Maleficent is Magnificent!


Maleficent is in one word, perfection.

In more words, it is everything about a fairy tale origin story I want. Unlike that tragic Snow White and the Huntsman featuring she who can’t act to save her life, Kristen Stewart.

Much has been said over the years about Maleficent, the antagonist in Disney’s adaptation of the classic fairy tale, “Sleeping Beauty.” Her voice, her walk, her crow, her dragon…she is the evil character we love to hate because in a word, she is fabulous. That’s why when rumors started swirling a few years back that Jolie was set to bring the deliciously wicked character to the big screen I, like others, got excited. If anyone could bring to life the character epitomized by the late actress Eleanor Audley, it would be Jolie.

And bring her to life she did.

Jolie’s performance was exactly as you would think; her voice eerie, not as commanding as Aduley’s, but unique in its own right, befitting of her Maleficent. Jolie’s Maleficent is strong and regal and wicked and endearing and just perfect! Her statuesque presence, dazzling eyes (emphasized by special effects of course, but no less gorgeous), power and grace, not to mention moments of frailty – yes frailty –  has you actually rooting for her. Rooting for her…the evil fairy!  And if you’re wondering if that is a typo …it’s not. You read it right. Maleficent, in this story, is a fairy. Without giving away too much, that was a new twist on the tale. And overall, I absolutely loved what the writer’s did with Maleficent’s origin story. Without giving away any spoilers, love is the key to both the damnation and salvation of both Maleficent and Princess Aurora – but in a surprising twist from what we’ve been told all these years.

Let’s face it, I am a sucker for love stories. And when love is the background behind the twisting evil of some of movie’s most villainous foes – think Wicked Witch of the East, Darth Vader, Hannibal Lecter – it brings me to my knees. Who wasn’t touched by the story of Elphaba? Whose heart wasn’t shattered when Anakin thought his wife and unborn children were lost? Who didn’t mourn for the family of Hannibal Lecter? (Before you think me weird, if you’ve not seen Hannibal Rising rent it, now. It will give you a whole new level of …understanding, dare I say, for the epitome of evil characters, Hannibal.) You understand  these characters better, and the heart of their plight. You may not agree with their approach to dealing with their grief, but you get it and a part of you supports their quest for vindication. (Except for the whole eating people thing in Lecter…that is still horrifying.) This is what I loved about Maleficent. All these years, finally, we understand her wickedness and guess what, if you’re like me, you understand and emphasize with it.

I wasn’t too impressed with Elle Fanning’s performance, but then again, I’ve never been a fan of Princess Aurora. Of all the princesses, she always bugged me. Not sure why. Her father, King Stefan, has an interesting background in this adaptation, and is at the heart of Maleficent’s curse. He is actually pretty annoying in the movie, bordering on dirty dirt bag material.

These two things aside, Jolie’s costumes were gorgeous, the look and feel of the film kept it very close to the beloved Disney classic, and the ending credits even featured one of my favorite voices, Lana Del Ray, covering the classic “Once Upon a Dream,” featured in the 1959 animated film.  I love this song. I sang it to my son every night at bedtime when he was a baby, and he still smiles when he hears it to this day.

I will be buying the film when it comes to DVD, as we have with every version of the Disney classic that has come to VHS and DVD. What can I say, it’s a bit of a favorite. And now the origin story is, too.

Lana Del Ray – “Once Upon a Dream”


Cool Songs in Movies (and on TV): Mariah, Mercy, a McDonald and a Matthew

I was disappointed in Oz The Great and Powerful. As far as movies go, I was left wanting more. I thought the colors were incredible, but the talent of Rachel Weisz and James Franco incredibly wasted, and Michelle Williams too soft and vapid. Mila Kunis was gorgeous, but her Wicked Witch of the West paled in comparison to Margaret Hamilton, who to this day is the only actress to portray the character beyond imagination. I said all this months back when the movie first hit theaters. You can check out my review here.

All this said, now that it has hit the Starz channel and on rotation nearly daily, I’ve had a chance to watch it again and while I still think it was capable of so much more I did discover the second go around, a gem – a song during the end credits that I may have caught had perhaps I stuck around the theater long enough the first time. But I hadn’t. I broke my golden rule. Credits = music, and assuming the score would be as much of a bore as the flick, I hightailed it out of there instead of sticking around for hidden surprises like behind the scenes outtakes, sneak peek’s at future movies and well, music. After all, the end credits were the best part of the first Twilight film; the samples from the soundtrack that accompanied the millions of names scrolling up the screen  worth the hour and a half of bad teen angst acting.

But I digress….

Back to Oz.

I had to Shazam it because I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. For a music lover with a deep appreciation for the human voice, I was stunned. The tune was glorious in the way only one accompanying a major Hollywood film would be, but it was that voice. It was familiar, but almost forgotten; its divinity  lost years ago.  It was …Mariah Carey? A non-shrieking, solid vocal performance from the diva whose music I once sang along to before she got all Honey on me? Mon dieu!

I have never heard this song until a few days ago, but have to say, I was impressed and hope there is more tricks left in MC’s bag. I sure hope so. The Emancipation of Mimi album was LONG overdue and I am anxious for another solid album.

“Almost Home” by Mariah Carey

Two other recent discoveries come from the CW’s new show, The Originals. I am a huge fan of The Vampire Diaries’ spinoff. Set in the city of New Orleans (my kindred soul mate, if a city could be one), the show focuses on the remaining members of the original vampire family – siblings Klaus, Elijah and Rebekah. The acting is solid  – both Joseph Morgan and Claire Holt incredibly talented, stealing many scenes of TVD episodes over the past few seasons – and plot line compelling, a well written new spin on the witches vs. vampires tale started over on TVD and carried deliciously over to The Originals. And…like most CW shows, the music featured in each episode is just the way I like it: indie and emo, with a tad of edge to keep it interesting.  Many of the artists featured in episodes so far I was introduced to through TVD. But so far this season a couple of favorites are singles from Mercy and Moby featured in episode 3, “Tangled Up in Blue.”

“Mercy” from Hurts

“A Case for Shame (with Cold Specks)” from Moby

I also must share a new tune discovery from one of my fun favorites Drop Dead Diva – a show which thankfully found new life after having been cancelled by its home network and producer, Lifetime.

Sometimes the emotions in a friendship are stronger than words can describe, and Shawn McDonald’s song “Through it All” was the perfect song choice for Season 5’s Episode 11, which saw best friends Jane and Stacey finding meeting in the middle after…well, you just need to watch the show because it’s too hard to explain. But it was after an “oh no she didn’t!” moment that I thought nothing could repair.

I found the version of the song they used in the episode on iTunes, but all of the videos on You Tube are a different version and trust me, the one from the show was incredible.  So, for now, a small clip will have to do. Click here and then click on the song title, “Through it All.”

And lastly, this ethereal beauty was discovered in last week’s episode of Witches of East End on Lifetime. And before you judge me, I will say the show is fabulous! I thought it would be a cross between Desperate Housewives and that tragic show about scandalous maids on Lifetime, but it’s not. It’s fabulous and wicked and I hope (fingers crossed) good enough to make it another season.

Matthew Perryman Jones’ “Canción de la Noche” caught me totally by surprise.  It was quiet, and simple, and haunting, and everything about music I love. A song that reached into my chest and squeezed tight. It’s a powerful song, telling a story that seems to be of both this world and another. Check it out, you’ll see.

That’s it for now. But I have a ton of shows to catch up on, so don’t be surprised if you see another post in the days following with more delightful discoveries. Until then download these finds, slip on your headphones, and drift slowly off to sleep.

New adaptation of Romeo & Juliet set to hit theaters…and the trailer is THAT good

“These violent passions can have violent ends.”
One of the most epic lines ever written to an English major. And now thanks to “Downton Abbey” creator Julian Fellowes, looks like a new generation will soon be introduced to it and more from Shakespear’s epic love story Romeo & Juliet ,as a new adaptation of one of the most beloved love stories of all time prepares to hit theaters.
I just stumbled upon the trailer today and at first, I will admit, I groaned. I wasn’t sure if the world was ready for another take on the story that has been told, copied, and retold countless times over the years. It’s been seventeen years since Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 film adaptation  (starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes) and in my mind, it could be another seventeen because no screen adaptation could ever compare to Shakespeare’s original work. But I will admit, the new trailer did its job and now this movie is on my To Watch list.
There is no US release date yet, but the trailer is already creating buzz, thanks to a Twitter campaign of #FORBIDDENLOVE, and an emotionally charged track by the ethereal Zola Jesus called “Skin.” If the tune sounds familiar don’t be surprised. It was recently featured on my favorite show, “Vampire Diaries” (season 4, episode 11). And, I may have introduced you to Zola last year when her track “Trust Me” was the soundtrack to the book trailer for “Rapture”, the conclusion to Lauren Kate’s “Fallen” series.  Her sound is raw and for me,  always good for those moments when I am writing and need to sink into a moment and really feel the emotion of a scene. Check out the track and trailer and let me know what you think of both. And for goodness sake, if you’ve never read Romeo & Juliet, please do so. Now.
Romeo & Juliet stars Academy Award nominee Hailee Steinfeld and Douglas Booth, as well as “Homeland” star Damian Lewis, Paul Giamatti, “Gossip Girl’s” Ed Westwick and Stellan Skarsgard.

Cool Songs in Movies featuring Evanescence, Danger Mouse & Sparklehorse, and Joy Formidable

It’s been awhile my friends. I’m sorry. I’ve had a lot going on. Everything has suffered. My writing. My working out. My sanity.

But alas. It’s back — my writing, not my sanity — and what better way to return from a short detour, than with a fun post around music.

I watched a handful of movies this weekend, but it wasn’t the movies that stuck with me, rather,  the musical gems hidden towards and at the end of two flicks I’ve seen countless times, two featuring vampires and one about love (shocker, right?)

So, please add the two songs to the download queue. They’re pretty great.

“Made of Stone” by Evanescence – heard during the end credits for Underworld: Awakening.

“Revenge” by Danger Mouse & Sparklehorse featuring The Flaming Lips – heard in the end scene of Crazy, Stupid, Love

“Endtaps” by Joy Formidable – heard during the end credits of The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – I

Book Review: Until I Die

I was a fan of Amy Plum’s Die For Me because unlike the plethora of YA books out there at the time I discovered it, the novel offered a fresh story around a new group of immortal beings that weren’t quite zombies, and not vampires or werewolves , and the thought of something new and supernatural excited me.

In her debut novel, Plum unveiled a new mythology about a group of beings called Revenants,  humans that died saving the life of another whom after this death, are destined to live forever compelled by a desire to sacrifice themselves while saving the lives of others.

There are a lot of technicalities around how their supernatural-ness works, their history, and who knows about them and who doesn’t, so I won’t get into all that. But I will say the story is set in Paris, whose exquisite setting alone made me want to crawl inside the pages and stroll the banks of The Seine, and told through the eyes of 16-year-old American Kate who moves to Paris after her parents’ death and in no time finds herself falling for the hottest of the Parisian Revenant’s, Vincent.

Until I Die is the second book in a planned trilogy and was released on May 8, 2012. As you can see, it has taken me awhile to read it thanks to my unending stack of books in my To Read pile, but I digress. I finished it last week and was pleased. Unlike most trilogies, which I find tend to slow down in the second book as the writer prepares for their Grand Finale (otherwise known as book three), Until I Die was a solid sequel, laying the right amount of story alongside the right amount of growth in its heroine Kate, with a few signposts that will be picked up by the trained YA reader of what’s to come. Further, it develops the relationship of Kate and Vincent, and lays the groundwork for what I can’t wait to read “pinnacle of impossibility” – i.e. what happens when a mortal falls in love with an immortal.

Also, since you all know I am a fan of YA book covers Until I Die was a nice continuation of the series look and feel, but still wasn’t as beautiful as the first.

Here’s the cover for Until I Die cover:

And the cover for Die For Me:

Have you read Amy Plum’s Revenants Trilogy? What did you think?

Book Review: Dracula in Love by Karen Essex

If you have ever read Bram’s Stoker’s Dracula, then you know it is a great work of literature. WImagehen I first read it I knew nothing of the themes of which it addressed. For me, it was simply an incredible story of an immortal being that would serve as the basis for every vampire characterized in movies and novels for years to come.

When Francis Ford Coppola made the movie Bram Stoker’s Dracula it was a few years after my first reading of the novel. In it, I saw an entirely new version of the story. Gone were the messages around the roles of women in Victorian culture and in their place an intense love that defied reason and time – a love that would never die.

When I saw Karen Essex’s book a few month back I was intrigued. It offered a new take on the story of Dracula by telling the story from Mina Murray’s perspective, and I loved this idea. What had we ever really known about the character of Mina other than she was a food source for Count Dracula’s manipulative game with Jonathan Harker? I was intrigued at the possibility of a story that dug even deeper than that of the one Francis Ford Coppola tried to tell in his movie. A book that flipped the entire bloodthirsty legend on its head and gave Mina power. I couldn’t wait to dive in.

But soon after diving in, I stopped.

Then picked it back up.

Then stopped again.

Sadly it went that way for months. Something about the writing felt forced – the language flowing in and out of that used in Victorian England and today’s society, unnatural. But eventually one day I did push ahead, thanks to a backup in the MUNI tunnel. So when forced to continue reading I found the book finally pick up.

So I began again.

And as I read, I began to grow curious about the past lives of Mina and Count Dracula – about the connection they shared over many lifetimes. But the story didn’t answer my curiosity. It didn’t show me a love that carried the reader from century to century, showing glimpses of the life they had with one another in each. Rather, it told a story of an incredibly pent up Victorian lady who, despite the societal confines of her time, loses her mind whenever a thousand year old immortal touches her. And when Essex did finally deliver on the back story of Mina’s lineage, I completely lost interest. She was a Sidhe, fairies from Irish Mythology. LAME!

Now, if you know anything about Karen Essex, you know she is anything but unaccomplished. Among today’s writers, she ranks up there as one of the best, frequently sourced for screenplays and other writing. But sadly, this book fell flat for me and I was disappointed.

Movie Review: Like Crazy

There is no one thing in the world that is more hopeful, painful, exciting, volatile, breathtaking, maddening, curious, sickening, amazing, confusing, or exhilarating, than love.

Lots of songs and movies have tried to work their magic to capture the euphoric impact it can have on one’s heart and mind, but only a few scratch the surface of exploring the can’t eat, can’t sleep, can’t breathe, don’t want to live without you, perfect, yet fragile love like that of your first. But Like Crazy does, and long after the credits have passed, you find yourself surprisingly revisiting your own memory of the same kind of crazy you might have felt when you too, fell for the first time.

I had plans to see Like Crazy last fall, but of course like lots of movies on my list of those to see, it fell onto the list of movies to rent instead. I blame my missing it on its indie status – the film had a limited theater run and by the time I was finally able to catch a movie, it had long since left theaters. But while it might have stopped it from a long theater run, it didn’t stop the movie from winning critics over. I kept note of the raves, and of course, watched the trailer about a dozen or so times in anticipation of seeing it. So when it showed up on PPV this past weekend, of course I jumped at the chance to order it.

I will admit, at first I was disappointed. The initial minutes led me to believe it would be a snoozer. The introduction was a bit clunky as it introduced the somewhat awkward story — girl sees boy in class, girl writes note for boy proclaiming her crush and leaves on boys car, boy calls girl and asks her out. But about ten minutes in the movie hits its stride, and before long, I found myself roped into the relationship of Jacob and Anna: college co-eds who find their sweet romance turn into a long-distance relationship spanning years, after Anna violates her student visa and is prevented from returning to the US.

Relationships when we’re young are tough. Even at their best they seem strained, as if they are seconds away from breaking at any given moment; disagreements seem major, the slightest separation paramount. And in Anna and Jacob’s case the separation is one that makes the heart grow fonder, stronger, and slightly crazier, exacerbated by a distance of thousands of miles, an ocean, and years of dating, relationships to which they never stay in because no one compares to the other. The distance alone could send even the most innocent, confident relationship into one of desperation, and so does it with theirs, as the intense feeling they belong together, rooted so firmly in them, refuses to go away.

Like Crazy is filled with a desire and longing for a love that at times makes you feel as if it’s your own, and by the time the movie ends, you understand exactly what they were trying to convey in the movie poster whose 12 words say it all –“I want you – I love you – I need you- I miss you” –nothing capturing the desperation, the longing, and the indescribable connection a love like that has, than those words in their simplicity.

Here’s the trailer for your viewing pleasure.