books are VERY different from the show. The first time I attempted to read this book it was hard to get into the story because it was such a departure from the series (ex. Elena is blonde, Bonnie is a redhead, Caroline is a brunette, and that's just the tip of the iceberg!). The second time around I started reading knowing that it would be very different and it was a much more enjoyable experience. The writing is very similar to L.J. Smith's other works--it's quick and fast-paced read. This is a book that someone could easily finish in a day or two. The writing is geared toward a very young audience (perfect for late elementary or early junior high) and for that reason, it can feel a bit patronizing as an adult reading it.
The edition that I read is the one pictured above and it has the first two novels in the Vampire Diaries series conveniently and compactly packaged together into one. Out of the two stories I preferred the first one which is entitled The Awakening. The story chronicles the very beginning of Stefan and Elena's relationship. It also talks about how Stefan and Damon became vampires in the first place (if you think you know all the details, you don't). The second story, The Struggle, was considerably less focused than the first. It lacked enough material to stand as a novel on it's own and in retrospect it became very obvious that its main purpose was to serve as a transition between book one and book three.
Compared to the show, the book series worked at a much quicker pace. Things that have just happened at the beginning of the fourth season happened at the end of book two. Also, the first two books tend to focus almost entirely on Elena and her feelings for Stefan (and eventually Damon) while the show has more time to look at the stories of supporting characters like Caroline and Bonnie and Tyler. Although the book is almost always better than the film/television adaption, this is not the case in this situation. The television show takes everything great and fascinating about the book series and, with a little help from a fantastic writing team, creates an action-packed hour of entertainment each week with a more developed plot and more fleshed out characters. It also doesn't hurt that there are some very attractive men on the show as well.
In conclusion, the first two books of the Vampire Diaries series are both fun, quick reads. The TV show hasn't stayed entirely faithful to the books from which it is based--and, quite frankly, that's a good thing. Other than Stefan, none of the characters are well developed and the story seems to run out of gas halfway through the second novel. It is a light and easy read but if you want an entertaining story about vampires, witches, and werewolves tune into The Vampires Diaries on the CW.
Monday, December 17, 2012
Alfred Hitchcock's latest film, North by Northwest, was a huge success. But now what? Everyone wants him to make another North by Northwest but Hitchcock (played by Anthony Hopkins) wants to do something different, something bold and shocking. He stumbles upon the idea for his next movie when he reads Robert Bloch's 1959 novel, Psycho. Despite lacking the support of Hollywood executives, Hitchcock is determined to make this movie. His relationship with his wife, Alma (played by Helen Mirren), is tested as movie production begins to spiral out of control.
The acting on the other hand was nothing short of outstanding. It would be a surprise--and a mystery--if both Hopkins and Mirren weren't nominated for Oscars for their respective roles as Hitchcock and Alma. While Hopkins psychical transformation on screen is more startling than Mirren's, both actors immerse themselves so effortlessly and completely into the plot and their roles. It was refreshing to see such a strong female character during a time period with such gender inequality and especially in such a male dominated field like directing and movie production. Mirren perfectly captures Alma's struggles on screen while not compromising her strength or her femininity. Hopkins portrays the legendary director as a complex human being--both supporting and contradicting the dictatorial and obsessive caricature that is so well-known in pop culture.
The ending is a bit cliche but audiences will no doubt leave the theater with smiles on their faces. Hitchcock is certainly the most unexpected feel-good movie this holiday season and it is definitely worth the time and the money. Besides...it's Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren! Do I need to say more?
Go see Hitchcock in theaters now! Chat with me on twitter! Check out my style blog! What is your favorite Alfred Hitchcock movie? Leave a comment below!
FTC: I was lucky enough to attend a screening of Hitchcock before the movie was released. I have no affiliation with Fox Searchlight Pictures.
Monday, December 10, 2012
Lucy Armstrong has never directed a feature length movie before but she somehow finds herself on a movie-set with her lying ex-husband, her energetic niece, her lethargic younger sister, two unenthusiastic lead actors, and J.T., an attractive Green Beret. As if things couldn't get worst, Lucy learns that she also has to deal with a hungry alligator and Pre-Columbian green phallic stones [that claim to cure impotence]. Lucy must find a way to finish the shoot and keep everyone alive--while finding time to spend time with J.T.
Don't Look Down is Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer's first attempt at a collaboration. And to be honest, it feels that way. Their writing styles are synced--but it doesn't feel like a melding of two minds but rather like Mayer is mimicking Crusie's distinctive style. Adding a few paragraphs filled with military/tough-guy jargon every couple pages seems to be Mayer's only noticeable contribution to the novel. And even Crusie's up-beat, funny style seems a little dull in comparison to her other works and even when compared to her later collaboration with Mayer, Wild Ride. Crusie and Mayer have their moments of brilliance and humor but their accomplishments are overshadowed by their shortcomings.
To be blunt, the plot is more than a little unoriginal--girl meets tall, dark, and dangerous man; things blow up; all the good guys live happily ever after. But despite its predictability, Don't Look Down is definitely a confusing ride. The plot seems all-over-the-place and there are so many characters to keep track of that it gets overwhelming. But in spite of its faults, Don't Look Down is an entertaining read. Something to take on a long flight or borrow from the library. It is only so disappointing because Crusie and Mayer are dynamic authors in their own right and together they should be a firework show on the 4th of July.
While Crusie and Mayer might not live up to such [arguably] unrealistic expectations, Don't Look Down is fun read filled with action and romance. It foreshadows the amount of excellence that develops from Crusie and Mayer collaborations in the future--once they get the hang of it. Practice makes perfect.
Monday, December 3, 2012
The Other Boleyn Girl is a historical interpretation of Anne Boleyn's (Natalie Portman) rise to power to become Henry VII's (Eric Bana) second wife and her fall from grace ending in her death in 1536. The film explores Anne's relationship with her family--most notably her relationship with her sister Mary (Scarlett Johansson) who was the King's mistress before his marriage to Anne.
This movie has received a lot of criticism since it was released--and I will not argue that most of it is not well deserved. Scarlett Johansson is a flat-expressioned, ice queen next to Natalie Portman. Although to be fair, it would be incredibly hard to be compared to Portman's performance...but Johannson brought underwhelming to a whole new level. In this film Portman exhibited the range and commitment that would later go on to win her an Oscar while Johannson's attempts to be coy and innocent are cringe-worthy and best to be forgotten. Although, again to be fair, Portman is given a more complex character to work with when compared to poor Johansson--who portrays the innocent and pure Mary Boleyn. Mary has no depth as a character and combined with many of the factors mentioned above, Anne wins over the audiences despite the fact that she's utterly power-hungry and willing to step on anyone who gets in her way. Portman's ability to create a sense of sympathy for her character makes it all the more heartbreaking when Anne's tragic fate comes to fruition.
The Other Boleyn Girl is a romantic re-imagining of Henry VII's marriage to Anne Boleyn. It is filled with historical omissions and inaccuracies to an extent that is almost down-right irresponsible. But there are not enough good things to be said for the visual aspects of the film. The clothing (especially the headdresses worn by the women) and scenic backdrop are decadent visual fantasies. And despite all the things that were wrong with this film--and there were a lot of things wrong with this film--there is something so compelling about a story of powerless people searching for some shred of power in their lives. There is a bit of the Romeo and Juliet affect in effect--the audience knows that this story will end badly but it is impossible not to root for these two young girls.
The Other Boleyn Girl is a thinly veiled fictional story masquerading around as history. Portman does her best to keep the film afloat but average or lackluster performances from the rest of the cast and the obviously biased treatment of historical material keep the film from being an award-winning success. But even without critical success, The Other Boleyn Girl is an enjoyable story about a young girl who didn't understand the consequences of her search for power.