Movie review: Divergent is delicious

I didn’t read Victoria Roth’s Divergent trilogy. I have this thing about reading popular books. I don’t like to read them until the hype dies down. Also, my time is so limited these days that any spare time I have I try to work on my own writing. It’s unfortunate because reading is my guilty pleasure. There’s nothing more I love than curling up with a good book. But when I read, I feel guilty because that time is time I could be using to finish my own work. I’ve made a deal with myself: in between writing I take a few months to read everything I stacked up on my nightstand (see what I did there?) – decompress from my own mind if you will, and then start on my work after I’ve had a chance to truly step away from the world I’ve created and been working in and start fresh again.

So… in a few months I will get to it, in addition to about twenty other books I am foaming at the mouth to read. However, like Hunger Games (I know, I heard your audible gasp, didn’t get to read that either) I will read after seeing the films and while part of me worries the film will influence the images and characters of the book, I know my mind and know that I am pretty good at letting it make up its own mind and not be driven by whatever images the film drove.

I saw Divergent last night and liked it. I thought it was a pretty high quality film, like Hunger Games, and not at all like Summit’s Twilight films. (Those vampire weaves, come on!) Also, I really love Shailene Woodley — I think she’s a pretty talented young actress — and I like Theo James. He’s different from some of those actors out there right now. Of course he was also in Underworld Awakening, one of my favorite movie franchises ever, so well, I am a little biased. Kate Winslet’s performance was a bit underwhelming. She is capable of so much more, so part of me wonders if she was in the film because  her daughter asked her to be, like Glenn Close did when she took the role of Cruella Deville for Disney’s 101 Dalmatians? Is her daughter that old? I don’t know. It’s a theory so don’t hold me to it and frankly, I don’t have the time to look up whether or not she has a daughter (can’t remember at the moment) and if so, her age.  It was nice to see Ashley Judd and Tony Goldwyn. AND…a strange twist (or maybe purposeful), Shailene’s co-star from The Spectacular Now (which was underwhelming, I will admit) Miles Teller, as well as her co-star from The Fault in our Stars, Ansel Elgort. Is it really just a small world, or does Shailene have incredible pull with her film’s casting directors in getting her friends jobs?

I thought the movie also did a great job bringing to life Roth’s dystopian Chicago. Dystopian novels bother me a bit because of their settings, but I like to see how director’s bring them to life on the screen and make them a bit raw and sexy (is it ok to say that?) and not creepy and morose. And well yeah, I will admit, love Tris and Four. I am a sucker for YA/fan fiction couples. But doesn’t everyone? Isn’t that why these books are so popular?

Perhaps my favorite part of the film was 1) the painless tattoo Shailene’s character Tris gets. No wonder everyone in Dauntless is tatted up. If it was a sticker like approach now, I’d be in that chair, stat! And 2) the presence of more than one Ellie Goulding song in the film. Two of my favorite Ellie songs are featured in Divergent: one, “My Blood”, featured in the film, and two, “Beating Heart,” which is featured on the credits. I am obsessed with the latter, but don’t be fooled. Was totally obsessed by the former when it first came out, too. I love Ellie’s music. Totally, and completely. Nothing she does bothers me. I could listen to her all day. Which is why it was a pleasant surprise to also hear her cover of Active Child’s “Hanging On.” Including all three below because her voice is stunning.

“Beating Heart”

“My Blood”

“Hanging On”

 

Divergent was delicious and I am anxious to see the second film. Who knows, maybe I will read the trilogy before the second film comes out. I should be finished with my second novel by that time (shit, I hope so!) and have some trips planned in the coming months. Maybe my mind could use a nice deep dive into Roth’s dystopian’s world.

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.

Saying goodbye to Twilight…a few of my favorite things

When I first saw Twilight in fall of 2008, I had no idea what I was in for. I went thinking it was a serious movie about vampires (alright serious and vampires is a bit of a joke, but you know what I mean). I went thinking it was something different than the screen adaptation of the YA series that had taken the world by storm. Of course at the time I hadn’t read the books yet. That happened a few months after when a friend convinced me I had to read them, after I told her about this weird movie I saw with an awesome soundtrack, but horrible acting and hideous wigs.

It took me two weeks to devour the first three books and when Breaking Dawn hit, the last book in the series, I was in line like millions of others to purchase it, and like millions of others, read it in one sitting (which lasted through the night and a bit of the next morning). So, by the time the film adaptation of New Moon, book two in the series hit theaters in 2009, I was ready – this time as a fan. But sadly, it was as tragic as the first movie – the acting worse, the wigs more scary – and so the books lived on in my heart, while the movies became comic relief.

However, there is a little something of each movie I liked and in honor of the release of Breaking Dawn Part Two (which I of course saw already), I won’t write a review, rather share something from each that I enjoyed.

Twlight

Hands down, without a doubt, the thing I loved most about the first movie is the soundtrack. It’s amazing, featuring tracks from Blue Foundation, Mutemath, Linkin Park, Muse and a band I wasn’t aware of until the soundtrack, Paramore (a favorite) among others. In honor of the soundtrack another artist I was pleasantly introduced to in the first movie – Iron & Wine – and their lovely song, “Flightless Bird, American Mouth.”



New Moon

I almost put Taylor Lautner’s abs as the winner of my favorite thing from New Moon but that would have been creepy since I’m old enough to be his mother. So instead, I will say the best thing about the second movie for me was the wolves. So much emphasis was placed on the vampires in movie one, that in movie two, I was pleasantly surprised to find the wolves to be less hokey than the vampires and pretty close to what I had imagined them to be.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eclipse

I hated this movie. I thought it was the worst one yet, but then Breaking Dawn Part One came along and took the spot.  Then again, it was my least favorite book of the series so I shouldn’t have been surprised. The shuttling of Bella between La Push and Edward’s house to keep her safe was silly, and her playing both to satisfy her need to not be the bad guy was as annoying just as in the book.  The only thing I can say I liked about this one is the introduction of Riley and Bree Tanner– a young man turned vampire by Victoria that she feigns love interest in to help her build an army to take down the Cullen’s. And Bree Tanner, a young girl turned vampire who spawned a novella released in between Eclipse and Breaking Dawn, showing us what a day in the life of a new vampire looks like.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Breaking Dawn Part One

There’s actually two things I loved from part one. Bella’s wedding shoes. The beautiful named Swan by Manolo Blahnik.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And the song “A Thousand Years” by Christina Perri featured on the soundtrack. The song is lovely and the video is gorgeous.


Breaking Dawn Part Two

While we saw them at the end of Breaking Dawn Part One, Bella’s eyes in the second movie are pretty awesome, emphasized by incredible make up so Bella is of the same perfection as the rest of the Cullen Clan.

 

 

 

 

 

Also, I loved the opening cinematography – it was stunning – and the end scene where Bella drops her shield and gives Edward a look at all the memories she has of the two of them. It was a nice look back at the movies that wasn’t nearly as painful as seeing them in their entirety and was a nice way to wrap the series.

Well, that’s it for Twilight for me. Well, for now, until Meyer decides she wants to revisit the town of Forks, this time years down the road when it’s Jacob and Renesmee (oh come on, you know its coming!)

The Host trailer meets Imagine Dragons

If you follow my blog you know I am a HUGE fan of the novel The Host. Personally, I think its Meyer’s better work outside of the Twilight series. It tackles much more complex issues like… what happens to earth after an alien invasion, and what happens when an alien takes over your body and falls in love with the people you love. OK – that was a joke. But seriously, it does tackle some pretty serious issues and weaves them into a story that no matter how hard I tried, became totally and completely obsessed by. And its not just me! I shared the same “trust me, read it, you will see” pitch to a few friends and they loved it too!  I loved the book that much. I mean, I loved, loved, loved the book! So much so I read it three times back-to-back to make sure I got every detail, every nuance.

I also have  not keep it a secret that when I heard they were casting for the film adaptation of the book (scheduled to hit theaters March 2013) I was nervous. The names that were being thrown around didn’t seem to fit – and those finally cast, hard to see as the characters I came to love. We were treated to a sneak peak of a trailer which was nothing if not lame. I know, I know…filming was in process and there was no footage to actually use. HOWEVER, just a few days ago fans were treated to a new trailer for the film which is a REAL TRAILER. And guess what…it’s good! It’s better than that. It actually shows they were able to keep the story pretty much intact and not deviate when adapting for film, as is the case with so many books that get made into movies.  And, there was a treat…a current favorite of mine, Imagine Dragon’s new song “Radioactive” is featured in the trailer which can only mean one thing: the soundtrack is poised to be, like the Twilight soundtracks, damn good!

Here’s the new trailer. Take a look and let me know what you think. And if you like the song, check out their other hit, “It’s Time” also from their debut album, Night Visions.

 

Movie Review: The Twilight Saga, Breaking Dawn – Part I

I don’t know folks. I’m having a difficult time. Not because my mind is brimming with too many thoughts and I don’t know where to start, but because I simply do…. not… know…. where… to… start except these three words: horrible, awkward and creepy.

I was a fan of the book so I knew what to expect. As I said in a previous post, I have been waiting for this to hit theaters for many reasons. At the end of the day the brooding characters, awkward dialogue and bad make-up and weaves make for a good time, and I look forward to it. I was anxious to see how director Bill Condon translated the book — which tackled more mature themes than the previous three — to film. In my mind I thought it would be a good chance for the franchise to grow up and put a good movie together, finally.

I was wrong.

Terribly wrong.

The trailer is the best and only part anyone should watch. Save yourself the 1hr and 39m.  Or, go read the book again and save yourself the heartache of seeing a book you enjoyed, skewered.

I don’t know, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe young adults will like seeing the heroine get the boy, finally, and have a dream outdoor wedding no one could afford. Or maybe young girls will think twice about getting pregnant so soon in life after seeing the hard choice Bella has to go through. Or hey, Maybe Rio will see a rise in tourism thanks to the beautiful Isle Esmee. All I know is this.

What was good – short (under 2 hours at 1h 42m),  Bella’s wedding shoes  (gorgeous), the climactic moment when her heartbeat stops and she wakes with red eyes (admittedly a little cool) and the end (when it was over and I was able to get out of my seat and shake my head wondering just what in the hell I sat through).

The soundtrack is good, featuring artists such as Joy Formidable. Their song “Whirring” is a fave of mine.  But in a nutshell, it was horrible. Nothing comedic about this movie as in the others where come on, let’s face it, a love triangle with a vampire, werewolf and human is nothing but, and I was disappointed. Horribly disappointed and I want my money back.

Good new song alert – “Called Out in the Dark” by Snow Patrol

I really like Snow Patrol. Their albums Eyes Open, A Hundred Million Suns, and hits compilation Up Til Now are filled with amazing music that is worth listening to – more so than the oveplayed, played out “Chasing Cars.” I love “Chocolate” from The Last Kiss Soundtrack, as well as “Just Say Yes,” “It’s Beginning to Get to Me” and “You Could be Happy.”

Their new single “Called Out in the Dark” is really good and a great example of why lead singer Gary Lightbody’s vocal style reminds me of David Byrne’s, from of course the infamous Talking Heads. You tell me if you hear the similarities.

“Called Out in the Dark” – Snow Patrol

“This Must Be the Place” – Talking Heads

Let’s talk about Chester Bennington

I first heard Chester’s vocals in “System” as featured on the Queen of the Damned soundtrack. They were cool then, but I think at that point, I really liked the music more than his singing. It was creepy and haunting and reminded me of the movie. It took me a few rounds of listening to the soundtrack to learn that he was the talent behind the vocals of the song, as well as the new to the scene band, LinkinPark. Then, I was hooked.

Chester was a large part of why I like LP initially, but then I discovered Mike Shinoda. As a rapper, songwriter, keyboardist, vocalist and guitarist for the group, he and Chester are the two biggest reasons why I really enjoy their music. Their sound is unlike any I’ve heard. “Hit the Floor” is perhaps in my mind, one of the best examples of how they’ve pulled together a unique pairing of rock and rhyme. Sure there are others, but they are in my mind, the best. Each album tells a story through incredible high energy rock and soft ballads, both of which are led by Chester.

Image from SuitedMag.com

The man can sing. Wait, scratch that. The boy has pipes and he can blow. With a vocal range of around A2 to F5, he is in one word, impressive. He is far more superior of a singer than many of today’s pop performers and that’s not just my opinion. He recently placed at #46 on Hit Parader’s list of “Heavy Metal’s All-Time Top 100 Vocalists.” But it’s not his ability to scream/sing that impresses me. It’s the way he can lift his tone from a soft lyric to a powerful hang note. Instead of telling you, check it out for yourself. Try the  3:35 marker in “Waiting for the End,” from the “Thousand Suns” album. Without breaking into a scream he hits a note that is so beautiful I am sure singers, aspiring and popular, envy. Just look on Google and you will find countless questions looking for insight on “how to sing like Chester Bennington.”

In 2005 Chester teamed up with Mötley Crüe to cover the band’s epic “Home Sweet Home” to raise money for Hurricane Katrina victims.   While there are a lot other examples of his incredible vocals, this song has always been a favorite of mine and its role in helping to contribute to rebuilding the New Orleans, a city I have a profound and indescribable connection to, makes it even more special.