Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Cinetopia

Aaaand we're back. 'Tis time for some more list insanity to celebrate the dusking of 2011. This time it's a much shorter list: Movies I Saw In Theaters This Year. We're talking super-short. Goblinesque. But enough riffraff, let us commence:

Movies I Saw In Theaters This Year

1. The Chronicles Of Narnia: Voyage Of The Dawn Treader - So Prince Caspian is hot. Good movie.

2. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 - You know which Harry Potter character is hot? Oliver Wood. Know who's not in this movie? Oliver Wood.* But that's not what made me cry. Oh Snape, you crazy fool....

3. Puss In Boots - Kittehs!!!1 Adorable little romp. (Also: much better than Shrek.)

4. Muppets - As much as I enjoy the Muppets themselves, I've never LOVED any of their films. This was good, not great. Maybe it needed more Rowlf.

5. The King's Speech - OMG DARCY AND ELIZABETH WERE REUNITED AGAIN!!! Ummm hi?

6....

Well, I told you it was short.

Adieu.

*-I've been told Oliver is, in fact, in the movie, somewhere among all the fightin' wizards towards the end, but I have yet to spot him. And so, as far as I'm concerned, it does not count.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Tube

Well, 2011 is coming to a close. And I'm sure you know what that means! Yep, it means it's time for me (and you!) to start producing an obscene amount of lists. I know, I hate it too, but end-of-the-year listmaking is tradition, and I'll be darned if you try to mess with tradition. Especially around Christmastime. Do you want to make the Baby Santa cry?

I didn't think so.

So here's my first list to commemorate the ending of 2011: TV Shows I Watched This Year. This includes broadcast, cable, and on-demand shows, as well as stuff I gleaned from Netflix. 

TV Shows I Watched This Year

Community - The quirkiest, savviest, goofiest, most absurd TV show on the air right now. Says I. It cracks me up week after week. Thursday nights, NBC, 8pm. Except NBC has just put it on hiatus. Meanwhile, Whitney lives on. And there is no justice in the world, etc. etc.

Raising Hope - This is made by the same people who brought us My Name Is Earl, a show I also enjoyed. Martha Plimpton (THE GOONIES!) plays a grandmother. If that doesn't set you up for what kind of wackiness abounds here, well... just watch it and see. It's a clever little half-hour gem.

Castle - Okay, so it's formulaic to the max, but somehow I don't mind watching Nathan Fillion do roughly the same thing week after week.

Burn Notice - Jeffrey Donovan, who I've been crushing on for the past 14 years, plays an ex-spy who, along with Bruce Campbell (!) kicks some bootie in Florida. It's a fun romp. I'm only into, like, season two and there are five or more now... but I'll get caught up eventually!

Parking Wars - Who knew that watching the daily rituals of meter maids, booters, and towing company employees could be so fascinating? But really, this show makes the job seem kinda fun -- so long as you can avoid being beaten up by angry Philadelphians.

America's Next Top Model - In the past, I've really enjoyed this show. It's utterly ridiculous and hypocritical, but also entertaining. But this past season was an All-Stars season, and A) I'm really tired of reality shows doing all-star versions. Enough with the people we've seen before. And B) The focus of the show changed. And then one day, mid-season, they took things far, far down Ridiculousness Road. We're talking "past the point of no return." They forced the contestants to write their own pop song and do a music video for it. AND they made a rule that the song had to have the phrase "Pot Ledom - That's Top Model backwards!" in it.

POT LEDOM.

And that's when my soul left for Barcelona.

Toddlers & Tiaras - Another utterly ridiculous guilty pleasure. If you've only ever heard of the show, you may think it's about a bunch of bratty kids and their overindulgent parents. Yeah, some episodes are about those types. But there are actually a lot of perfectly normal kids involved, and plenty of INSANE PARENTS. If you can even call them parents. I saw one ep recently where the pageant mom cheerfully admitted that she had children in the first place so she'd have someone to enter in pageants. Lord help us all.

Cash & Cari - A self-proclaimed "treasure broker", Cari from Michigan runs estate sales and repurposes old furniture and other items. I love going to estate sales, so it makes sense I would also like watching a show about them. It's cool taking a peek into other people's homes and seeing what they collected. And no, it's not creepy at all... why, does it sound like it is?

Auction Hunters - There are a lot of auction shows out there right now, but my favorite is Auction Hunters, in which two guys go to storage locker auctions and bid on ones that look good at a minutes' glance. Then they get to dig through the units they've won and see what kind of treasures are lurking. While the show generally only covers the units in which they score big (which they admit are rare), it's fun to watch. I live vicariously through those two!

Pawn Stars - Another "treasure" show, this one mostly focuses on people coming into the pawn shop to sell their supposedly valuable items. Half the time the items turn out to be genuine, the rest of the time, the patrons leave swearing up a storm. It's neat.

American Pickers - Mike and Frank drive across America with a van, picking up junk and goodies out of backroad barns and backyards. It's as much a "treasure" show as it is a show about people. I wish I had the guts and gusto to do that sort of thing.

Switched at Birth - Two teenage girls -- one, a rich brat (Bay), the other, a ghetto-dwelling deaf girl (Daphne) -- discover that they were switched at birth. Daphne and her mother and grandmother end up moving into the guest house of Bay's family. Complications ensue. It's really a neat show that raises a lot of questions and deals with family and friendship issues. It's surprisingly well-done -- except for the acting. In true ABC Family tradition, you kind of want to strangle 70% of the actors. Even Lea Thompson, who I love from the Back to the Future films, grates on my last nerve. But it's still worth watching.

Drop Dead Diva - I've barely gotten into this show, but I like what I've seen so far. Two women die on the same day, and one comes back to life in the other's body. Only it's a much larger body than she's used to. Cool concept, and I love the main actress.

Pan Am - This is actually a brand-new show on ABC, and I really enjoy it. It's about a group of Pan Am stewardesses and pilots, and is set in the 60s. At first I thought it couldn't be very interesting if every episode is about a plane ride, but I was pleased to discover they spend only part of the time on the plane and the rest in exotic locations. I love the time period; I wasn't around in the 60s, but it feels authentic.

7 Up - 49 Up - This is an older show that is now available on Netflix. Back in the 60's, a filmmaker interviewed a dozen or so children, asking them questions about their lives, families, friends, wishes, and dreams. Seven years later, he talked to them again. Then seven years later. With each episode, we watch the "children" age and change. Some get married, some get divorced, some have children, some spiral downhill, some make a comeback, some leave the project altogether. But the ones that stick around become like old friends. It's a fascinating series.

Portlandia - My first thought upon hearing about this was: "A show about Portland?! What do THEY know about my hometown?" I didn't know it was going to be a sketch comedy show reminiscent of Kids In The Hall. I found it highly amusing -- not because it satirizes PDX (one could argue it satirizes artsy, booksy hipsters everywhere) -- but because it's just plain funny.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Places I've Never Been

Just about everyone I know has been to Europe or Africa or Asia or South America.

I have yet to leave North America.

And, in fact, I haven't even set foot in New England. Or New York City. Or our nation's capital.

But I hope to remedy that someday. Or maybe next summer.

So here it is: a list of places I want to visit. Not all at once, of course. But someday. And as I visit them, I will come back here and cross them off. Or put a :) next to them. We'll see.

You may think some of these places are strange choices. You may also think a few places are missing from this list. Feel free to make suggestions. But this is what I have so far:

Places I Want To Go/Places I've Never Been

Tivoli Gardens and Legoland in Denmark


Disneyland Paris in France

England: London and surrounding towns, Hadrian's Wall, Sherwood Forest (uh, sensing a theme?), places of my ancestors' birth (Shelton, Exeter, Taunton, Chesham, Brushford, Shalford, Essex, Giggleswick, Hatton), and the WB Studios.

(ETA 12/26/13: Also locations from Pride & Prejudice)

Glasgow

Toronto


San Diego Zoo

Massachusetts: Boston (10/2015, 6/2018), Concord, Walden Pond

New York City: Central Park, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Niagara Falls

Washington D.C. (10/2015)

Connecticut (10/2015)

Vermont

New Hampshire


Nova Scotia (6/2018)

New Brunswick

Amsterdam: especially the Anne Frank house

Gibraltar (Saw the Rock - 9/2015)

Belgium

Salzburg, Austria

Venice, Italy (9/2015)



ETA 12/26/13:

Florida - Harry Potter land, Beauty and the Beast attractions at Disney World, EPCOT, Legoland

Australia

Antarctica

Panama Canal


ETA 10/11/15:

Rome, Italy

Florence, Italy

Munich and Berlin, Germany


ETA 1/21/19:

Tyrone, Ireland

Östergötland County, Sweden

Plymouth, UK





Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Wingardium Leviosa

I'm in the midst of rereading the Harry Potter series for the first time in maybe four years. In that span, three HP films have been released. I've seen all the movies twice or more, save for the very last one, which made me cry, darnit. CRY! Actually, that isn't that big a deal. Lots of movies make me cry. Pollyanna, for one. Glad game? More like SAD game, amirite?

Anyway, the HP movies are good enough, but it has always bugged me how different they are from the books. It rarely bothers me when I'm watching the movie... Okay, yes, sometimes I'll be sitting there going, NOOO! Why is that DIFFERENT?? But usually, it's when I'm rereading the book after seeing its celluloid counterpart that I start to get my mittens in a twist.

I've just finished with book 5 and I think this is the worst so far... for having changed things from page to screen, I mean. Movie 4 certainly cuts a lot of rubbish out of book 4, streamlines things -- and thank goodness for that, because Hermione's obsession with the welfare of house elves is disconcerting at best -- but movie 5 just... rips apart the book. It was as if the filmmakers said, "Nice premise, Rowling, but we think we know how to tell a story just a leeetle better than you do!" I get it; books and movies are not the same. But boy is movie 5... off.

Here are a few of the differences that I noticed:

In the movie, Harry (inadvertently) reverses the legilimency spell on Snape to see his traumatic teenage memories. In the book, Harry uses the pensieve when Snape gets called out of his office and that's how he sees the memories.

In the movie, Harry and Hermione lead professor Umbridge to Grawp the giant; then the centaurs show up and chase her off.  In the book, Hermione leads them to the centaurs, not Grawp, and once she realizes THAT was a mistake, Grawp comes along and the centaurs scatter (but they still take Umbridge, hehe.)

In the movie, Hagrid barely mentions his travels to see the giants. In the book, there's half a chapter devoted to his adventures.

In the movie, Cho Chang betrays Dumbledore's Army, but later we learn that it was because she was fed truth serum. In the book, it's Cho's friend who betrays them, truth serum has nothing to do with it, and Cho is really, really annoying.

In the movie, as I recall, there isn't any Quidditch. In the book, Ron tries out for keeper and makes it but he's really bad (they explored this in movie six instead). At one of the Quidditch matches, Harry and one of the Weasley twins are provoked by Draco Malfoy and beat him up, and as a result have their broomsticks confiscated by Umbridge and are banned from Quidditch "for life". I mention this, not because I particularly like Quidditch scenes, but because there are SO many in book five, it seems very strange to have all them left out of the movie.

In the movie, there is little or no mention of Percy. In the book, he's a huge gitasode, he leaves the Weasley family over their differences, and they don't reconnect for like two years.

I could keep going, but A) I sound like a nerd, B) I'm sure someone else on the internet has already done their dissertation on this very subject and has covered it in much more depth than I ever could, and C) seriously, I need to stop being nitpicky and just try to enjoy things.

And so I'm off to read book six...