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.

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

Movie Review: Stephenie Meyer’s The Host

I really wanted to like the screen adaptation of The Host – a book I devoured when it first arrived, reading back to back three times before I was able to put down. You loyal readers know this about me – I’ve written about my passion for the story and excitement for the movie more than a few times. So really, it should come as no surprise that I did indeed see it this weekend (four years in the waiting, I could not wait another day!) and while I didn’t love it, I didn’t exactly hate it either.

I think when you love a book so much it’s impossible to hate the movie, really. While on one hand the movie almost always seems to fail to live up to expectations because nothing can possibly top the images and feelings the writers’ words stirred in the readers’ heart and mind. On the other, seeing the story and characters you loved come to life a thrill, even if the acting is horrible. As in the case of Twilight – I devoured those books too, and it was fun seeing that story come to life, even though the acting was ghastly. Net net – while I love seeing my favorite reads come to the screen, it usually takes a truly amazing movie to really bring it to life, at least for me.

I don’t want to dissect the movie; it feels a bit like talking behind friends back. But, in the spirit of a movie review, I will highlight a few areas that I feel compelled to discuss.

1. Talented Saoirse a miss among the lovely Diane Kruger, eye candy & William Hurt

Since news first hit that Andrew Niccol had plans to adapt the book for the screen, I, along with other fans, eagerly awaited word on who would be cast in the main roles of Wanderer, Jared, and Ian, and of course, how they would portray the thoughts of Melanie, the body Wanderer inhabited. If you aren’t familiar with the story, let me quickly break it down for you: Earth has been taken over by an alien race called Souls. A peaceful group, they have invaded the bodies of humans, turning our society (one they see as violent and full of pain) into one of peace, kindness and honesty. Because the story’s narrator is a Soul called Wanderer who has been placed in a human (what they call Hosts), a girl named Melanie who refuses to fade away, it creates a main character that is two voices, two distinct characters, in one body.

While there is no doubt Saoirse Ronan is fantastic young actress, more than capable of pulling off the role of Wanderer/Melanie (see her in Hannah? Wow, crazy!), in this role for me, it wasn’t a fit. Melanie is supposed to be tall, athletic, with olive skin and dark hair. Additionally, she is supposed to be from Arizona not Louisiana – a component, that besides one shot that takes place overlooking a Bayou, seemed to be irrelevant.

While Wander’s nature is not one of violence or physicality, when Melanie commands her own body, we see the athleticism in her. Also, Melanie’s understanding of the desert Wanderer finds herself lost in is actually pretty important in the book, which is why being from Louisiana makes no sense at all. Her knowledge of the deserts in the Southwest helps Wanderer live when she finds herself wandering (no pun intended) for days on end, without water and in excruciating temperatures, in search for Melanie’s love and family. It is Melanie’s smart thinking telling Wanderer what she should do to survive that saves Wanderer from death.

Think about that for a moment: an alien is invading your body and every hour that passes, falling deeper in love with the man you love, and wanting your family to be theirs; your precious memories visible to them, at the same time, also becoming theirs. Wouldn’t you just let it die out there in the desert, even if it came at your death too?  I know I might, especially if the alien’s life could lead others like them to your loved ones’ door. So, deciding to help the alien  which has taken over her body is a key moment in the book, and the chapters around Melanie and Wanderer in the desert critical, as they lay the foundation for a friendship between the alien and the soul of the Host she has invaded, Melanie. This in itself is pretty powerful and incredible.

Also,the voice over of Ronan (how Niccol gave Melanie a voice – in the book we read her thoughts, in the movie we hear them) was more Valley Girl than tough girl who would do anything to get her man back. Not to mention, the voice over were small quips, which there are in the book, yes. At the same time, there are some pretty deep conversations between Melanie and Wanderer that bring the reader through the evolution of their relationship, and I felt this was marginalized in the movie.  There was no sense that Wanderer loved Melanie, willing to die so she could have her body back, nor any sense Melanie loved Wanderer, willing to let go of her body so Wanderer could remain and be of better help to those she loved.

So, in the end, the casting of Saoirse, despite her talent, was a miss. What do I think Melanie should have looked like? Well, I and other fans think it should have been:

melanie 1

 

 

 

 

instead of

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Diane Kruger, however, was an incredible Seeker – a Soul whose main job is to find any remaining humans. While in the book the Seeker is described as being tiny, with short dark hair, Diane Kruger was the perfect actress for this role. So while my mind always pictured The Seeker to look like this

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she turned out to be

seeker2

 

 

 

and it wasn’t so bad.

Also, I loved Max Irons  (yes, Jeremy Irons’ son) as Jared and Jake Abel (I am Number Four, Percy Jackson) as Ian. It didn’t exactly suck to look at them for two hours. I do think their screen time was wasted on gratuitous shots of their very pretty faces, instead of exploring the emotional connection between the two characters and Melanie/Wanderer. That could have upped the ante on the movie and really hit at the story’s core story line.

Lastly, William Hurt as Uncle Jeb was exactly as I pictured and a perfect cast.

2. The fabulousness of “lab technician couture” in a dystopian future

Gattaca and In Time are among some of my more favorite dystopian themed movies, the look and feel of those films fitting into what Variety calls (in their review of The Host) “lab technician couture.”

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I’ll admit, when reading The Host, I never thought about the clothing style of the new Soul inhabited earth. Meyer had described them as always in black, so my imagination pretty much just thought of well,  black. But costume designer Erin Benach did an outstanding job using Theory, Zara and custom white suits to bring the style of the Souls in charge (like The Seeker and her colleagues) to life. Styles on the alien occupied Hosts included vintage bridging modern look (think of Don Draper heading to Hawaii on vacation) on the men, and cropped pants and sweaters on the women. Silver Lotus sports cars and motorbikes completed the look of the Soul run future Earth, while natural, earth tones that blended into the Arizona desert, helped to give the humans the feel of a group at war and in hiding.

styl1

style2

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3. Exploration of what it means to be human and the indomitable power of love

 One of the biggest reasons I thought a film adaptation of The Host may be hard, is the complexity of emotions and psychological journey in the main characters; subtle nuances in how they think and act that frankly, would be hard to translate to film. It’s one of the main reasons why I loved the book so much – the journey Wanderer and Melanie go on together and the journey I went on with them, loathing Wanderer at first for taking over Melanie’s life, falling in love with her beau and family, only to in the end, come to love her Host as a sister, choosing her Host’s life over her own. It’s pretty powerful in the book and on screen, the strength of their connection was lacking.

Also, the story of Wanderer and Ian was powerful in the book – he falling for her because of who she is, not what, nor the body she inhabits. As Ian says in the book, “It’s not the face, but the expressions on it. It’s not the voice, but what you say. It’s not how you look in that body, but the thing you do with it. You are beautiful.” That emotion, that chemistry between the two fell completely flat on screen.

And then there was the great story line many of us were anxious to see unfold on screen – Jared and Melanie, and the incredible sexual tension between Jared and Wanderer, he wanting and loving Melanie, knowing she is inside of her own body somewhere, while at the same time knowing its Wanderer in control. I love this relationship triangle because they go through a lot int he book, and even though Wanderer is living in the body of the girl he loves, Jared too, comes to care for Wanderer. “You are the noblest, purest creature I’ve ever met. The universe will be a darker place without you.”

There are so many more relationships the book version of The Host explores. They’re all important as they relate to all of the different relationships we can have as humans. All of them – man and woman, mother and child, friend to friend – they are all important and at the heart of one of the book’s core themes: what it means to be human, and the transformative power of love. On screen they were brushed over, the movie choosing instead to instead focus on the Seeker’s search for Wanderer, not the journey she goes on while in hiding –  learning to love, and essentially, become human. I understand why – it makes for a good Sci Fi flick, but I think lovers of the book will be disappointed.

My two cents? If you haven’t read the book go get it now and read it, and don’t worry about seeing the movie in theaters. Save yourselves a couple of bucks and rent when it comes to DVD.

Couple cool things to look forward to, however: the Souls when out not in their Hosts are breathtaking (IMHO) and exactly what I thought they would look like. The song used in the movie trailers (“Radioactive” by Imagine Dragons) is used during the end credits and one of my favorite jams at the moment. And, finally, the movie ends just like the book, teasing us that a sequel is possible.  In February, Meyer confirmed a sequel is in the works, part of a three book trilogy that would be called The Seeker (book 2) and The Soul (book 3). It’s been almost 5 years since the first book, so think I will dive in again for read #4, in preparation for said sequel (wouldn’t it be genius marketing to announce its arrival in stores this summer once the flick has left theaters?) and in attempt to remember all of the subtleties that drove me to love the book to begin with.

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.

Love eternal

It’s impossible to not get caught up in the excitement this week as finally, this Friday, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 1 hits theaters and fans get to see what they have anxiously waited for over the past three years: the wedding of Edward and Bella, and the drama that comes along with being pregnant with a half human/half vampire child.

Ever since the last installment of Stephenie Meyer’s insanely popular series hit the shelves on August 2, 2008, readers have scratched their heads wondering how the movie would adapt not the wedding (which I have to admit in the trailer looks stunning), but the bed shattering, feather scattering wedding night, as well as birth scene to end all birth scenes.

I have admittedly been very, very hard on the movies so far. But I’m not alone. It’s not the story. The screenwriters have literally lifted the dialogue from the books and put them on film. There’s not much they have had to do. No, it’s the awkwardness of the actors delivering the dialogue that was meant for books and with their lack of real acting chops and inability to lift the story from the books and bring it to life. It’s painful and as such, they’ve become somewhat of a tradition among my friends and I. We go, we laugh, we get hissed at by prepubescent girls – it’s great fun.

I will also admit however, that while yes, I laugh at the movies, I have every one on DVD and have been known to watch them without laughing. So there, I am a walking contradiction. I’m not afraid to admit I have a love/hate relationship with the series. But there’s an easy answer why. Why I stayed up for a week straight to devour every book, one after the other, and why I have waited in line to see the movies on the day they come out ever since the first film. And it’s not Edward’s hair or Jacob’s abs or the killer soundtracks, cause really, they are good you have to admit. Nope, it’s none of that. It’s much simpler. Are you ready?

The answer is love. Plain and simple.

When it boils right down to it I am in love with love. “Real love. Ridiculous, inconvenient, consuming, can’t-live-without-each-other love” (Sex and the City, “An American Girl in Paris: Part Deux,” 2004).

So, thankfully the movie has birthed (pun intended) a song that is fitting to the theme of the kind of eternal love that really only a vampire relationship would allow. The whole neither one of you would ever die thing being key to that arc. The simply beautiful “A Thousand Years” by Christina Perri is not high energy as you may be used to hearing from me, but its simple and sweet, and the video is a great combination of just enough movie cheese and crystalline vocals to make it worth watching.