surely i oughta…

Honestly, I ought to go back to bed. Come to think of it, I probably ought to go upstairs and study some more. But while I might be a night owl in normal life, I can’t make myself a night owl for my college studies. Especially when I’m not one of the teeny-bopper students that I trip over all the time. 🙂 12168714_10153620567529976_1870777962_oThough I find more and more that being a “returning student” is not a completely unheard of thing, nowadays. We are not alone. Sort of.

I wasn’t asleep, but just getting comfy and then decided that I needed to check some things on my computer. It’s been a long time since I’ve been on here, hasn’t it? But while snippets of story ideas and photo opportunities come my way, at the end of the day, I don’t have any brain space left for blogging. Unlike my time in Australia, when all I had was a constant story to tell, right? Or when I was jobless before school started? Perhaps I still have that 12124494_10153625474544976_1265596368_ostory to tell… but I’m too tired to tell it, mostly. Or when I do feel like telling it, it’s usually because I’m avoiding something. You know, like going to bed or doing homework. Fall has begun, here in the South, and I’m looking forward to taking some pictures of the changing leaves… with my phone, at least, though I tell myself I really should get over to the Botanical Gardens on one of these glorious cool days. I might even do it, between books that I’m reading for my history classes. I’m taking three of them, by the way. Modern South America, Britain from 1688 til now, and Museum History. The latter was to see what’s what in the field of Public History, but I don’t really think I’m going into that field. But I have learned one thing… no matter whether you agree with a museum curator’s method of arranging 12171063_10153621803034976_751679144_otheir exhibit or not, give them due credit. They work their backsides off for next to nothing, and often, their only reward is criticism. So, be nice to the museum people, they work hard.

What else has been happening? Weddings and receptions and drooling over DIY projects on Instagram. So, of course, after every wedding, I have tons of pics of my cousins’ kids and my friends’ kids. I have to take pictures of SOMEBODY’s kids, you know, if I can’t have my own yet! If you remember my darlings from Australia, then I can’t survive for long without playing with the kiddos. Come to think of it, I really don’t have much time for that, either. No wonder I’m always tired… haven’t gotten my baby fix. I was going to try, the other week, but then SC had serious flooding along the coast and in Columbia (the capital, at the center of the state). Interstates got shut down, roads got broken up by flooding.12022006_10153581173309976_1545617657_n

If you’re into certain shows on TV, I manage to watch Dancing With the Stars and Once Upon a Time, every week… but at the moment, I’m at least a season behind on Castle. It’s very sad, but two shows is the limit for TV goof-off time. Movies? I haven’t been to the theater in eons, but we did finally watch The Avengers: Age of Ultron during my fall break. That was quite fun, and it taught me my new favorite quote.

“The elevator isn’t worthy.”

Speaking of movies, yes, I am paying close attention to all the hoopla surrounding the upcoming Star Wars movie. However, I am a serious Star Wars BOOK geek, more so than the movies. I love the movies, especially the originals, but I’ve been reading the books for 20 years of my life. So, now, they have declared most of that 20 years of book to be NON-CANON. Don’t even talk to me about it. My 12033463_10153581340084976_447329520_nbrother and I have been cringing for a long time over it. So, yes, I’m thrilled by the newest trailer, but as much as I love J.J. Abrams, ask the Star Trek fans about their last movies. I am seriously looking forward to THIS movie, and yet I’m positive they’re going to ruin it. Because the books are brilliant… at least many of them are. So, they’re not allowed to change the story, sorry. Ok, I need to stop… this subject gets me steamed.

Books…. yes, I’m always reading books. Haven’t updated my list in a while. Sorry. I’ve been bingeing on Georgette Heyer again, though I also read through some of Juliet Marillier’s books, recently. The Shadowfell series, and then rereading Wildwood D12162874_10153606713649976_1342687055_oancing and Cybele’s Secret. I was even in a Barnes & Noble, recently, and that made my week. What did I buy? Oh, right, the new Rick Riordan book. Which I enjoyed, but I’m not awake enough to go into detail. Also, a kids’ book called The Doldrums, which I’m still reading slowly, interspersed with Heyer. Because you know, Georgette Heyer remains brilliant, and I go back to them like comfort food. If I could write like she did, I’d die happy… and rich, too, probably.

I’m running out of steam. I do actually have to get up in the morning, even though my class isn’t until afternoon, because as I said, I have a math test AND I need to make an attempt at reading some pages (in German) more in depth. We’re starting to study sports in Germany, in GER 305.

11939122_10153526703864976_2017429301_oAnd blast, do you know, I just remembered I should have looked at the school website and decide on which classes to register for, for next semester? I have a meeting with my advisor this week, and really need to have my list ready to show him.

So, to close this rambling post of mine, I’m going to include some of the latest pics I’ve taken, some selfies, some kiddos, one abandoned mill that my museum professor took us to see, and proof that I’m still an honorary Aussie… I have to have my Vegemite! Especially when it’s on my mom’s homemade toast. If we have them in the house, I add avocado slices, too. Heavenly!

I hope to be rambling at you again soon. Have a great week! 🙂

of hunger & katniss…

So, I went to see The Hunger Games again, with a friend who has never even heard of them. So, when I wasn’t feeling delighted over our wonderfully quiet audience, I was trying to put myself into the shoes of someone who had never read the books. It’s an interesting point of view, one that could almost bring you to tears, but as I know the whole story, there were no tears from me. That doesn’t mean I wasn’t tempted, a time or two, though.

[SPOILERS AHEAD! If you haven’t seen the film, and don’t want to know anything up front, stop NOW!]

When I first saw the trailers for The Hunger Games, I was a little leery over whether Jennifer Lawrence could really pull off Katniss. But the later ones began to convince, while they suggested that they had picked the perfect Peeta Mellark, in Josh Hutcherson. Gale, however, is another story.

A second viewing of the movie tells me that though Liam Hemsworth will do his best, he doesn’t LOOK like Gale. Not that he even has a huge part in the movie, but the minute he arrives on-screen, he’s not being quiet and he’s joking around with Katniss. He’s too big, with loads of boyish charm in that face. My impression of Gale is that he should be more like Katniss, smaller, quieter, darker, and self-contained. Yes, he only opens up with those that he’s closest to, so he only should’ve opened up his character, a bit at a time.

The movie introduced the friendship between the two, and then only showed Gale again, later, in order to make you feel sorry for him, as Katniss and Peeta become closer. As the Gale and Katniss are still only friends, I think they should have shown Gale, looking after Prim and her mother, rather than just having him look sorry for himself, left out of the romance.

Aside from this one character issue (and I’m sure Gale will grown on me, by the next movie), I think the movie makers did a great job with their story. Primrose was perfectly played, as the little girl who everyone wants to protect, with her sister mothering her, because her mother is too broken and separate from things, to do so herself.

I don’t know if it was the “shaky cam” technique I was seeing in the film, but they seemed to be trying to show things from Katniss’ point of view, so sometimes things were blurry and confused, just like it would be for her, as she tries to take in what she’s done. Her volunteering in her sister’s place was the right thing to do, but she’s still in shock, once she realizes she’s really being torn away from her family as a sacrifice.

Effie Trinket’s performance at the Reaping is quite something, her pink toned outfit showing up garishly against the plain, simple garments of the District 12 residents. She seems oblivious to what the Capitol is really doing to its countrymen, despite the “wonderful film” that they show, with President Snow making the Hunger Games sound like a good thing. The implication is that the sacrifice of the Tributes will contribute to “togetherness”, while it’s really just telling Panem that they can’t rebel, because the Capitol has the power to kill their children.

I don’t think Haymitch Abernathy was quite such a dapper dog, in the books, but I think Woody Harrelson’s interpretation of him is great. He looks like a drunken sot, which to a degree, he is, but there’s more hidden under it. He pulls no punches with the kids, pokes fun at Effie, and keeps a sense of humor about him (I love his reactions to Katniss’ shooting the apple from the pig’s mouth). But you must remember, this man has lived with YEARS of knowing that he was the only survivor from his own Hunger Games. There’s a weight of death and remembrance that has turned him into what he is. He was a victim, just like them, once. And maybe he still is… but now he has a say in what happens to these new tributes.

The Capitol residents are quite shocking, just as they are in the book, with their lives being devoted to haute couture and pleasures of every kind. I liked the one scene which shows Haymitch gazing at the father that gifts his child with a gold plastic sword, so the children run around, making believe that death is a game. And it shows what the Games really are, to the Capitol residents. Just a game, a movie, made for their entertainment, with no thought to the real-life consequences, or that real people are dying in the arena.

I loved Cinna, and at the moment, I think Katniss has more chemistry with him than she has with Peeta. But in way, that’s correct. Because Cinna knows what she’s about to face, and doesn’t hide from the facts, so she can be real with him. Nothing romantic between them, but no need to hide. With Peeta, she hasn’t learned to be real with him, and they haven’t yet become romantically involved. Even at the end of the movie, Katniss is putting on a show, and it hasn’t become real for her… the romance, I mean. Oh, it is for Peeta, but not for her. And like President Snow, who isn’t convinced that their “love” is real, we aren’t either.

But you have to remember, here’s a difference between a movie and a book. If you’ve read the books, you know what’s going on in Katniss’ head, from the very first day. You know when she makes the choice to kiss Peeta, deliberately putting on a show, in order to save Peeta’s life. But in the movie, we can’t get inside her head, so we’re less prepared for the jump to kisses and cuddles. For those who say they don’t have much chemistry yet, I think that’s the way it’s supposed to be. On Katniss’ side, she and Peeta have only known each other personally, for about a month.

On Peeta’s side, of course, he’s been in love with her since he was a little girl. My first obnoxious movie audience laughed at the idea of him watching her walk home from school, every day, as if he were some kind of stalker. No, he was a boy in love, from the age of 10 or 12, onward. He just watched her from a distance, and once, he gave her bread when she was starving. And in Hutcherson’s acting, I saw him accept her attentions, like a man that’s drowning, as his injuries are overcoming him, and he wants to believe that she’s finally beginning to care for him. Because even in this instance, Peeta wants to believe the best in others, while Katniss tends to see the pessimistic or realistic side of things.

Before I forget, Stanley Tucci’s Caesar Flickerman is just awesome. Flickerman is supposed to be a bit cheesy, immensely likeable, seemingly oblivious to the harsher elements of the games, and yet the tributes can still get along with him. He’s someone they’ve been seeing on television, since they were children, even more so than Effie Trinket, in District Twelve. They are blinded to the realities of life, but in a way, the residents of Panem still have a sort-of affection for them.

I don’t remember much about Seneca Crane, from the book, but I found myself liking his character, as he oversees things as Games Coordinator. He’s a fascinating mixture of someone who forgets that death is real and terrible, and yet, when he changes the rules for the “star-crossed lovers”, he’s looking to human nature, and how they cheer for the underdogs. And he even admits to liking an underdog, which makes Sutherland’s President Snow all the more terrifying.

Compared to having a liking for the dapper Crane, with his strange and wonderful beard, President Snow looks like a white-haired patriarch, who cares only for his roses. But underneath his Santa Claus exterior, he’s like a venomous snake, waiting to bite. Crane still has some humanity in him, which is why I liked him, but you cringe and feel sorry for him, realizing he’s been put in a ring with the viper that is Snow. And in the end, though Crane doesn’t know it yet, the viper will take him down… perhaps because of that last piece of humanity that Crane possessed.

As the Games begin, though we’ve had a glimpse of the cruelty of the Career Tributes, you don’t really get the full idea, until the blood bath at the Cornucopia. The director makes it seems like we’re viewing it from Katniss’ viewpoint, with things being blurry, fast, and confusing. You see sprays of blood, but you don’t see the teens actually being killed. But you know they’re dead.

And from Katniss’ position, up a tree, you really see that the Career Tributes only see death as another game. It was reminiscent of The Lord of the Flies, where the boys went feral, after being on the island for some time. These kids, both boys and girls, have been raised to kill, find torture and slaughter to be humorous, and have no remorse, unless faced with their own deaths. Listening to Clove jokingly mimic the tribute they have just killed… it’s horrifying. A culture of death, immortalized for their world to watch, on television.

Rue is adorable and smart, so from the first time you see her, you want her to make it, somehow. And you get a little glimpse of Thresh’s smile, when they’re in the training room, and Rue has stolen Cato’s knife. You remember that Thresh once knew how to laugh and smile, even when he’s rescuing Katniss from Clove, and kills her with his bare hands. But Rue, like Prim, is another little girl that Katniss is doing her best to protect. When Marvel kills Rue, it’s like having Prim taken from her, except this time, Katniss is unable to sacrifice herself to save her. So, the best she can do is sing her to sleep, and show her the respect that the Capitol has never given her.

When Katniss picks a bouquet of Queen Anne’s Lace to leave with Rue, I was reminded that this story is supposed to be set in my country, in a future time. Those flower are wildflowers that you can find all over the East Coast of America, and my own aunt used them in her wedding bouquet. Seeing the flowers, a piece of home, made Katniss’ loss seem even more real.

I think I’ve already covered enough of Katniss and Peeta’s relationship, so I won’t go over it again. At the end, I knew the monsters were coming, but I was debating whether they would really incorporate the faces of the dead tributes into them. Thankfully, they didn’t. Or if they did, it was too fast-moving for me to catch. But this section kept going back and forth between the game coordinators, as they prepared to put the beasts into the arena. Just like the forest fire that almost killed Katniss, earlier, it showed me again how they only see this as a game. Crane may be likeable, but he’s still fascinated with the look of the beasts that are engineered to be instruments of a painful, drawn-out death. Likeability only goes so far.

And at the end, I’m not sure I heard right, but I think Cato seems to finally realize that this game of death really isn’t a GAME, because he knows that death is waiting for him. Even with a final showdown with his competition, amidst his bloody injuries, he sees destruction staring him in the face, finally. But he still takes a swing at defeating it. At the last, you almost feel sorry for him, as he comes to this realization, and then Katniss gives him mercy, when the monsters won’t. And by monsters, I meant the dog-beasts (I’ve forgotten their names from the books), but the title “monster” could just as easily apply to the people in the Capitol, who show no mercy to these teenagers.

So, thinking about that, I’m curious to see how they’ll portray the next Game Coordinator, Plutarch Heavensbee, as he’s the one preparing to help the Districts rebel against the Capitol. I’m guessing he’ll have some more humanity than Crane, but he still has to disguise it from President Snow and his cronies.

I look forward to what they’ll do with the next film. The characters were all well-acted, and there’s room for growth in all of them. I want to see the “romance” between Peeta and Katniss develop, as we know that it begins as an act, and somewhere along the way, Katniss no longer knows whether it’s real or not. Even having read the book, I can see any number of ways they could portray this on film, and I’m ready to see how they do it. How about you?

Meanwhile, if you haven’t read the books before seeing the first movie, then get to it, before the next one comes out!

movies aren’t small potatoes…

Yes, I went to see The Hunger Games. And before you ask, NO, I will not be sharing any spoilers, so get a grip already. Sorry, I’ve already been threatened by friends, who obviously have my best interest at heart. “Don’t tell me anything that happens, or I’ll kill you! Got it?”  It’s all said in love, of course. I hope.

But since I got to see it first (unless some of my buddies wangled an advance viewing, somewhere), because I’m in Australia, I can now thumb my nose at my friendly threateners. As it happens, I left the movie theater annoyed, but not because of the movie itself. Because of the audience.

When I’m in the U.S., and I know a movie is coming out that I want to see, I usually go to the very first matinee that I can manage to get to. Preferably about 10 or 11 in the morning. Why? Because I’ll have the theater to myself, and I don’t have to gripe inwardly about the crassness and absolute rudeness of the general public.

You know what? It doesn’t matter what country you’re in, Australia, the United States or any other. I’ll still tell you, if you want to go to a movie to talk and chatter through the whole thing, go see a comedy, or an action movie (where you can’t hear anything, anyway). If you’re going to see a drama (or something else that’s serious), then plan on being serious, and… shut the hell up.

Was I the only one in the audience that wanted to shriek at the rest of the group? I hope not. I’ve read the books, I care about the characters, and I wanted to see how things turned out in the movie version. Obviously, we know how it ends. But I wanted to know if they would do justice to the book. If they acted well, or if they’re descended from John Malkovich (don’t get me started). I wanted to see how everyone interacted, and feel my heart racing, as we reached the final showdown! Now, I got to do all that, but with a bad taste in my mouth, wanting to knock some sense into my neighbors.

Rude, obnoxious audience members, you take away from the movie experience of others, and I wish you’d go spend your money watching some movie that’s just as rude and obnoxious as you are.

~

Now, that I’ve got that off my chest, I’ll talk a little more normally. Sorry, I was steamed! When I got back from the movie, it occurred to me that I really should eat something that doesn’t involve potatoes, but I just couldn’t seem to help myself. Yes, if I go to Bogey’s for dinner, and have leftovers, I eat them for breakfast. And yesterday, I made potato soup, and today, I made a second batch of it, because the first batch got devoured. No, not just by me, by the whole family. It was definitely a hit.

So, having just had another delicious bowl of spicy potato soup, I’ll share with you about it. The original recipe comes straight from The Redwall Cookbook. If you know your Redwall books, then you know that they’re full of descriptions of delicious food. One of my favorites, that I always wanted to try was shrimp ‘n’ hotroot soup. A favorite of the otters in the stories, it’s full of vegetables, potatoes, shrimp, and tons of hotroot pepper!

Of course, in real life, this is either chili pepper or curry powder. Your call. When I finally bought my own copy of the cookbook, I followed the recipe and then expanded on it. I don’t remember if the recipe actually calls for carrots, but there are usually carrots in the books. Also, garlic may or may not be included, but I certainly use garlic powder. Over the last few years, my recipe has changed a time or two, and now that I’ve reached Australia, it took another path.

My Aussie family is allergic to prawns, or at least some of them are, so adding shrimp to the soup was not an option. Hence the name, Spicy Potato Soup. And with my first attempt, here in Emerald, I tried adding gnocchi (potato dumplings), but I didn’t think they tasted good at all in this soup, so I picked them back out again. Here is my recipe, as best as I can remember.

~

Spicy Potato Soup

1-2 yellow onions

3-4 green onions/shallots

butter

chicken or beef broth

3-8 carrots

4-10 potatoes (depending on the size)

1 cup milk

garlic powder

chili powder

salt (black pepper, optional)

~

I know that looks like a skimpy recipe, but I find that my soup recipes vary, depending on my available ingredients, and whether I’m in the mood to chop things up. I also use corn starch (corn flour) to thicken the broth, but I ran out, today, so I added my leftover soup from yesterday, and that went just fine.

First, cook as many onions and shallots as you want to, in butter, until they’re brown. The original recipe called for leeks, but I’ve never used them, because I didn’t like the price. After that, add some chicken broth (though I’ve used beef broth, before). It depends on the size of your pot, and how many veggies you use. Today, I used about 4 cups, I think, and I used a chicken bouillon powder, while at home, I used chicken base.

Since I like LOTS of potatoes and carrots, and I know that the broth level will rise, I was careful to not put too much broth in. You want your potatoes to cook until they’re soft enough to put a potato masher in the pot, and break them down into bits. Add as much chili powder, salt, and garlic powder as you want. At home, I put tons of chili powder in, but here, I have “Mexican chilli powder”, which is a bit zippier than the home version. And it’s labeled “mild”, too. So, don’t overdo on the chili powder, if you can’t handle the spice.

When the potatoes have started to dissolve, you can slowly add your milk, and if you were doing the original shrimp ‘n’ hotroot recipe, you’d add the shrimp. When I was eating it, today, I kept feeling like something was missing, but it still tasted delicious.

Finally, I take corn starch and water, and slowly stir that in, to thicken it. But thickening isn’t necessary, just a preference of mine. If you put enough potatoes in, your soup will thicken, eventually. Taste your broth, make sure it’s salted enough, and you’re good to go.

Sorry, I don’t have any pictures of the soup making, I was in quite a hurry, trying to finish chopping the veggies, so that I could play cards with one of my girls, who stayed home because she wasn’t feeling well. Once the potatoes and carrots were in the pot, they cooked for at least half an hour, if not more, without me having to do anything.

And there you have it. Never thought I’d fit a movie and potato soup into one post. Now, could someone PLEASE get that Hi-5 song out of my head? I’ll take the Thomas the Train song, any day!

a delightful jaunt to mars…

I’ve never read any books by Edgar Rice Burroughs. So, despite never having heard of A Princess of Mars, or any of the other books about John Carter, I was attracted to the idea of John Carter. This was a completely unknown story (to me), set in space, but not related to either Star Wars or the Alien series, and being marketed by Disney. I enjoyed the trailer, so looked forward to seeing it, despite all the rumors of overspending and “flops”. I’ve heard people say it was dull and that it has no storyline. So, I went to see it, anyway. [Spoilers ahead!]

What is everyone complaining about? I found the movie to be delightful. Any difficulty with following the initial story would just come from unfamiliarity. Most viewers are completely unfamiliar with the tale, or the back story, so the director had to insert some sort of prologue, to help us figure out what’s going on. But though I didn’t catch all the names, it didn’t take me long to orient myself. Besides, some of the first characters you meet, Sab Than and Matai Shang, are played by Dominic West and Mark Strong. I’m willing to follow almost any storyline, with these guys acting.

Some of you will remember Dominic West from Centurion and 300, but my favorite memories of him are from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, where he starred alongside Michelle Pfeiffer, Stanley Tucci, Kevin Kline, Christian Bale, Rupert Everett, and many others. He held his own, and I figure if he can handle Shakespeare, he can handle anything.

From the brief intro to the wars on Barsoom (Mars), the tale takes us to Earth, where John Carter is being followed by a strange man, sends an urgent telegram, and then we find that he’s dead. His nephew, Edgar Rice Burroughs, has been left all of Carter’s wealth, as well as Carter’s diary. As soon as the lawyer leaves, the young, awkward-looking Burroughs begins to read the diary, as Carter’s voice says that “it all began thirteen years ago…”.

John Carter is a gold miner, trying to escape his past, but some of the U.S. Cavalry are conscripting him to ride for them, and he shows himself to be completely belligerent about it. After bloodying numerous members of the military, flinging himself out of windows, and getting increasingly bloody, himself, he tricks the guard, and escapes. An Apache showdown occurs, and in the losing battle, he rescues the wounded Captain that was originally persecuting him to join up.

They ride into the hills and take shelter in a cave, where the Apaches shy away from the strange symbols written there. A strange man appears out of nowhere, startling Carter, and attempting to kill him. In the scuffle, the stranger dies, and Carter picks up his glowing blue medallion… and is transported to a new world. Or at least to a strange place. He still thinks he’s on Earth.

He tries to stand up and walk away, but keeps bouncing and falling down, ignominiously. Think of Superman, learning how to fly. Carter eventually figures out how to jump very high, and traverse the landscape, quickly. But he has no idea why he can do it.

A hilarious introduction to the younglings of the Tharks, the green Martians, is quite funny. You feel trepidation, eying up the collection of eggs, from which burst some squalling green infants. The Tharks attack, but Tars Tarkus sees him jump, and does his best to calm Carter down, and introduce himself. Resulting in the amusing misunderstanding of Carter’s name, which they take to be “Virginia”.

As Carter begins to learn his way amongst the aliens, he collects an outcast Thark named Sola (played by Samantha Morton) and an alien “dog” named Woola. The “dog” was a bit of a cross between E.T. and a frog. He was definitely a huge favorite with the audience, as he travels at lightning speed, but still acts like a normal dog. A smart animal, he was able to get in trouble, follow orders, and come to the rescue. And Woola always got some laughs.

Meanwhile, in the city of Helium, the residents are aware that Sab Than is unstoppable in his quest to take over the planet, but has now requested that he marry the princess of Helium, Deja Thoris. Her father (played by Ciaran Hinds) is heartbroken, but knows that his people will all die, if he denies the conqueror’s demand. Deja, a bit of a scientist, is trying to discover something called the “ninth ray”, in order to fight back against their oppressors, but her machine is vandalized.

Carter comes across Deja, as she attempts to run away from her prospective husband, but he only interferes with the air battle, when he realizes that a woman is in danger. By this time, he has discovered that he can leap to such heights as air ships, and bounds all over the place, seriously annoying Sab Than.

Given a chance to run away, Princess Deja (whom Carter refers to as “Professor”), Carter, Woola, and Sola head for a holy place, to try and discover the use of the medallion, and get Carter back to Earth. At the same time, Deja tries to convince Carter to stay. He is obviously developing feelings for her, but the memories that are still tied to his wedding ring are keeping him from going further.

Captured again, the Princess agrees to the marriage, as she believes that Carter has been able to return to Earth. Carter is taken captive by Matai Shang, whose “ninth ray” powers keep him from doing anything but watch the wedding procession. But his rescue comes from an unusual and hilarious direction. Of course, he must return to the Tharks and fight for his life, in order to convince them to help him.

I won’t tell you how it all turns out on Barsoom. But we return to Ned Burroughs, who has just read that as long as Carter’s body is kept alive, in the mausoleum (burial chamber), his other self can continue to live on Mars. You see, Carter’s death was a bit of a trick, but I won’t explain how. It took him thirteen years to find what he needed, and now his plan was ready. His diary warns Ned that before his “death”, he was being stalked, and Matai Shang may have reached his body already, destroying it, and preventing his return to Mars. Young Ned immediately rushes to the rescue, as a stranger looks on.

I probably gave you too many details, but if you go to see it, you’ll have a little familiarity with the story, to help you out. I loved the movie, and think that when it comes out on DVD, I will enjoy watching it several more times, probably with subtitles, to see what I missed on the first viewing. I enjoyed the fact that Taylor Kitsch, who played John Carter, was still something of an unknown (yes, I know he’s played Gambit), which makes you see him as Carter, and not himself. Kitsch did a great job, didn’t make me laugh over any speeches, but instead, I believed what he said. This was no Jake Gyllenhaal playing around inside of a video game, that’s for sure.

And despite my naming of some of the other actors and actresses, I felt the rest were such good actors, and so well established in their character, they I didn’t sit there, thinking of their real names, whenever I saw their names. Unlike some other movies, I didn’t think Ciaran Hinds, Willem Dafoe, or Thomas Haden Church were “slumming”. They’re the great actors that helped carry the film.

No, I’m sure the movie wasn’t perfect, but I was never taken out of the story by the alien characters or any of the other special effects. It was done so seamlessly, I had no trouble believing in this world. And I loved how the romance between Carter and Dejah developed, and even let him confront his demons, over the loss of his first wife and child.

Anyone who asks, I will tell them that I loved the film, found the story delightful, and will definitely be getting a copy, when it comes to DVD. If you’ve read a review that says it’s a flop, go see it for yourself, and don’t take their word, or mine, for it. As far as I’m concerned, Disney may have spent too much money, making this movie, but I think they did an excellent job. Good on ya, Disney. Keep ’em coming.

[Update: Yes, you’re seeing more articles about how this movie is doing at the box office. The naysayers are out in force. Ignore them. This is NOT another case of Mars Needs Moms, even if the same planet is involved. This was a good movie, with great actors playing wonderful characters, that shouldn’t be forgotten just because Disney overspent itself.]

a solemn promise…

I didn’t know it was possible for me to want to go outside (during this Australian summer) in order to thaw out. But that’s just what happened after I went to the movies last time, and forgot to bring a hoodie or a pashmina scarf to huddle into. By the time we left the theater, my friends probably thought I’d been crying during the movie, because I kept blowing my nose. In actuality, it was like when you’re outside on a cold winter day, and your nose feels like it’s probably dripping, but since it’s numb, you can’t quite be sure. Hence, the blowing of the nose, and the presumption that I’m in tears. In fact, as good and as enjoyable as the movie was, I didn’t shed a tear. So there.

The movie I saw was The Vow, starring Rachel McAdams and Channing Tatum. I knew, going into this, that it was based on a true story, and what the main plot was. But because of how it was advertised and filmed, I kept thinking I was in a Nicholas Sparks movie. Which is why I continued to be pleasantly surprised, as bit by bit, the story was revealed.

[Spoiler Alert, if you haven’t seen The Vow yet, don’t read any further!]

I’m not saying that I don’t like movies based on Nicholas Sparks’ books. I’m just picking on his movies as an example of how Hollywood films “chick flicks”. And while I think that a chick flick of that sort can be very enjoyable, they can be and should be so much more than eye candy. Like most women out there, I saw The Notebook, and loved it. But only later, did it begin to register that I was so caught up in the romance, that I was blinded to the characters’ morals.

Ok, I’m going off on a rabbit trail for a bit. I will come back to The Vow, eventually.

In The Notebook, you are immediately touched by the beauty of James Garner’s character looking out for the woman he loves, even when she no longer remembers him. And as he tells her their story, you’re delighted by young love and the mischief the two of them get into. But then they’re apart, and she begins to find love with another man, and agrees to marry him.

Of course, then Noah comes back into her life, and she has to choose between the two. Everybody remembers the iconic fight and kissing-in-the-rain resolution that ends up with the two of them in bed, and she wonders what she’s missed by not having sex like that before. But while you’re caught up in the romance, you’re missing something. She is lying and cheating on her fiance. Has anybody ever realized this?

Sure, all movies nowadays seem to tell you that love is the only important thing, and you should never say no to it. Well, they’re talking about passion and lust, not love. Love is an action, an unselfish one, that has nothing to do with mushy feelings, but everything to do with looking out for the best for the other person.

Yes, I believe that sex should be saved until marriage, and only for the frame of marriage. Whether you agree with that or not, the definition of true, everlasting love, is not found in the selfishness of cheating and lying. Allie is cheating on her fiance, and considering that she promised to marry him and love him forever, she is now living a lie, by her actions. And I despise a cheater, especially one who denies that they’ve done anything wrong. When the story finishes, nowadays, I’m glad that Noah and Allie stuck with each other, through thick and thin… but I feel sorry for the man she ditched, just because she couldn’t keep her clothes on with another man.

Let’s return to The Vow, shall we? I like Rachel McAdams, but since she stars in The Notebook, you can see why it would be easy to mix up the two movies, right? And though I’ve never seen Dear John, I’m aware that Channing Tatum was in that, so there’s some more Sparks movies for you. I also think that Channing Tatum is gorgeous, but when it comes to him, I’m most familiar with seeing him in She’s the Man. And the two leads may have a great scene in the kissing booth, but when I think of him, all I can hear is “I like cheese.”, in that confused tone, as Viola attempts to coach him on how to talk to girls. That movie’s a scream because of Amanda Bynes, by the way, and because it’s based on Shakespeare.

When the lights come down on The Vow, I know some of what’s coming, but not exactly how the story resolves itself. Leo and Paige are a young married couple that get into a car accident, and Paige loses her immediate memory, including every memory of how she met and married her husband. We see numerous flashbacks of loving moments in their married life, before the accident, and every girl will wish that she was in Paige’s shoes. Their wedding in the Art Institute is beautiful, and yet funny, when they’re almost caught by security.

I want to congratulate someone on this film. Either the couple it’s based on, or the screenwriters, or someone. Because if they’d made it like every other chick flick or rom-com out there, I wouldn’t have liked it so much. It must have been almost irresistible to fall into the usual cliché moments in the story, but I think they escaped a lot of them. So, congrats to someone.

Leo is crushed by his wife’s not remembering him, and the possibility that her parents may take her away from him. He could’ve turned to another woman in this story, just for a one-night stand, but he didn’t. Where was Hollywood? Paige only remembers her previous fiance, but she doesn’t remember dumping him. She does kiss him, almost accidentally, but there’s no bedroom scene with these two, either. Paige’s sister may seem a trifle flighty, but when her future husband expresses nervousness over their upcoming nuptials, the film doesn’t turn it into a fight scene. This would have been the chance to show this man wasn’t really wanting to get married and that his future wife was a witch, just out for money and the “achievement” of marriage, or the approval of her parents. Instead, Leo’s character uses some wisdom that he’s used from the music world, and leaves both almost-newlyweds smiling.

So, if you can’t have the snarky sister who’s really a bitch, when no one can see her, what do you have left? The parents that are trying control your entire life, of course, and who would rather you went to law school than art school. Paige doesn’t remember why she left home and avoided her family for so long, and we find out later that Leo knew, but didn’t tell her. Because despite the things that the Thorntons did wrong, he didn’t want to drive her away from her parents, just to get her back. He wanted to win her love again, the right way.

As for her parents, her dad (played by Sam Neill) wants to separate Paige and Leo, even suggesting Leo divorce Paige. Leo knows the truth about the past, and walks away from a fight, though he calls Mr. Thornton a hypocrite and a coward, first. Paige discovers from a former friend that he friend and her father had an affair, and her friend apologizes. Upset by not being told, Paige confronts her mother.

This is my favorite scene, bar none. Yes, the romance is beautiful, but I think this scene has something even better for the viewer. Mrs. Thornton tells her daughter that she didn’t want to lose her again, and Paige wants to know why she didn’t leave her father. Her mother says that “chose to stay with him. I chose to stay with him for all the things that he did right, not for the one thing he did wrong. I chose to forgive him”.

That’s powerful. Because forgiveness in the face of that type of betrayal should be impossible. But love is an action, and this woman acted in love. Love for her children, and the hurt that their separation would put them through. Love for her husband, and all they’d had together before his fall from grace. This is true love in action, and the willingness to fight for a marriage, even in the face of something that most of us would crumble under.

If you are reading this, and you’ve been in this situation, I am not judging anyone for what they did, as a result. Only the love of Christ would enable me to forgive, if I was put into that situation. I am only saying this is a type of strength, love, commitment, kindness, and forgiveness that you will rarely find in movies nowadays. And I applaud the filmmakers for allowing it to reach the screen, without editing it out.

Paige has heard about all the things that her own husband did right. And now, though she doesn’t remember her love for him, she has to consider that she could choose to get to know him again, to love him, because of how he loves her, and has taken care of her for so long. And she does go away, to find out how she is again. In a way, she really did have to “find herself”, because she doesn’t remember who she had become in the last few years. But eventually, she’s ready to go back and fall in love with her husband again.

During this whole time, Leo does his best to show her his love, in action, even when he doesn’t feel like it. Sure, he snaps and yells, now and then, but don’t we all? He puts up with embarrassing situations with her family, drives her places he doesn’t want to be, and encourages her by showing her what she did and loved before. When she changes, he takes it in his stride. He loves her, so he’ll grow with her and love her as who she is, no matter what. Isn’t that what he vowed to do? A solemn promise, a vow, an oath, whatever you want to call it. He made that vow, and he’ll keep it.

I don’t think I’ve done this subject justice, but I tried. I hope many people go see this movie, whether it’s Valentine’s Day or not. This movie has some good things to say about the true meaning of love, and I think everyone needs a dose of that, all year round.

consider what she lost…

This one’s been chasing me for a while. Sometimes, you badly want to write something, but you’re equally afraid that you won’t be able to express yourself. If I let myself get away with it, I’ll never write it. Not that it’s all that important, except to me. Which is all that matters, really, since it’s my blog. That doesn’t make starting any easier, though.

I went to see The Help, several days after I finished reading the book. If you’re looking for me to cover the controversial or historical aspects of it, you’re reading the wrong blog. These have been covered in numerous book and movie reviews, and I can’t better them. And bookworm or not, I’m not really a book reviewer, in the general sense. My reviews are usually of books that I absolutely adore, and what I remember is what I love about them. I don’t pick apart plot, protagonists, and antagonists. My memory is pretty lacking, when it comes to something that didn’t capture my attention, admiration, and imagination.

To put that in perspective, don’t expect me to give you the gist (or even the theme) of a sermon I just heard preached. If one keynote caught my attention, and held it, I’ll tell you that. Otherwise, I’ll just tell you it was good. Likewise, I can enjoy a book or movie, and not be interested enough or remember enough about specific details to give you the entire plot. But if I’ve been re-reading it since I was a child, because I absolutely love it, then I’ll give you chapter and verse about it. And do what you will, you may not be able to shut me up.

Explanations aside, that isn’t what I started out to write. Spoilers ahead, for book and movie, so if you don’t want to know what happens, then stop reading, right now.

I don’t remember which movie review I read, some time back, but there was a mention that they thought Skeeter’s romance with Stuart Whitworth felt a little out of place, not really helping the story along at all. I agree that they skimped a little, on the movie version, because they didn’t have the time for it, but I don’t agree that it was unnecessary to the story.

Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan is a young woman that was raised to believe that she will never be good enough or beautiful enough for her mother. Thankfully, her closest friends love her despite these “shortcomings”. So, when she returns from college, she’s welcomed back into her circle of friends, with all their everlasting bridge clubs, and matchmaking plans for her.

But she’s living in the segregated Deep South, where white children are raised and loved by black maids (and the kids love them in return), but when the children grow up, they adopt the prejudices of their parents . Skeeter wants to be a writer, and in her journey towards seeing through the prejudice surrounding her, she takes steps that her friends will not accompany her on.

And she meets Stuart. The first nightmare date, he’s drunk, obnoxious, and pretty much a complete jerk. So, she forgets her nerves and tells him what she really thinks of him. You’d think that would be the end of it, but he eventually comes to apologize, knowing that his behavior can’t be excused, but yes, he can apologize.

Because there’s more to Stuart than you think, as he was planning to marry the girl he’d been dating since his teens… when she cheated on him. Absolutely crushed by this betrayal, he wasn’t ready for that date, but he was badgered into it, by Skeeter’s friend Hilly. No, I’m not excusing his behavior, just explaining.

Now that they’ve had that nightmare date, Skeeter can’t go back to being nervous around him. She continues to tell him exactly what she thinks, and finds that he appreciates that. And he asks her to give him another chance. Which she finally agrees to.

In the end, the two of them move beyond their disaster date, and she finds someone who encourages her to write what she wants to write, not what others expect. He thinks she’s beautiful and original, though in the book, he eventually has to go west and get some closure with that other girl. He’s also the son of a Senator, so Skeeter gives him a look into life outside the world of being a politician’s son.

Meanwhile, Skeeter finishes her book, and gets it published. Her viewpoint on everyone in town has changed, as she knows how they treat their maids. Because of a few things before the book, she’s lost her position in the clubs, and she eventually loses Hilly’s friendship. Hilly’s belief in the need for separation between blacks and whites trumps everything, including lifelong friendships.

And then, Stuart proposes to Skeeter. He loves her originality, finds that he’s never met a girl quite like her, and he thinks she’s beautiful. For the first time, Skeeter finds that a young man loves her, while she’s been raised to believe that this will probably never happen. For any girl, it is a thrill to find yourself loved. Skeeter would be no exception to this.

But there needs to be honesty on both sides, so Skeeter finally tells Stuart about the book. Right after he proposes. He is shocked and crushed… because he loves her, but that love isn’t enough to overcome his prejudices. He does not believe in what she did, thinks that things should remain as they are. And so, he leaves her.

Sure, the scene where she tells him (in the movie) and he yells at her, it’s a bit abrupt, but I still think it’s necessary. She was on a journey to see beyond the skin color of those around her. But on the way, she fell in love, and found that for some people, love isn’t enough. You have to have beliefs and interests in common. Not just interests in playing tennis or golf.

And in the end, she had to face what her choices had caused. She had lost friendships, lost her first love, and lost the comfort of living at home, being blind to the hypocrisy around her. But with these things were added to her experience in life, she could now wipe the slate clean, and go to New York City, knowing that there was nothing left for her in Mississippi.

After reading the book and seeing the movie, I’m afraid I empathize with the romance, and then feel for her, as her first love turns his back on her. He wanted to marry her. She was in love, too, but then he abandoned her because of prejudice… it could have completely crushed her. But she came out of it stronger than ever. And her own beliefs were strong enough that she wouldn’t give them up, even to get his love back. So, I tend to consider what she lost and what she gained from this whole endeavor. If only we all could have such principles, and stick to them, no matter what others say or do.

the final tally…

The sad day has arrived. The movies must end, and we must get a lot of fresh air, to make up for all our staying inside. Of course, my friend’s going to get plenty of fresh air, as she’s going on a cruise in a few days. I just need to get back outside regularly.

Having gone to bed at a decent time, last night, I didn’t feel like one of the living dead when I woke, today. We immediately started Little Dorrit, and managed to finish it before everyone arrived home for dinner tonight. Yes, that means we watched the entire 7.5 hour mini-series in one day.

I have to say, we really did have a marvelous time over the last few days. Talking and debating characters and plot, and many other things. You always see movies with new eyes, when you watch them with someone who hasn’t seen it before. She enjoyed them all, and will probably have a large list of books to read, now that we’ve finished.

I find that I really want to get into long discussions about each film, but it would probably be in an endless rambling style, so we’ll see which ones actually merit a blog post, over the next few days. But now… I am very tired, and I’m back to work, tomorrow morning. So, I shall say good night. Sorry for not having more edifying things to share about the movies I’ve seen. When my brain clears again, I’ll be happy to share more.

~

Return to Me

Alice in Wonderland

Persuasion

Northanger Abbey

Jane Eyre

Lost in Austen

Pride & Prejudice

Despicable Me

King Arthur

How to Train Your Dragon

Penelope

Peter Pan

Stardust

Emma

Little Dorrit

Bleak House

Sense & Sensibility

North & South

Cranford

Wives & Daughters

the great movie binge: monday…

I have seen Wives & Daughters before, but I think that after this, my memory of it will always be intertwined with the arrival of the kittens. Shortly before lunch, we had started the movie, but discovered that Dusty’s time was close. Carried her upstairs, where she ignored the box we’d prepared, of course. She found a basket that had a sleeping bag stuffed into it, and appropriated it for her purpose. We’re still trying to count the kittens (it’s dark now), but there are at least 5 or 6 kittens, all a lovely tortoise-shell pattern.

We did eventually finish the movie, and continued on to watch Alice in Wonderland. Oh, and if anyone cares, Imogen agrees with me on the subject of Hatter and Alice, on whether they cared for each other as just friends, or if there was more there. So there. But that’s for another blog post. And, finally, we finished up with… well, let’s just say, my friends… Dynamite & Doughnuts has come to Australia.

~

Return to Me

Alice in Wonderland

Persuasion

Northanger Abbey

Jane Eyre

Lost in Austen

Pride & Prejudice

Despicable Me

King Arthur

How to Train Your Dragon

Penelope

Peter Pan

Stardust

Emma

Little Dorrit

Bleak House

Sense & Sensibility

North & South

Cranford

Wives & Daughters

the great movie binge: sunday…

We made it through King Arthur and Persuasion, last night. Yes, we keep things mixed up. I love King Arthur and I hate it. I’ll save the whole subject for another post, but every time I watch it, I could happily throttle Clive Owen for his terrible acting.

Our Sunday afternoon began, only after we’d finished making homemade chicken noodle soup. With that, we should be set for a number of meals, and after this, we’re either going out to eat, or eating sandwiches. We have movies to be watched!

Unfortunately, I’ve been doing some number crunching, as I looked through the pile of BBC mini-series. I didn’t realize that both Little Dorrit and Bleak House are about 7-8 hours apiece. Maybe I should’ve remembered that, but once they reach four hours, you forget how much longer they go. So, Bleak House will probably have to wait for another weekend, while we’ll fit Little Dorrit in, on Tuesday, if we make good time with the rest. North & South won’t be getting a re-watch, and I think we’re going to save Cranford for later. And after some review, we don’t think it likely that we’ll have time for Pride & Prejudice, and Imogen recalls having seen Stardust, after all.

And now that we’ve finished watching Lost in Austen, Penelope, and Sense & Sensibility, we’re getting into some interesting discussions of the pros and cons of Austen, Gaskell, and Brontë’s leading men. Wouldn’t you love to join in? And we’re still debating what we’ll have time for, at this time of night. To start one and finish it in the morning? Or to stay up a bit late, finishing another mini-series?

~

Return to Me

Alice in Wonderland

Persuasion

Northanger Abbey

Jane Eyre

Lost in Austen

Pride & Prejudice

Despicable Me

King Arthur

How to Train Your Dragon

Penelope

Peter Pan

Stardust

Emma

Little Dorrit

Bleak House

Sense & Sensibility

North & South

Cranford

Wives & Daughters

the great movie binge: saturday…

I was going to mark this in days, but I don’t know if Friday counts as one day, considering we only had time for… well, we managed to fit in three movies. We were up pretty late, of course, but we did manage to watch Northanger Abbey, Despicable Me, and Return to Me. Yes, in that order, and I like to keep things shuffled between the BBC dramas and things of a more comedic flavor. And as wonderful as the romance is in Return to Me, I believe that my favorite part is watching the hilarious old men, of which Carroll O’Connor was the grandpa everyone dreams of having.

We did get out several times today, both to walk, get some Maccas (with a mochaccino at the McCafe), and go to the grocery store. We are doing a good bit of cooking, this weekend, not just pigging out on junk food. Something’s in the oven, as we speak, and I have plans to make homemade chicken noodle soup, tomorrow.

So far, today, we’ve finished watching the Jane Eyre mini-series (starring Toby Stephens) and the live-action Peter Pan. Next up, King Arthur, and then something Austen-y. Think we haven’t gotten far? Well, don’t forget, Jane Eyre is four hours long. And I didn’t know that Imogen had never even read it, so the whole storyline was a surprise to her. As for Peter Pan, doesn’t Jason Isaacs play the most marvelous bad guy? Yes, it’s also fascinating to watch him play Mr. Darling, too, which is a tradition of Peter Pan films and plays. Even the stupid Disney animated version has the same guy doing the voice for both Hook and Mr. Darling.

Oh, am I being blasphemous about the Disney version? Sorry. I liked it better, when I was a kid, but even then, I found that Wendy annoyed the snot out of me, and Peter was equally obnoxious. And the mermaids were a bunch of blonde ditzes… kind of like cheerleaders, with tails. The only reason for watching that movie would be Hook and Smee… and maybe the crocodile.

I was also reminded, after watching the live-action version, of how well the actors were cast, and how perfect was the screenplay. You are meant to love the kids, and adore the parents, even when their dad is acting like a priss. But one of my favorite scenes is when Wendy derides the idea of her father being brave. Rather than argue with her daughter, Mrs. Darling explains why her husband is brave.

“There are many different kinds of bravery. There’s the bravery of thinking of others before one’s self. Now, your father has never brandished a sword nor fired a pistol, thank heavens. But he has made many sacrifices for his family, and put away many dreams.

Where did he put them?

He put them in a drawer. And sometimes, late at night, we take them out and admire them. But it gets harder and harder to close the drawer… He does. And that is why he is brave.”

So very true. Remember the sacrifices your parents made for you, and bless them for it. Bravery is not always on display for all to see.

~

And now, the checklist:

Return to Me

Alice in Wonderland

Persuasion

Northanger Abbey

Jane Eyre

Lost in Austen

Pride & Prejudice

Despicable Me

King Arthur

How to Train Your Dragon

Penelope

Peter Pan

Stardust

Emma

Little Dorrit

Bleak House

Sense & Sensibility

North & South

Cranford

Wives & Daughters