Revisiting the DCEU: Man of Steel

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My first introduction to Superman was the 1978 film with Christopher Reeve. I picked it up back when I was in high school in preparation for the release of Superman Returns. You’d think, as someone who had grown up on Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher’s gothic Batman films, I would be cheesed out by the brightly optimistic Supes of old. I was not. I fell in love with Christopher Reeve as the Man of Steel and soon after fell even deeper in love with Brandon Routh’s incarnation (I will not apologize for being able to quote Superman Returns by heart). To me, Clark Kent has always been doofy, Lois Lane unable spell, Lex Luthor maniacal and bald, and Superman ready to fight for truth, justice and the American way.

It’s not entirely surprising then that Man of Steel came as a bad shock the first time I attempted to watch it. Here was a dark Superman who hadn’t even become Clark Kent of the Daily Planet yet. None of it set right with me so I turned off the film halfway through in frustration. Henry Cavill was not my Superman. I was not ready to accept this incredibly different vision.

Fast forward a couple years. Thanks to Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad, I’ve grown rather fond of  Zack Snyder’s dreary vision for the DC Comics Extended Universe, and with Wonder Woman and Justice League looming on the horizon, I figured it was about time this DCEU apologist rewatched Man of Steel. All signs pointed to the glaring fact that maybe–just maybe–I had been too harsh on it my first time through. It was time to see if that was truly the case.

Man of Steel charts the origin story of Superman from his unconventional (by Krypton standards) birth to his first encounter with a supervillain. Unlike most superhero origin stories, Kal-El doesn’t baulk at becoming a caped hero. From his childhood, he knows it is his destiny to be a protector and a beacon of hope–the only question is when the time will arrive for him to come out of the shadows. The villainous General Zod’s arrival answers that question for him. As evildoers, Zod and his band of misfits are a formidable group for the newly minted Superman to go up against. The Kryptonians’ powers rival Superman’s, but thankfully, Kal-El has more experience using his abilities on Earth. As they become overwhelmed by their new strengths, Kal-El uses his superior knowledge against them–which keeps him alive even when their numbers make it impossible for him to defeat them alone.

It’s to Earth’s advantage then that Lois Lane, the shining star of Man of Steel, takes an interest.

While Man of Steel does have its weakness (pacing, lack of Clark Kent, etc.), its female characters are not among them. Lois might not be the bad speller of old, but the Lois of Man of Steel is still no damsel in distress. She’s equal parts hard-nosed news reporter and co-savior of mankind. If it wasn’t for Lois, Kal-El wouldn’t have known how to defeat Zod and destroy his terraforming machine. She actually blasts her way out of Zod’s ship with that information so she can make certain both Superman and the U.S. Army have the tools they need to make a final stand. That’s just the cherry on top. Lois is amazing throughout the entire film. She never misses an opportunity to be in the middle of the action–even after she gets attacked in a Kryptonian ship and Kal-El cauterizes her wound with his heat vision! Lois Lane is a hero without a cape and Man of Steel doesn’t forget it. That alone endears it in my heart.

Of course, Lois isn’t alone in stealing the show from the male characters. As assistant villain, Faora legitimately overshadows Michael Shannon’s Zod. If you had to choose which of the two to go up against, Faora would not be your pick (Which I suppose is one of the film’s weaknesses. Zod just doesn’t hold a candle to his second in command). Superman’s mother, Lara, also makes a memorable impression by standing up to Zod and feeling genuinely equal to her husband in orchestrating Kal’s future. She even watches her husband die in front of her while saving her son. Lara’s incredibly tough (and dresses like a proper space queen). It’s just incredible how Man of Steel sets the DCEU’s standard for the women stealing the show–something we see again in Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad.

Unfortunately, one can’t talk about Man of Steel without addressing the notorious issue of Zod’s death scene. It needs to be said that I am against Superman killing people on principle–just like I’m against Batman killing people on principle (looking at you, Tim Burton’s Batman). However, the scene between Superman and Zod did not bother me as much in context as I expected it to. For me, what it all boiled down to was the fact that the Superman of Man of Steel was completely and absolutely green when it came to being a superhero. This is a Kal-El who just learned how to fly and who has never used his powers in battle before. It’s easy to say that Superman wouldn’t kill, but Kal is barely Superman at this point. He’s still learning to use his powers. It’s absolutely understandable that he might do something Superman wouldn’t. Beyond that, the fact that the killing feels like a last resort is important to me. Our green Superman begs Zod to stop hurting people before he breaks his neck. He is even in tears when he performs the actual act. It’s not an easy thing for him to do. You can tell that nearly breaks him. Kal-El is not a killer, but he is forced into the act as a last resort when he doesn’t know what else to do. In the future, I believe Superman can and will do better. For now, he tried his hardest to do what was right and fell short. I understand why he did it–even if I prefer the story didn’t call for him to do it in the first place.

On the whole, I enjoyed Man of Steel. It’s not a perfect film (it is the weakest film in the DCEU), but knowing the seeds it’s planting for the shared universe endears it in many ways. It also helps that it created amazing female characters and gave Henry Cavill the opportunity to put on nerd glasses as Clark Kent. I am more than pleased I gave Man of Steel another chance. It reminded me how much I love these characters–even if they weren’t quite what I expected to see.

Next up, Batman v Superman!

Who is your favorite Superman?

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Top Ten Most Anticipated Summer Movies

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It’s that time of year again. It’s time for blockbusters and superheroes. . .with some sword and sorcery thrown in! While April was a deathly slow movie month, a whole load of exciting movies are gracing the big screen between now and Fall. I know I’m going to be racking up those Regal Movie Rewards thanks to all the films that look AH-MAZING. . .and those others which look just bonkers enough to be worth seeing.

I’ve put together a top ten list of my most anticipated films (in no particular order). Be sure to tell me which movies you’re most looking forward to in the comments!

Top Ten Most Anticipated Summer Movies

Spider-Man: Homecoming ~ I never thought I’d be excited to see a Spider-Man film, but thanks to Captain America: Civil War, I am thrilled to see the webslinger on the big screen again (this will be my first time seeing Spidey since that fateful day I took my cousin to see Spider-Man 3).

War for the Planet of the Apes ~ The new Planet of the Apes films are my favorite Science Fiction movies of all time. (Yes, I love them even more than Star Wars and not just because the second one has Jason Clarke.) I cannot wait to see Andy Serkis knocking it out of the park for the third time in this franchise. It all looks absolutely glorious!

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales ~ I’ve seen every Pirates of the Caribbean film in the theater, and Dead Men Tell No Tales is not going to be an exception. While I am keeping my expectations in check after the mess that was On Stranger Tides (a movie I forget exists more often than not), I do hope Jack, Will, and the gang will pull it together for one more movie.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets ~ The Fifth Element bring me joy so there’s no way I’m not psyched about Luc Besson’s new Sci Fi project. It looks just as bonkers as Jupiter Ascending–which is definitely a selling point for me.

Wonder Woman ~ Wonder Woman, oh, Wonder Woman, I’m so pleased to see you headlining your own movie (with a female director to top it off)! The trailers for the DCEU’s new flick are so promising that I hope, for once, positive reviews will come to the DC Comics’ universe. It’s about time this franchise had a proper win.  

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword ~ Let’s be real: This movie looks wackadoo. . .so it’s obviously on my list of must-watch movies. I remember reading that there are giant elephants in King Arthur (rather like Oliphaunts, perhaps?). Between that and Jude Law as the villain, I need no more reasons to pay for a ticket.

Alien: Covenant ~ While I’m nowhere near brave enough to see this on the big screen, I’ve been scarfing down the trailers and featurettes. Sadly, I will be holding off on viewing this until the DVD release, but that doesn’t quell my excitement at there being not one but two Michael Fassbender androids in one film.

Baby Driver ~ Confession time. The only Edgar Wright film I’ve seen is Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World. I plan on remedying that soon by FINALLY watching the Cornetto Trilogy (a decision made solely after seeing the trailer for Baby Driver–which looks absolutely divine).

The Mummy ~ While Legendary’s MonsterVerse is more my speed, I figure I should check out Universal Monsters from the get-go. To do so, I’ll have to get over my extreme dislike for both Tom Cruise and Russell Crowe–but hey, at least, they’re be rampant destruction and one angry mummy to distract me!

Dark Tower ~ This is one of those films that seems made for me. It’s got everything: Cowboys, inter-dimensional travel, Idris Elba, and a weird fantasy setting! The trailer was breathtaking and 100% gave me an excuse to pick up Stephen King’s series once again.

What films are you most looking forward to this Summer?

My Favorite Podcasts

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Whenever I’m off-desk at work, I put on my earphones and start up a podcast. It’s calming to shut out the noise of the library and focus on the hosts’ voices and their stories. Since music has never been a huge thing for me and audio books don’t hold my attention, I’m glad there are so many podcasts out there that are funny, educational, and focused, more often than not, on Pop Culture. I’d really be struggling for background noise if podcasts were not such a thing right now.

I’ve listened to a lot of podcasts over the past year, but there’s a few in particular that I keep downloading to my beloved iPod Shuffle, Honey Lemon. I thought it’d be neat to share some of my favorites with you–mostly because I want you to share your favorites right back so I can have more to listen to.

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My Favorite Podcasts    

  • Dear Sally ~ A Felicity podcast that’s a perfect mix of nostalgia and jokes. I haven’t even watched that much Felicity, but I still enjoy hearing these two friends talk about who won each episode: Noel or Ben.
  • Gilmore Guys ~ After I watch a particularly annoying episode of Gilmore Girls, I download the companion Gilmore Guys episode right away. The two “Gilmore Guys” and their guests always have hilarious and insightful takes on the episodes.
  • Common Room ~ #PotterWeek was amazing and Common Room just started a series recapping the TV show, Lost. No matter what sort of geek you are, there’s almost certainly a Common Room episode/series for you.
  • Mousterpiece Cinema ~ Again, with the nostalgia! I have a thing for retro movie and television podcasts. Can’t you tell? Mousterpiece Cinema is Movie Mezzanine’s Disney podcast. Mostly, the hosts review Disney films from the 80’s and 90’s, but there’s a couple of modern movies thrown in too.
  • The Nerdist ~ If you like listening to writers, actors, and directors talk about their craft and other, much more random things, The Nerdist podcast will suit your fancy. I skip around and pick episodes based on my tolerance for the guests, but others might not be so picky.
  • Rosie and Jessica’s Day of Fun ~ A little bit of everything is in this podcast. Most of all you should know they talk about knitting and baking.
  • Nerdonomy: Nerds on History ~ My inability to finish historical non-fiction makes me very thankful for all the history podcasts out there. Nerds on History is VERY eclectic–which is fun because you learn a bit about everything listening to it.
  • You Must Remember This ~ Thanks to The Hairpin’s “Scandals of Classic Hollywood” series, I’ve been getting more and more into Hollywood history. You Must Remember This is a great way to satisfy curiosity about old timey actors and the stories behind their films.

What Are Your Favorite Podcasts?

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My Fall To-Do List

Hamilton Songs On Repeat (2).jpgSweaters, electric blankets, hot chai, and new TV shows. Fall IS my season. I know you’re not supposed to wish your life away, but Summer is the worst and I’m so glad it’s over.

I cannot wait to eat all the (gluten free) pumpkin things!

Like with Summer, I figured I’d do a proper to-do list for Fall. Looking back, I can say I did alright on my Summer list. *Maybe* I didn’t get to any beach reads, but I did dash through Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and see Top Gun in the theater so the season wasn’t an entire waste. Also, I went to three new coffee shops and an artisan Ice Cream parlor. Living my best life right there.

My plans for Fall mainly include watching Gilmore Girls with my mom, but I figured it’d be nice to make a more ambitious to-do than just getting through seven seasons of a show before November 25th.

Okay, the list isn’t incredibly more ambitious than that, but Fall is the season for books, tea, and coziness. I don’t want to do too much adventuring when I could be reading the next A Song of Ice and Fire.  

My Fall To-Do List

  • Carve Pumpkins ~ I’m terrible at carving pumpkins (because sharp objects and myself do not mix), but I love it anyway. The last two years I’ve missed out on carving but not this year! I will carve something wonky into a pumpkin’s side and display it proudly for trick-or-treaters.
  • Star Wars Watch-Through ~ Last year, I rewatched all of the Star Wars films in the Spring. I wish now that I’d waited until right before The Force Awakens came out so it’d all have felt more fresh. That’s why, this year, I’ve been waiting and waiting to start my rewatch for Rogue One. Originally, I’d planned to try watching it in “Machete Order” since I’ve only ever watched the series chronologically starting with the prequels. I’m not entirely sure that’s the best way to go since that would mean watching A New Hope (the film closest chronologically to Rogue One) first. I’ll probably just go with “Chronological Minus The Phantom Menace” as per usual.
  • Art Museum Trip ~ I’ve only been to the Cleveland Art Museum once. I was up in the city for an interview and was able to spend *maybe* an hour there–which meant that I got through the Egyptian exhibit and very little else. I’ve been longing to go back for a second visit, and Fall seems like the perfect time to wander through galleries.  
  • Reread Jane Eyre ~ Is it just me, or is Fall the perfect season for reading the Brontes? I might make that association thanks to my English Major days, but the gothic setting of Jane Eyre feels October-y to me. I haven’t read Jane Eyre since high school, and I’m well aware that I didn’t understand it at all back then. I need to go back and be more open minded about Rochester (unlikely) and more accepting of Jane (much more likely).
  • Go to a Craft Show ~There are indie craft shows ALL THE TIME downtown where I work. Unfortunately, a lot of them occur on Saturday so I end up working through them. I want to take advantage of one of the few Sunday fairs, even if that means venturing downtown on a day I’m not actually working.
  • Find a New 3DS Game to Play ~ So, I bought a 3DS last Fall and I’ve only purchased three games for it–two of which I hated (Disney Infinity and Animal Crossing). Right now, I’m playing through Legend of Zelda: An Ocarina of Time and I’m enjoying it. . .kind of. I have to use a walkthrough to get through the story–which can get incredibly frustrating. I want to find a game with more of a puzzle aspect to it. I loved computer games that had a nice balance of story and puzzle when I was a kid (like Torin’s Passage and Dr. Brain). I’m sure there’s something out there along a similar line. If you have any recommendations, please let me know!
  • Drink Spiced Apple Cider ~ Pumpkin Spiced Latte’s aren’t my thing. They’re too sweet and not pumpkin-y enough tasting for me. Spiced Apple Cider is the real deal. Every once in awhile, I even get to drink apple cider from the apples we’ve grown–which makes it even better!
  • Play More Games ~ I own a decent amount of board games, but this year, I’ve been terrible about actually playing them. I still haven’t touched my copies of Munchkin, Iota, or Diamonsters. Before Christmas, at the very least, I need to give them all a shot (then I don’t have to feel guilty if I ask for a game or two for the big day).
  • Watch Horror Movies ~ I’m a complete wimp when it comes to horror movies. I’ve always loved horror TV shows (Hannibal <3) and novels, but films just seem so much more intimidating. I have a short list of movies I want to watch in October (The Ring, The Host, Cabin in the Woods, etc), but I could definitely use recommendations for horror films that are scary but not terribly gory–which means do not recommend a Saw film! I will not watch it. 
  • Bake a Gluten Free Pumpkin Pie ~ I already have a recipe picked out. This will happen!

What’s on your Fall To-Do list?

Fall Movies On My Must-See List

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So far this year, I’ve seen a grand total of thirteen movies in the theater. I believe that’s a record high for me–even with how many times I went to The Fellowship of the Ring and various Disney movies in Junior High.

Thirteen might be an unlucky number, but I’m actually really proud of it. For years, anxiety’s completely messed with my movie-going enjoyment. (It’s hard to have fun watching a film when you’re in the middle of a panic attack.) This year, I figured my own form of exposure therapy would help me get over that, and by movie five or six, I realized my master plan was working.

I *may* have ended up seeing a few doozies (I nearly fell asleep during Pete’s Dragon), but it was worth it to get to the point where I’m look forward to seeing things on the big screen again.

To keep up this momentum (and keep myself from getting squirmish), I’ve made a list of all the movies I’m going to go see this Fall. Of course, you’ll all be able to guess what movies I’m really, really looking forward to (ahem, Rogue One), but I’m going to try to force myself a little outside my comfort zone with a weeper like Light Between Oceans (I can, at least, bribe myself with the likes of Fassy).   

Fall Movies On My Must-See List

Light Between Oceans (September 2nd) ~ Several years ago, I read the book during a single, long car ride. I don’t remember much about the novel other than the very basic plot–which probably means it wasn’t the greatest book of all time. Still, the trailers for the film look gorgeous (as does the cast). This will be my first time seeing Alicia Vikander in a film other than The Man from U.N.C.L.E.. Hopefully seeing her in something serious will give me the added gumption to watch Ex Machina . .finally.  

 

Bridget Jones’ Baby (September 16th) ~ I never expected Bridget Jones’ Diary to be one of my favorite films, but I’m incredibly partial to it. While Edge of Reason wasn’t the greatest sequel in the world (I remember very little of that film), I’m so looking forward the the third in the trilogy. I’m also pleased to see McDreamy returning to the RomCom circuit. Maybe a resurgence on his part could mean a sequel to Enchanted?  

 

The Magnificent Seven (September 23rd) ~ The Coen Brother’s True Grit is one of my favorite films of all time. Before that movie, I had a very low tolerance for Westerns. Slowly, though, I’m coming to appreciate the genre. (It helps, of course, that newly released Westerns have actors like Michael Fassbender and Chris Pratt in them.) Before the new Magnificent Seven is released I plan on watching The Seven Samurai and the original Magnificent Seven–which feels incredibly ambitious since both of those films are LONG.

 

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (September 30th) ~Let me confess something: I really didn’t like the book this film is based on. Thankfully, the film appears to be COMPLETELY different from the source material. I’m rooting for Tim Burton to make a decent film out of this concept. I can’t say my expectations are high, but I’m going to give it a proper chance regardless.   

 

Arrival (November 11th) ~ I hate myself for still liking Jeremy Renner in films, but he and Amy Adams are completely selling me on Arrival. I love a good low-key Science Fiction film, but this is the first one in awhile that has a cast I can get on board with. Sorry, but if Matthew McConaughey, Matt Damon, or George Clooney are in space, I’m out.

 

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (November 18th) ~ I wasn’t anticipating the release of Fantastic Beasts until Harry Potter and the Cursed Child was released. My enthusiasm for Harry Potter had been waning in recent years, but rereading the series and getting an 8th “book” has gotten me back in the Potterhead zone. Also, I really just want to see Colin Farrell as a wizard villain.

 

Moana (November 23rd) ~ Not the point of this movie, but I want Dwayne Johnson to be a Disney Prince. Someday, I hope it will happen, but until then I’ll be satisfied with him voicing a prominent character in Moana.

 

Rules Don’t Apply (November 23rd) ~ Actual Han Solo, Alden Ehrenreich, is in another film about old Hollywood. After Hail, Caesar, this isn’t a movie I’d pass up voluntarily. I know it won’t be as good as Hail, Caesar (no Charming Potato as a Gene Kelly-a-like), but it looks cute all the same. It’s also part of my old Hollywood to-watch list with Trumbo and The Magnificent.

Rogue One (December 16th) ~ I love Star Wars. I also loved Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla. There’s nothing about this movie that makes me think I won’t absolutely adore it. I’m just worried that by book shelves won’t have room for the inevitable Rogue One collectibles that I’ll be adding to my Star Wars collection.

Passengers (December 21st) ~ No trailer for Passengers yet, but a Science Fiction romance with Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence is a must see. I hope it will have some humor to it and maybe a few shirtless scenes for Pratt. It’s about time I see Jennifer Lawrence in a film outside of the Hunger Games or X-Men franchises anyway.

 

What Films Are On Your Must-See List This Fall?

Stream It! {June Edition}

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The entire month of May, I struggled to find my next show to binge, and you know what? I wasn’t successful! To keep myself busy, I’ve been knitting and watching Vicar of Dibley–which is charming but not the sort of show I can really get into in a fangirl sort of way. I’ve been *thinking* about trying Orphan Black, The Walking Dead, or Miss Fisher’s Mysteries again, but seeing as I never made it past the pilots of any of those shows, I’m sort of reticent about giving them another go.

I get sort of listless without a TV show to watch so I’ll have to make a decision soon. If anyone has a lesser known show that they’d recommend or reasons I should give the shows above another chance, definitely comment! I’m obviously in need of a little help.

If you’re struggling with ideas of things to watch too, I’ve got some “Stream It” recommendations for the month.

And, by the way, I seriously hope I can avoid the “Steam It!” mishap from May in the future. It was a special sort of typo, that’s for sure!  

Stream It!

  • The Paradise ~ Last Spring, my mom and I watched through The Paradise and were equally in love with it and frustrated by it. The show is about about a country girl–with ambitions–coming to town to work in a shop. The first season is absolutely fantastic in a sweet, cozy sort of way, but the second season goes off the rails. I’d still recommend watching it all the way through, but once you hit the Series Two, you MUST read Telly Vision’s recaps. They’ll greatly increase your enjoyment. I guarantee it.  
  • Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. ~ AoS is one of those shows that I don’t bother to watch live. I mean, it’d be a shame to waste such a good binge-watch show on week-to-week viewing. Thankfully, Netflix releases the seasons quickly after they wrap up for the year. The third season will be out mid-June so, if you’re like me and need to catch up, this is your time!
  • Leading Lady ~ I mentioned this movie in my Monthly Round-Up, but I wanted to give it a proper shout-out. The film’s about a young actress who REALLY wants a role in her director boyfriend’s upcoming movie. To prepare, she travels to South Africa where she meets a hunky farmer and stages a play version of the film. The movie is just adorable and quirky. If you have seen Not Another Happy Ending with Karen Gillan and liked it, Leading Lady will be just your cup of tea.
  • About a Boy (TV Series) ~ I’ve read Nick Hornby’s About a Boy, but I’ve never seen the film. Instead, I fell in love with the TV show–which not enough people seemed to appreciate. It’s a cute, feel-good show that features an absolutely hilarious Minnie Driver. The first couple episodes are rough, but once the show realizes it’s actors’ strengths and weakness, it pulls together into a really great sitcom.
  • One Day ~ With Me Before You coming out this month, it’s only right to draw attention to the better weepy, British film. While I 100% believe that Anne Hathaway was miscast as Emma, the movie itself does a good job at keeping to the essence of the book. Besides, Jim Sturgess is the perfect Dex. It’s worth a watch just for him!

Honorable Mention: The entire series of Happy Endings is on Hulu Plus. If you like pop culture jokes and manic dialogue, watch it now!

What have you been streaming lately?

Stream It! {May Edition}

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I’m sorry I’ve been missing in action since April. I needed to take a bit of mental health break. Unfortunately, that need for a break means I haven’t finished The Silmarillion yet. Instead, I spent a decent amount of April binge-watching Arrested Development and Disney films since I didn’t feel up to much else.

Obviously, I’ve been getting a lot of use out of my Netflix subscription between these binges and rewatching Lost (don’t even get me started on that show), and that reminded me that I’ve been wanting to do “Stream It!” recommendations for awhile.

Once a month, for here on out, I’ll try pick out five (or so) TV shows, films, etc. that I love and think you should watch (or even rewatch). They won’t always be new releases, but that doesn’t matter since there’s a decent amount of buried treasure hiding in Neflix’s categories.    

Oh and one more thing, thanks for sticking with me through my break! I try to blog consistently, but it can be hard when I’m not feeling mentally up-to-par. *Hopefully,* I won’t need another long hiatus for awhile.

Stream It! {May Edition}

  • Beauty and the Beast (CW TV Show) ~ With Rookie Blue and Under the Dome cancelled, my Summer TV viewing has been robbed of almost all it’s melodrama. Thankfully, there’s still one season of Beauty and the Beast left to keep me entertained. If you’ve somehow missed this wack-a-doo Dark Angel ripoff,  the first two seasons are on Netflix. This show will be perfect for you if you are either a hopeless romantic or someone who is endlessly entertained by over-the-top romantic adventure stories. Watch the first two seasons (and part of the third on Hulu Plus) before the fourth airs in June! 
  • The Great British Baking Show ~ If you somehow haven’t watched this masterpiece, you need to. Now! It’s sad to me that so many of the seasons aren’t available to stream in the U.S., but at least, PBS airs them eventually. Hopefully, a new season will come out this fall.
  • Bride and Prejudice ~ Winter is the season for Charles Dickens. Fall is for the Brontes. And spring is the perfect time of year to binge Jane Austen adaptations. One of my absolute favorites is Bride and Prejudice–a Bollywood adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. If you’ve ever wanted to see Sayid from Lost dance, this is the movie for you. 
  • Begin Again ~ I never liked Keira Knightley as an actor until I started watching her in non-period piece films. Most recently, I’ve loved her in Laggies and Begin Again. Begin Again, so you know, is about struggling musicians and it features Keira Knightley in an enviable wardrobe and Adam Levine acting (which is something that all people need to see because it’s weird). The movie’s sweet and filled with decent music. It’s also by the same fellow who did Once–so it has a respectable pedigree.
  • World of Tomorrow ~ It irks me that World of Tomorrow didn’t win best animated short film at this year’s Academy Awards. It was my favorite because it was funny and bizarre and not sentimental. It’s seventeen minutes long and I won’t spoil what it’s about. Just watch the weirdness unfold. It’ll be worth it.

Honorable Mention: If you have Hulu Plus, now’s a good time to watch/rewatch Wayward Pines. That bonkers show is coming back May 25th.

Have you streamed anything good lately?

{March into Middle-Earth} The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

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I’ll tell you what, I love watch-throughs. I know I haven’t been good about finishing my “Great Studio Ghibli” one, but I do love doing them all the same. There’s something about knowing which movie I’m watching next that makes me feel all cozy and peaceful inside, and now that I’ve finished my Hobbit watch-through, I might go back to Ghibli OR I might move onto The Lord of the Rings. It depends on whether or not I can seriously imagine making it through three and a half hours of The Return of the King again. Last time, I watched that movie I made the mistake of watching the extended edition.

Never again, I tell you. Never again.

I don’t know that I mentioned what editions of The Hobbit films I’m watching, but they are most definitely not the extended versions. I am horrified by the very idea that extended editions of The Hobbit films exist. It would take a lot and I mean a WHOLE lot to get me to sit through those. It’s not that I disliked these movies, but three movies clocking in at over two hours already are more than enough for me, please and thank you.

Three’s a Crowd

From what I remember about when The Battle of the Five Armies was released, it did not get good reviews. Some critics (I am not going to hunt the specific ones down) said that this third film proved that The Hobbit did not need to be separated into three movies. There just wasn’t enough story to go around. I felt justified back then in my opinion that it was stupid to make three films out of The Hobbit, and I’m not inclined to go back and chastise my past self for being so smug now.

Because you know what? The Hobbit shouldn’t have been three films and The Battle of the Five Armies proves that.

Between Desolation of Smaug and Battle of the Five Armies, there’s too much filler. In my last review, I wrote about how Peter Jackson actioned up Desolation of Smaug, dragging out sequences that could have been five–maybe ten minutes long–into twenty to thirty minute killing sprees. These last two movies could have easily been combined into one film if SOMEONE had a been more vicious in editing and not so fond of slightly slapstick fight scenes.

I came away for Battle of the Five Armies only caring about one storyline and knowing that I would never again watch the film without some sort of craft project in hand to keep me entertained during the unending battle scenes.

It’s Best to Start With Positives, But I Won’t

The main problem with The Hobbit trilogy–which I might as well address now–is that it simply didn’t develop its characters enough. While I liked what little aspects of personality I saw in the dwarves and Bilbo in the first film, all of that was dropped by Desolation of Smaug to make room for orc killing. If this film series wasn’t so incredibly long compared to the source material, I might be able to forgive it for cutting out character development, but it’s truly just ridiculous that we don’t have a good sense of who ALL the dwarves are by the third film.

The Lord of the Rings trilogy, in contrast, developed its characters so much better. I actually cared whether individuals lived or died, and I was invested in pretty much all of its character journeys. The Hobbit trilogy, unfortunately, has too many characters and no idea what to do with them. That’s why I think Bard the Bowman becomes the most interesting character in the last film. The dwarves have just become all jumbled together by Battle of the Five Armies. Other than Thorin, Balin, and Kili, no one stands out. To top that off, their desire to follow Thorin (who’s gone insane) and protect their gold isn’t very sympathetic. After the first film, I didn’t care about the dwarf storyline, but by this film, I pretty much didn’t like any of these characters or care about whether they succeed in taking the mountain or not.  They’ve just not been developed into interesting, three-dimensional characters.

Bard, in contrast, is a more relatable and likable character even though he only appears in one and a half of the films. He’s trying to save his family and his people–both are extremely easy motivations to relate to. He’s also trying to stop a pointless war over greed. Also, an exemplary motive. It helped too that he had a slightly snarky relationship with Alfrid, which made him more than just your average, boring Good Guy.  He came across through the entire movie as less imposing Aragorn and it worked.

Unfortunately, Bard shouldn’t have been my favorite character. He wasn’t in all of the films and it wasn’t his story that led to this grand finale. I should have cared about Bilbo or at least one of the dwarves. Something was seriously out of whack with the storytelling and structure of the entire series of films if I didn’t come away from Battle of the Five Armies caring one bit whether Thorin died.

Badly done, Peter Jackson. Badly done.

Now, Onto Some Actual Positives

My favorite sequence in the entire movie was when Galadriel and Elrond rescue Gandalf from Dol Guldur. It looked incredibly cheesy, but it gave Galadriel a chance to take down Sauron all by her lonesome and I thought that was amazing!

With a very few exceptions, the women in The Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films aren’t given much epic stuff to do. Eowyn kills the Witch King, sure, but that’s about it for the women of The Lord of the Rings. As for The Hobbit, Tauriel’s cool and all, but she’s not exactly up to taking on the albino orc or Sauron himself. It came as an absolutely surprise then that Galadriel and not Gandalf or Elrond is the one to take out Sauron (at least temporarily). I loved seeing her power on display and fist pumped when she sent the Eye back to where he belongs.

Galadriel is not even remotely one of my favorite Middle-earth characters, but I had to root for her being such a rockstar this one time.

Also important: In The Lord of the Rings films, we never get a good picture of what sort of powers elves have and what sort of powers the rings give to races that aren’t as unmagical as hobbits. The Battle of the Five Armies finally gives a good picture of what an elven ring of power is capable of and, by showing that, I think it proves that someone like Sauron could be truly terrifying with the One Ring. I feel like it was a mistake to wait until the prequel films to show off what a ring of power could do. I mean, other than Sauron sending people flying and Frodo going invisible, we never saw the ring being used in The Lord of the Rings films. Turning invisible isn’t the most threatening of powers so it was nice to see a ring used properly–even if it wasn’t the One Ring.

I’ve Made It This Far Into the Review and Not Mentioned Elves Yet

Do I get a cookie for this?

Thranduil, Legolas, and Tauriel are back in The Battle of the Fives Armies, and I can’t say that I love what’s going on with all of them in this film. Okay, mostly I just don’t love what’s going on with Tauriel. While in Desolation of Smaug, she had more of a story outside of her romance with Kili, her plot in Battle of the Five Armies is basically reduced to her trying to get to Kili and save him. That’s fine, I guess, but there was a little too much angst going on. I said last time that I wasn’t really invested in their love story, and that definitely didn’t change in this movie. I’m not a fan of instalove, and I found their supposedly “Epic Romance” to be worthy of eyerolling.

As for Legolas, he actually got better in this film. The brooding was gone and was replaced by him being a good friend to Tauriel. While he was jealous in the last film of her feelings toward Kili, that went away this time around. I appreciate that he didn’t turn into a “Nice Guy.” Of course, since they’re elves and she’s in love with a dwarf, jealousy and passive aggressiveness would be stupid. Elves are immortal. Legolas could easily bide his time and just wait for Kili to die of old age to get another chance with Tauriel. Maybe that’s why he is so chill. I suppose we’ll never know.

Oh yes, and there’s a character called Thranduil. Remember him? The most smirky elf that even smirked? Thranduil didn’t get a whole lot to do this time around other than smirk and stab orcs, but I’m okay with that. It’s enough to see him ride around on a moose and be snarky to everyone. He’s still my favorite character in the entire trilogy.

In Conclusion

I did it! I’ve made it there and back again with The Hobbit Trilogy, and I was even a little emotional when Bilbo returned to the Shire at the end of the series. I never expected to actually like The Hobbit movies, but I did (in spite of my occasional hemming and hawing). There’s something about The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit that is still like home to me, and somehow–even with as much as these films change the plot of the book–I still felt that warm, fuzzy watching them. Someday, I will even willing watch through them again.
What’s your favorite book or movie series?

Image Source: Screencapped.net

{March into Middle-Earth} The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Desolation of Smaug

At the end The Desolation of Smaug, right when the dragon alights from the Lonely Mountain, I checked the time on the clock beside my bed. The film had *almost* played out its runtime. While I tried to figure out how the destruction of Lake-town would fit in with only ten minutes to spare, the music began to swell.

Yeah, the subtitle “Desolation of Smaug” is incredibly misleading.

I don’t necessary hold the title against this film. I suppose the whole “desolation” aspect of the movie has to do with the effects Smaug has had on Lake-town and the Lonely Mountain since his arrival. Still, I would have liked to see more fire-breathing action in the present tense, thank you very much.

Like Father Not Like Son

I feel like this film should be subtitled “The One With All the Elves” instead of “Desolation of Smaug” because the elves were the best part of this film. (Right now, I almost can hear my pre-teen self screaming at me for writing that. Historically, I’ve not liked elves.) When the dwarves entered the mountain and starting dealing with Cumber!Smaug, the film took a dive in watchability. Let’s just say that without Thranduil and Tauriel on my screen, I was a lot less interested in the proceedings.

First, before I get to the other two, I think we all know that I need to address Legolas’ presence.

So . . .what exactly was going on with Legolas in this film? It was like Peter Jackson vaguely remembered what people liked about Legolas in the Lord of the Rings and amped it up to 500%.

Did you like when Legolas slid down the steps on a shield? Well, look at him slide around on an orc like he’s surfing on the back of a shark.

Did you like it when Legolas walked on snow? Well, look at him balance on the heads of dwarves as he careens down rapids.

Whatever Peter Jackson was trying to do here, it did not work. I confess that I’ve never liked Legolas as a character, but somehow, The Hobbit made him even LESS likeable to me. It’s like he was watered down to two personality traits: Broody and Agile. Neither aspect was appealing.

It made matters worse that he had to stand in the same room with his father, Thranduil–who was the most fabulous elf of all time and should have his own spinoff a la Gotham (meaning one that’s both cheesy and violent).

I don’t know if I written about my love of Lee Pace before on this blog, but it’s a thing that exists. I felt like his Thranduil was acting in another movie (maybe Jupiter Ascending with Eddie Redmayne), but that didn’t bother me for one moment because that’s the movie I wanted to be watching. He was over-the-top, glamorous, and completely stole the show. While all the other characters were watered down in this film to make way for more action, his personality managed to become magnified and, like I said, the film suffered when he was off screen.   

Conflicting Feelings About Tauriel

Tauriel, Tauriel, Tauriel. . .where do I start with Tauriel? I really, really didn’t want to like her as a character, but I did. Evangeline Lilly managed to portray her as being tough, clever, and unsexualized, and those three things made me fall for the character in spite of myself. I appreciated that Tauriel was an awesome fighter and that was willing to do her own thing in spite of what Thranduil asked of her. I even liked that she showed no interest in Legolas.

My only problems with her character came from intense feelings about her love story with Kili. While I understand why anyone would be attracted to Aidan Turner–Middle-earth dwarf or not, I think their love story moved too quickly to be at all realistic. To top that off, it was annoying in its very existence. I wish Tauriel could have been an autonomous character and stood on par with Bilbo or Thorin as the third lead character in Desolation of Smaug. Instead, she had to sulk over Kili in-between awesomely kicking Orc butt.

In spite of my Kili/Tauriel misgivings, I do have one positive thing to say about their relationship. I thoroughly enjoyed that he was the damsel-in-distress in this scenario. I don’t know how many times she had to save him, but I liked that it was repeatedly she who did the saving.

I Suppose I Need to Say Something About the Dwarves

This film series is supposedly about Bilbo and his adventures with the dwarves. It’s sad then that their storyline got so overshadowed by the awesomeness that was the elves in this movie. (If you cast Lee Pace as an elf, what do you really expect though?) I can’t say that I cared too much for their visit to Lake-town or the interactions between Bilbo, Thorin, and Smaug. Other than Kili, none of the dwarves showed much personality–which was disappointing because I could have listened to a lot more dialogue delivered by James Nesbitt.

As for Smaug, I learned something very important about myself while watching him on the screen. Unless a dragon is voiced by Sean Connery, I am immediately not okay with it. For some reason, the dragon from Dragon Heart has wormed (pun intended) itself into my brain as the only acceptable dragon in film. I haven’t seen that movie since I was obsessed with David Thewlis (a.k.a. Remus Lupin) in high school so maybe if I watch it again that opinion will change.

I actually hope it will change. That’s a such weird opinion to have.

What Was Up with This Film Aesthetically?

After the awkward CGI of An Unexpected Journey, I fully expected Desolation of Smaug to follow in its over use of special effects footsteps. It did, but since this movie was visually darker than the first, the CGI didn’t look quite so horrible. Also, it helped that I noticed one or two of the orcs were actually people in makeup and suits–which was very, very refreshing.

Unfortunately, Desolation of Smaug was plagued by other visual problems–the greatest of which was that the aesthetics were all over the place.

While Lake-town looked like it was set in Dickensian London, Mirkwood looked ripped right out of an illustrated copy of The Hobbit. I understand that these are two very different locales, but the visual disconnect was too great for these two places to exist in the same movie.

The disconnect would have bothered me so much if I hadn’t fallen in love with the look of Thranduil’s elf kingdom so completely. It was obviously computer generated, but because it lacked the cliqued “Fantastical World” appearance of the rest of the generated scenery, I found it refreshing. It did literally look illustrated, and if the entire film series had followed through with that aesthetic, I wouldn’t have complained once about the CGI (Okay, that’s probably a lie. I would have complained much less).

Now, I very much want a Fantasy film that looks as if it was pulled from the pages of a fairy tale or from the cover of a fantasy novel. Maybe, it can star Lee Pace as Thranduil. I’d be all over that.

Ah, the Action Movie Trap!

My biggest issue with Desolation of Smaug didn’t come from the aesthetics or the completely misleading title but rather from the fact that there was practically no part of the book that was salvaged for this film. Sure, we go through the motions of having the dwarves escape from the elves in barrels and meet with the spiders and wrangle Smaug, BUT all of those scenes bear almost no resemblance to the same scenes in the book. Instead, Peter Jackson had to action movie them up.

It was frustrating to me to have this movie be so big and loud. My favorite parts of An Unexpected Journey were those scenes that were pulled directly from the source material. I hated that I didn’t get the same cozy Hobbit vibes from Desolation of Smaug.

I just wish Peter Jackson hadn’t felt the need to make this into an action film. It would have worked better and been more in the spirit of the novel to tone down the action and focus more on the adventure. I mean “adventure” is in the actual title of the first film! It makes sense.

In Conclusion

Surprisingly, I liked Desolation of Smaug and would watch it again. It may have been over-the-top, too actiony, and all over the place quality-wise, but there were a lot of things I loved about it. Okay, mostly, I loved Thandruil and Tauriel, but those two characters will be enough to keep me coming back.

I’m hoping that The Battle of the Five Armies will make an excellent ending to the series. At the very least, I look forward to seeing the ACTUAL Desolation of Smaug and more Thranduil.

Who is your favorite elf? Also, who’s your favorite dragon from film or books?  

Image Source: Kiss Them Goodbye

{March Into Middle-Earth} The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

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When The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey came out, I was on a NO-EPIC-FANTASY-AT-ALL kick. I’d been on that kick since overdosing on swords and sorcery in high school so it wasn’t any surprise then that I hated An Unexpected Journey when I saw it in the theater. I rolled my eyes and giggled under my breath as I sat through the nearly three hour film. It was tedious, annoying, and made me mad since I loved the book for what it was (a fairy tale) and not what Peter Jackson made it (a dreaded Epic Fantasy).

It’s been several years since An Unexpected Journey was released, and finally, I’m starting to read and like Epic Fantasy again. With March into Middle-earth, I felt it was time to give this series of films a second chance and, so far, I’m glad that I did.

Bring me your elves, goblins, and hobbits, I say!

The Problem With Prequels

First thing’s first, I had an epiphany while watching An Unexpected Journey. To me, The Hobbit films felt like the betrayal that Episodes I-III must have felt like to Star Wars fans. While I personally love the Star Wars prequels, I think I finally understand why people hate them so much. It’s hard to wait years and years for something and then at the end of all that waiting, to be presented with a product that’s completely incomprehensible and not what you wanted.

The Hobbit films were that let down for me and realizing that fact made me enjoy An Unexpected Journey a lot more.

The first time I saw the film I held onto to my love of the book (and, ahem, film structure) too strongly. Peter Jackson wasn’t trying to adapt The Hobbit with The Hobbit movies. He was making a prequel to The Lord of the Rings film trilogy. I don’t have to be happy with that choice to accept it and move on.

And, by moving on, I can finally watch the films for what they are and enjoy them. I may have enjoyed a strict adaptation of the book better, but here we are.

Another similarity between The Hobbit films and the Star Wars prequels I epiphanized (not a word but just go with it) was that the structure of An Unexpected Journey was very similar to that of the Star Wars prequels. The Star Wars prequels are not good movies, but they work well if you watch them as episodes of a miniseries. The hopping around structure makes more sense if you have that sort of mindset. It may be weird to forcibly watch a film in a way that it wasn’t intended, but it works. I’ll probably watch The Hobbit films in quick succession to keep up the miniseries illusion. That’s one of the benefits of waiting to watch these trilogies until they’re on DVD.

Some Things Stay the Same

Not surprisingly, my favorite parts of An Unexpected Journey were taken right out of the book. The two scenes that made me fall a bit in love with this movie were “Roast Mutton” and “Riddles in the Dark.”

These are actually two on my favorite parts of the book, and I loved the mixture of darkness and humor in these scenes. The “Roast Mutton” bit was particularly hilarious as Bilbo stalled for time as the sun came up. The dwarves insisting they didn’t have worms cracked me up. I liked when the dwarves weren’t being all angsty and sad in general. They’re pretty funny when given the chance.

As for “Riddles in the Dark,” I could practically quote whole passages from that chapter, and besides Bilbo not yelling “Time!” accidentally, the scene was absolutely perfect. I can’t wait to see Bilbo’s interaction with his other main foe, Smaug. I fully expect that scene to be fantastic too–and not only because it’ll pit Martin Freeman against Dragon!Cumberbatch.

The Cast is Perfection

When I first heard about The Hobbit being three films, I was angry. When I heard who was in the cast, I was angrier still because it felt like such a waste to have the perfect Hobbit cast in this series of films. I’ve gotten over that a bit with this rewatch, but I still find it a little weird that the cast of The Hobbit is basically a fancast that I would have come up with myself.

This whole movie is filled with British and Irish actors that I adore–from Richard Armitage to James Nesbitt to Aidan Turner to, well, basically everyone else. The casting of Lee Pace as Thranduil is particularly hilarious/wonderful to me. I can’t wait to see more of him in future films, especially since I assume he’ll be hanging out with his son, Legolas.

It was also great to have so much of original Lord of the Ring cast back. It’s amazing how little most of them had aged–making it entirely plausible that this film is set before the others. And, seriously, I know I’m not the first one to say this but does Elijah Wood even age? Is he secretly Dorian Gray? A vampire? Discuss.

Finally, was there really anyone else who could play Bilbo Baggins other than Martin Freeman? It would take a lot to convince me. He’s got the right amount of grumpiness for the character and he looks exactly like the picture I had of Bilbo in my head–only a bit less plump. I’m so glad Peter Jackson managed to get him for the role. It would have been a let down if someone else had been cast. He was perfect and I can’t wait to see him do more in The Desolation of Smaug.

What is Real? Anything?

The Hobbit is one movie that doesn’t benefit from watching on Bluray. I’m a huge fan of practical effects and shooting on film, but The Hobbit is unapologetically digital and that doesn’t look so great in HD. The film is simply too shiny and fake looking up close on a big TV. It’s distracting to see Wargs running weightlessly over the countryside and the dwarves fighting goblins in impractical ways. I understand that Fantasy films with their unusual creatures and larger than life stories are difficult to do without a heavy reliance on CGI, but I was disappointed that more of an effort wasn’t made to make the film look tactile. I want to go back and watch The Lord of the Rings films now to see the difference. I know more of the goblins and orcs were created from costumes and makeup in the original trilogy. Sometimes technology not being so advanced is a blessing.

One aspect of the effects that I will admit was fantastic was Gollum. Gollum was rendered fantastically–completely with little wrinkles on his face and intricate expressions. Andy Serkis is my CGI hero. Of course, it also helped that since Gollum was one of my favorite things about The Lord of the Rings films I was absolutely tickled to see him again.

In Conclusion

I don’t hate An Unexpected Journey anymore, and truthfully, that’s a bit unexpected in and of itself. While I do still grieve for The Hobbit film that could have been, I enjoyed Part One of this trilogy. I’m not sure these warm and fuzzy feelings will last through The Battle of the Five Armies, but I’m more than willing to see.

First, there comes a dragon.

What’s your favorite film in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings/Hobbit saga?