Saturday, October 29, 2011

Saturday at the Movies #71 - More to be viewed

As I've said, I can walk to a multiplex in five minutes and I can't remember the last time I was there. This is often the case; visits to the cinema are few and far between, but I love movies. While I do like going with friends, my favorite way to watch a movie in the theater is solo. My choice of snack (and it's different depending on the movie -popcorn is a classic, but if I'm with a friend who does not do popcorn and likes to share the snack they chose, you can see my dilemma) and zero interruptions, no other voices in my head. For me, that's sitting in the dark and having someone tell me a story at its best. I am perfectly content to sit next to someone I love dearly, in the dark, and have no interpersonal communication whatsoever for the course of the story, then go somewhere to have an actual meal and analyze the film in detail afterwards. Since there is a pizza place directly across from said cinema, it's not a long walk.

Three new additions to my to be viewed list this week, and one substitution.

I have never seen Justin Timberlake act before, but In Time takes a literal spin on the "time is money" concept and the visuals are sharp and distinctive, so that's enough to catch my interest.

Anonymous gave me a little hesitation -I'm not big on fictionalized biographies or speculation of this sort- but the visuals, again, are what sold me. There's a distinct mood here, and the taut, dramatic tone adds to the Anna-bait. Elizabethan England? Check. Drama? Check. Writerly angst? Check. Gorgeous costumes and cinematography? Check and check. Pass the popcorn.

Immortals is aimed directly at the mythology-obsessed kiddo I was, or rather the adult that kid grew into .-sprawling epic myth with drama and adventure.

Which brings us to the substitution. When I'd first heard that there would be a new Three Musketeers movie, I was excited. With Orlando Bloom? Double excited. 3D? Well, okay, I guess. Wait, airship? Milady DeWinter doing a limbo slide underneath daggers flying out from the walls? Ummmm....yeah, about that. Visuals are lovely, but no, Orlando, not even for you. I would love to see a great steampunk romantic adventure on the big screen, but this isn't it. Alexandre Dumas does not need the help.

Instead, I'll be hunting down the 1974 version. Richard Chamberlain, Michael York, Faye Dunaway, Raquel Welch, the sheer gorgeosity that is the all-white ball...right now, this rings my chimes much more than what I've seen of the reimagined version. Yes, I know this version took liberties with the original text as well, and YMMV, but this is my blog, and that's my pick.

What are you planning on viewing in the near future?

Friday, October 28, 2011

Happy Dance Friday #71 -Thriller

Some dances are iconic. I remember the first time I encountered Michael Jackson's Thriller. I was a young teen, visiting family, and my cousin, who shares my penchant for unusual creative endeavors, took me into his room, turned off all the lights and cued a song on his newest tape (the ancestors of CDs for all you younguns) - Vincent Price narrated in his distinctive voice, and the music kicked in, and I knew I was experiencing something special.

At the time, I was more impressed with the Paul McCartney duet on "The Girl is Mine" but which song had the iconic video? "Thriller."

10 minutes long, actual dancing doesn't come in until about 8 minutes in, but what gets packed into those remaining minutes is pure genius. Not commenting about anything else regarding Mr. Jackson, but his dancing and his choreography and this piece in particular, well, it's still readily identifiable how many years later? Exactly my point. We've seen Thriller flash mobs, Thriller proms, Thriller wedding dances, Thriller prison inmates, and there's even a website,, which annually strives to break a world record for largest number of people simultaneously dancing this specific routine.

Google "Thriller Choreography" and you'll find endless interpretations of this iconic piece by dancers/choreographers,

It's been incorporated into ballroom routines

and adapted for kids of all ages and even for dancers on wheels. For a dance where the cast of characters is largely comprised of the undead, Thriller's choreography is still alive and kicking. For me, that's the sign of a true classic, and we've only addressed the choreography. That's a whole mini movie packed into ten minutes, with a twist at the end that still sends shivers down viewers' spines.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Saturday at the Movies #70 - The Walking Dead TV vs Graphic Novel

Last week, I mentioned dipping my toe in the zombie waters and maybe possibly checking out season one of The Walking Dead. Well. Since AMC had a marathon of season one shortly thereafter, clearly, it was meant to be. I am now current with seasons one and two, am on volume nine of the graphic novel, and have the official companion book and the first hardcover in-universe novel, The Rise of the Governor, waiting for when I've finished volume ten.

It's safe to say, the zombies got me and they got me good. Normally, I'm not a horror person, I don't do well with gore on screen, and bad things happening to anything with fur is a dealbreaker for me. This is different. For me, The Walking Dead is a character study rather than a horror story - it's not as much about the zombie outbreak/apocalypse, but how the surivivors, especially our viewpoint character, Rick, handle it. How do these extraordinary circumstances affect the choices he makes, and who is he at his core? While I do expect there to be some resolution to and explanation for the zombie thing by the end of the series, that's not the main point.

When I'm in a series, it's for the characters and the relationships. In a departure from the graphic novel, we get to see a lot more of the Rick/Lori/Shane triangle. Our hero, Rick, is thrilled to be reunited with wife Lori and young son, Carl:

but while Lori and Rick's best friend, Shane, believed Rick to be dead, they turned to each other. Now that he's back, Lori seems to have made her choice, but is Shane going to let things go that easily?

I'd already put myself in the Rick/Lori camp before delving into the graphic novels, and reading those has only cemented my alliance to this ship, but at the same time, I'm aware that the differences between tv series and graphic novel may crop up here as well. We've already seen one large departure on this front, so I'm going to be cautiously optimistic for Rick and Lori, while at the same time knowing anything can happen.

Normally, adaptations can be hard sells for me - I have a firm lifetime boycott on the Emma Thompson version of Brideshead Revisited, because of needed liberties trimming things down to fit the medium of a theatrical movie, but that cut out too much of what I love about the novel and miniseries. I did not have that reservation with The Walking Dead. Granted, I came to the tv series before the graphic novel and debated reading the original format. Would it confuse me? Throw me off? True answer - not in the least. I'm able to keep things straight in my mind, as the two formats are unique enough to remain distinct, while at the same time having a cohesive flavor. It's actually fun to figure out what characters have been added, deleted or combined for the series.

While the stark graphic black and white artwork of the graphic novel is perfect for that medium, the televised version adds other dimensions - sound, including Andrew Lincoln's Southern US accent, the subdued, washed out colors of a world that has been through a major catastrophe, motion, and the use of deftly chosen music, as in the Bob Dylan piece played at the end of the first season finale:

Postapocalyptic stories are in vogue at the moment -I'm shopping around a postapocalyptic medieval romance novella of my own- and zombies even find their way into romance novels these days, but what makes The Walking Dead must-view for me is the very human drama of it all. Who are we, at our very core, and what do we do when the worst gets worse? Since it's early days in both the series and the graphic novel (as I'm only on volume nine and I've seen issues in the 90s) I'm going to have to call this one a draw...and I'm okay with that, even to the point of eating, without squeamishness, while viewing.

New episode Sunday night - will you be watching?

Friday, October 21, 2011

Happy Dance Friday #70 - Derek Hough and Stuff

This one's for Gerri. Derek! Julianne! What are you doing down there in the basement? Knock it off. You're never going to get anywhere in life carrying on like that!

Okay, that phrase was probably not uttered in the Hough household, as both parents and all four grandparents were dancers, but I'm still going to imagine it that way. Whichever hypothetical parent yelled that down the stairs was, I am happy to say, dead wrong. Last week, we saw what Julianne's been up to, so this week it's her brother's turn.

Besides being a three time Dancing With the Stars champion,

Derek is an Emmy-nominated choreographer:

as well as an actor and musician:

Performers who are gracious and appreciative of their fans are always worth a happy dance. Manners count, people. Which is a lesson that would have been right at home on Full House - give this acapella version of the theme song a listen and try to resist the bouncy mood. Can't? Nope, me neither. Happy Friday.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Saturday at the Movies #69 -Luther, Bedlam, zombies and kittens

Oh, BBC America, you know you have me. You know I love you, and nobody feeds my inner Briton like you do. I can even forgive you for what happened to Jamie Bamber's character in Law and Order UK, because then you go and give me Luther.

No, not Martin, but a taut, gritty, psychological crime drama starring Idris Elba.

I blame author Zoe Archer for bringing Luther to my attention, as she cites Mr. Elba as partial inspiration for the character of Catullus Graves in her Blades of the Rose novels. That's Catullus on the cover of the fourth title, Stranger. Personally, I've always imagined Catullus along the lines of this gent, but Luther is Luther, dedicated detective with more than a bit of an edge, and apparently a very interesting relationship with the murderous Alice. I won't pretend to understand that, as I'm new to the Lutherverse, but not to worry, I'm sure all will be revealed in time, or at least the season one DVDs.

As if that weren't enough, BBC America also brings me Bedlam. I've always had a thing for two of the less savory historical sites in England - Bethlehem Royal Hospital, aka Bedlam, and Newgate Prison. Show me a historical romance with at least one scene set in either place, and I must have it. Natural settings for drama if ever there were such a thing. So of course, when I found out there would be a drama set in the famed hospital, turned into apartment units for the up and coming, I had to investigate. Seems like not all of the patients have entirely left the building, if one catches the drift.

Not on BBC America, but another cable series I'm arrving at fashionably late is The Walking Dead. I haven't dipped my toes in the water (or should I say ichor?) yet - advice appreciated if I need to find the season one DVDs first or if it's okay to jump in at season two- but we have Andrew Lincoln from Love Actually (my favorite comedy ever) as a sherriff determined to do good in the wake of a zombie apocalypse. I. Am. So. There. Yes, I know it will be gory, but once I saw our hero riding a horse into postapocalyptic Atlanta, it started the push and pull in my mind and the intrigue has prevailed over trepidation. Cover me, I'm going in.

Then there's Puss In Boots. I have not seen any of the Shrek franchise and don't plan to change that, but if Puss' adventure can be viewed on its own, I loved the original fairy tale, love the mixture of bold adventurer who is still a very catly cat (">true, it's been done before) but I would listen to Antonio Banderas read the phone book, and his films bring back fond memories of a dearly loved and much-missed aunt. Puss may seem like a departure from the above three, but he does have the total committment to what he's doing, and that's always going to catch my interest.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Happy Dance Friday #69 - Julianne Hough and Stuff

First, a confession: A) I did not see the original Footloose movie. B) I would gladly pay good money to watch Julianne Hough do the hokey-pokey because she is my favorite female DWTS pro, which leads to C) I am definitely planning on catching the new version of Footloose, which releases today. So likely a Saturday at the Movies post on that after I view, though not sure when that will be.

It's Friday, though, not Saturday, so this isn't about the movie, this is about the dancer, and the inherent happy dancing when multiple things I love collide in a big mess of awesome. Still not able to work out how to fit DWTS into the regular viewing schedule, so I'm catching as catch can on that one, but with Julianne making a return to the show as a guest performer, I had to hie myself over to YouTube right quick. Julianne on her own is enough (yes, a girl dance crush, what of it?) but then make the song a new arrangement of "Holding Out For A Hero" (originally recorded by Bonnie Tyler, written by Jim Steinman and Dean Pitchford, and I have a huge, huge music crush on Jim Steinman, aka the guy who writes Meat Loaf's songs) - that makes it positively covered in Anna-bait, and perfect romance writer inspiration:

One of the reasons I like ballroom dance as much as I do is the challenge for the dancer, much like the challenge for a writer who writes within a genre, is to exercise their creativity within the requirements of the particular dance.:

Then there's the art of dance in the movies, where the movements are choreographed to develop character and/or story:

Anybody who can pull off both, and do it that well, has my immediate respect. If that's not enough, the gal can sing, and she's making waves in style circles.

While I have absolutely no idea if the Brothers Fairbrass are even aware Ms. Hough exists, the bouncy optimism of the Right Said Fred song, "Julianne" certainly fits. Okay, and watching the audience is fun, too.

Speaking of RSF, their official YouTube channel now includes footage from their live acoustic Night of the Living Fred shows. I would be willing to write the script myself if ""Stop The World" could be played over the opening sequence of a Richard Curtis-directed film about eccentric British people with relationship problems. Is Hugh Grant busy? For the record, I would be fine with collaborating with Nick Hornby. (Yes, I do often come up with hypothetical collaborations like that. Doesn't everybody?)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Reading Romance on the Bathroom Floor

funny pictures - Betsey had clearly been reading Jane Austen again
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My mother had passed on when I was fourteen, but I had some awesome aunts to see me through the turbulent teen years. One of them introduced me to the wonderful world of romance novels, by dint of writing them herself. Another story there, but the other night, while going through my TBR bookshelves (yes, plural) I had a visit with my teenage self, back when I stashed historical romance novels in the cabinet under the bathroom sink.

The bathroom was a sanctum for teen-me, the one room I knew nobody would disturb me, and thus the room I always volunteered to clean when it was housework time. I could take care of tile and fixtures lickety split, but I'd stay in there as long as I could, thanks to my secret stash.

I still remember specific books I read there, Spanish Rose by Shirlee Busbee, and Heartland by Rebecca Brandewyne, to name two. It's not only the titles I remember, but the books themselves, the smell and feel of the pages, the heft of the four hundred plus pages in my hands, the gorgeous Elaine Duillo covers - I collect those now- and the pink cardstock bookmarks with "Jan's Paperbacks" in black script on them. That UBS is long gone, and I have twice had to replace large portions of my keeper stash, but it's times like this that adult-me can make teen-me scootch over on the white and yellow tiles and I'm there again.

The world outside the bathroom door still existed, so I don't term this an 'escape,' but a respite. Time and again, no matter the setting or era, I read about strong, resourceful women who refused to sit by and let life happen to them. These gals went to war, they captained pirate ships, they navigated Court intrigues and crossed the badlands, their femininity not a weakness but a strength. These books nourished me, both as a reader and as a writer. I knew that I would be the one writing making these heroines and their heroes come to life one day; it wasn't something I had to figure out, any more than I had to figure out having green eyes. This was right. This was me. The adventure, the characters and their relationships, all the highs and the lows on the way to HEA, that was home for me.

I loved the variety of settings; a favorite author might have taken me to Renaissance Italy this time, but next time, we'd have a date for Colonial New York, then go a-viking, then attend a glittering Edwardian soiree, then elsewhere, then elsewhere, then elsewhere. I still have that literary wanderlust, asking myself where I want to go and who I want to meet this time, in a new book read or a new story waiting to be born. Even with stories scattered over space and time, it was what was the same that resonated with me the most. The women always won. They got what they wanted, sometimes at great cost, but I always closed the covers that final time with a happy sigh and the feeling that yes, life will go on. Whatever the hero and heroine had to fight to find and keep each other, they made it, and they will make it through whatever life brings in the future.

For me, that is happily-ever-after, not that there will never be any bad times, but that we will make it through whatever comes, and we don't have to do it alone. Sorting through my shelves, I got a lot more than the chance to pick out what I wanted to read next. I got a chance to reach back through time and for a few minutes there, I was reading romance on the bathroom floor once again. It's the closest thing I can think of to a meeting of minds between teen-me and adult-me, and I have to say we had a fabulous time. We're meeting again tonight.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Happy Dance Friday #68 -DWTS pros

Some things don't go exactly according to plan, hence the time delay and apology dance. Friday asploded into a twirly errandpalooza, but the beat goes on. Get Down On Your Claws And Do The Apology Dance GIF - Get Down On Your Claws And Do The Apology Dance
see more Gifs

Dancing With the Stars viewing in our house involves a complex interrelation of numbers of televisions in the famiily, the load of shows the DVR is able to handle without going kablooey and my DH's deep and abiding love of the Food Network. Still, there is You Tube, so I"ll be checking out the pros. For now, a quick look at a few pros worth watching:

Blonde Lacey Schwimmer is going to take some getting used to, but she caught my attention when she was on SYTYCD, and I've had the chance to see her live, so I'm definitely going to keep an eye on her.

The Brothers Chmerkovskiy: In case Maks wasn't enough, he has brought in reinforcement with brother Val. Kinda bold starting out in the bed, there, Val, and does the letterman jacket imply that the male in this dance story is a high school athelete? Where did he get his, um, companion, in that case?

Long clip for Maks' entry, because A) Viennese Waltz and B).well, Maks

Fun fact - Tony Dovolani and I actually have something in common; we have both lived in Bedford, NY. Not at the same time, but I'm going to call him my possible once upon a time neighbor anyway.

Out the door once more, but I plan on getting current and having a chance to see how the new kids on the DWTS pro block do. Should be fun.

Monday, October 03, 2011

On the dissipation of cold brain and the art of tai ming

I still have cold brain. Waning, to be sure, but still cold brain. For those who play any of the Sims games, you'll understand an action dropping out of queue. For those who don't, well, we've all started to do something, forget what it is or why we're doing it. That happens a lot with cold brain. When cold brain starts to wane, it's not uncommon to have an action drop out of queue and then pop back in when one has started an entirely different action (Sims games don't do that - yet.)

The plan for this cold was to snuggle under some blankeys and make a dent in my TBR pile. Pause here for wild, demented laughter. Cold-influenced reading was more along the lines of A) carefully pick out book. B) Settle in for good reading session. C) Fall asleep in the middle of first page, or D) Read same page fifteen times and complain about book being repititious already. E) Give up and play Sims. F) Since laptop is on, open WIP and poke with metaphorical stick. G) Open Photoshop Elements and make inspirational graphics, as above (optional.)

All in all, not a lot of reading, when there are a heckuva lot of books. Paperbacks, both mass market and trade sized. Hardcovers. Ebooks. Novels. Research books. Other stuff. Even petted a fanzine in my search for reading material, but brain refused to latch on. Which is okay. It's a new TV season, as recent Saturday at the Movies posts detail. I caught most of Tristan and Isolde yesterday afternoon, which fulfilled some of my romance fiction yearning, but since things don't end exactly well for anybody in the Tristan/Isolde/Mark triangle, no HEA. Utterly gorgeous to watch, though, and atmosphere gets an A+++.

But reading. Yeah. I do have my default reads at the ready; Hannah Howell's Highland historicals this time. I know I'll like those, as I've read some of the earlier ones already, when they were first released, and likely out of order, so they will be like new to me again. Book three is on my desk, awaiting its call to duty, and that may be soon. Still, next to my bed, there is a small stack of started and put aside novels. Nothing wrong with them, only a brain that wouldn't track. I do believe that there is a right time to read a particular book, and something that's a "nice, but not right now" can, days or weeks (or longer) later, become "why did I wait so long to read this?"

Comedian Steve Martin once did a bit on the ancient art of Tai Ming, and I think he was onto something. Like the stack of books by my bed and the computer file of ideas that still need to simmer a while longer because I don't have all the ingredients yet, there is a right time to read or write a particular story, and forcing it isn't going to work. I've learned to embrace the "not right now" and focus on the now. Which is something that isn't that hard to do...and does not mean checking Twitter and Facebook like a maniac every five minutes. Nope, butt in chair, fingers on keyboard gets the job done.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Saturday at the Movies #68 - Sick Ramblings

funny pictures of cats with captions
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This weekend, I am referring to my DH as 'Patient Zero.' Cold brain has set in, accounting for my not remembering yesterday was Friday, so today is dedicated to plopping myself in the relciner and getting current on DVR'd material. With the new season upon us, there's a lot. I had high hopes for X Factor, and what I've seen so far meets expectations. Sure, there are still some auditioners who have, shall we say, creative differences with the judges, but when they're good, they're amazing. Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul together again, and so far, I like what I see from L.A. Reid, Cheryl Cole and Nicole Scherzinger. Not that keen on those who come on talking about how they want to be famous and on the cover of this magazine and that tv show and oy, oy, oy. The ones who sing because they love to sing, though, remind me how much I love the audition process.

Unforgettable gives us Poppy Montgomery (with some seriously gorgeous red hair) as Carrie, a cop with an eidetic memory, the one piece of the puzzle she doesn't have being what happened on the day of her sister's murder. Love the creative cinematography as Carrie can revisit her memories and move about through them. I like the larger story arc and will be interested to see how Carrie's mother's dementia mirrors Carrie's gift.

A Gifted Man stars Patrick Wilson as a doctor with a high end private practice whose comfortable lifestyle gets pushed out off track by a visit from his charitable-minded ex-wife. It's obvious he still has feelings for her, so the first visit isn't entirely unwelcome...until he finds out she's dead. Ghostly visit or guilty conscience? Arguments could be made either way, and our hero's sister's goofy urban shaman boyfriend thinks he can clean up the tangled affair, which provides for some lighter moments. Jennifer Ehle (Pride and Predjudice, The King's Speech) is a nice surprise as the possibly ghostly, possibly hallucinatory ex-wife who hasn't given up on the man she possibly still loves. Possible shippy triangle with our hero, his ex, and the (uh oh) boyfriend she left behind.

Person of Interest and The New Girl are also very much living up to expectations and though I may have to duck a couple of rotten tomatoes for this, I'm going to hang in there with Terra Nova for the foreseeable future; dystopic beginning, time travel, interesting sociology, so we will see. Which of the year's new shows are catching your interest?